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A bill that creates a broad, new exemption for videos collected by police body-worn cameras and dashboard cameras passed the N.C. House today 115-2. The revised bill gives discretion to police departments on withholding video from dashboard cameras and body cameras. It also makes clear the videos are not subject to personnel privacy rules.
A House Bill filed Tuesday would make clear in the Public Records Act that law enforcement agencies have discretion to release body-worn camera video. Some agencies believe they are prohibited by personnel privacy protections. The law would not require that the videos be released.
This page will be updated periodically with the status of bills currently in the General Assembly that could affect government transparency. The General Assembly is considering 17 new records exemptions, several transparency initiatives and a fundamental change in who can get access to records. One bill has been passed into law.
A three-judge panel of the N.C. Court of Appeals heard oral arguments Monday in a public records dispute over minutes of closed sessions held by the Alamance-Burlington School System Board of Education. The board has declined to release un-redacted minutes of closed sessions for personnel purposes when it met to discuss the departure and $200,000 severance package of former Superintendent Lillie Cox. The Times-News filed a lawsuit to gain access.
Wednesday was the deadline for members of the N.C. House of Representatives to file bills for the 2015 General Assembly. Like the Senate deadline last week, the House deadline attracted a number of bills effecting transparency, including a proposal for a joint legislative commission to study transparency improvements. House members also proposed two new exemptions.
More than a dozen bills introduced in the final hours before Thursday's filing deadline would affect transparency in North Carolina. They include eight new records exemptions, a pair of new transparency initiatives, several clarifications on who is subject to the public records law and a special rule that allows law enforcement personnel to have certain personal information removed form government websites.
A bill filed Thursday in the Senate would limit the right of access created by the Public Records Act to "citizens" of North Carolina. The law currently allows access for "any person" regardless of whether they are state residents.
The Civitas Institute filed a public records lawsuit this week against the Alamance County Board of Elections after the county attorney insisted that a representative of the group inspect records in person before copies would be made. The lawsuit raises the question of whether a government agency putting additional conditions on a records request prior to fulfilling it amounts to a refusal.
The results of a multi-newsroom public records audit are in. Led by WRAL's public records team, six news outlets asked state and local government officials for the same documents to see how quickly different agencies complied. Also, the NFL files a lawsuit against court officials to get access to records in Greg Hardy case.
Today's Sunshine Week news includes a Salisbury Post look at closed sessions, a WRAL story on how to obtain military records, a pair of Q&A sessions with N.C. Open Government Coalition director Jonathan Jones and StarNews Executive Editor Pam Sander explaining the importance of records requests to the newspaper.
Today is Sunshine Day in Durham. We continue our daily wrapup of Sunshine Week related news and views from across the state. Today's highlights include a story on economic development incentive records from The Charlotte Observer and editorials from several newspapers.
At Sunshine Day in Durham, the N.C. Open Government Coalition today announced the winners of its inaugural awards program in four categories: Advocacy, Government, Journalism, Citizen.
Today kicks off the annual Sunshine Week program and media outlets across the state have stories highligting right to know issues. We'll put together a daily roundup this week. Today's stories include an Associated Press report on fees, delays out of the governor's office and a Carolina Public Press report on closed sessions in the western counties.
Registration for Sunshine Day 2015 is open and ongoing. This year's event will be at the Durham Convention Center on March 16. It includes a keynote speech from Attorney General Roy Cooper and the inaugaration of the North Carolina Open Government Coalition's awards program.
While most people in the latest Elon University Poll approved of police officers wearing body cameras, when respondents were asked whether the video footage itself should be made available for public inspection, patterns started to vary based on political ideology and race.
Some contracts entered into by the State Ports Authority would no longer be public records under a bill filed last week.
The UNC System Board of Governors voted Friday to close three academic centers on three different campuses. Prior to the vote, the board moved into a smaller room after several audience outbursts. They allowed the press to attend, but did not allow the general public into the relocated meeting.
The Department of Cultural Resources issued a new records retention policy Thursday for municipal law enforcement agencies that is intended to cover body-worn video recordings. Videos that are not part of an investigative file, citizen complaint or internal affairs investigation should be destroyed after 30 days.
The Daily Tar Heel: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Foundation declined to fulfill a public records request claiming it was not subject to the public records law because it is a non-profit organization and not a government agency. The foundation has not filed a Form 990 financial disclosure since 2008 because it claims to be exempt from the Internal Revenue Service's reporting rules as a government affiliated non-profit.
Fayetteville Observer: Robeson County commissioners approved a tax incentives package Monday for "Project Apple" without identifying the company behind the proposal. The Open Meetings Law prohibits boards from taking actions by reference when the intent is to make it impossible for the public to understand what is being decided.
A bill working its way through the General Assembly would require the Academic Standards Review Commission - a recently established state group that is reviewing Common Core standards - to live stream its meetings. The commission would also be required to post all meeting materials online.
As part of a pilot to bring greater access to court files, the Mecklenburg Clerk of Superior Court is plans to place documents from high profile cases online this month. The first two cases include a domestic violence charge against a Carolina Panthers player and a manslaughter charge against a former police officer.
After initially declining the Times-News's request for an expedited appeal of its public records suit against the Alamance-Burlington School System, the Court of Appeals this week set a short schedule for the attorneys to file and indicated the case would be put on the first available docket. The N.C. Supreme Court instructed the Court of Appeals to reconsider providing an expedited review last week.
The Capitol Hound project of UNC's Reese News Lab won a $50,000 award. Capitol Hound creates keyword searchable transcripts and email alerts of General Assembly hearings. With the grant, the service will be given to news outlets across the state free of charge to improve statehouse coverage.
Charlotte Observer: A majority of the Charlotte City Council attended a Google sponsored reception Wednesday that was closed to the public, raising concerns that the event violated the N.C. Open Meetings Law
The Times-News of Burlington is seeking review by the state supreme court of an order denying access to closed-session minutes of the Alamance-Burlington School System's Board of Education. The newspaper filed a lawsuit against the school in October after the board refused to provide unredacted minutes from May meetings where the performance of Superintendent Lillie Cox was discussed. Cox resigned and was given a $200,000 severance package.
In 2008 Carolinas Healthcare System filed a lawsuit against Wachovia, which was settled in 2012 with a confidential agreement. Attorney Gary Jackson sought a copy of the agreement under the N.C. Public Records Act, which specifically designates settlement agreements as public. CHS declined to provide it and a trial court found it was exempt because the lawsuit was initiated by CHS. On Wednesday the Court of Appeals affirmed that settlement agreements are public records regardless of who initiates the lawsuit.
In the wake of an exhaustive investigation into acjademic irregularities at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chancellor Carol Folt said in October that nine employees would be disciplined or fired. When the university refused to identify the nine employees, in contravention of the Public Records Act and the State Personnel System Act, a coalition of 10 media outlets sued. On Wednesday, the university identified the four employees it is seeking to fire and agreed to identify the other five employees if disciplinary actions are upheld following administrative appeals.
The Asheville Citizen-Times filed a public records lawsuit Monday against the city of Asheville over recordings made by plain-clothes police officers attending public rallies. The existence of the videos was revealed by the newspaper in September. The city has declined to release them citing the criminal intelligence exemption int the N.C. Public Records Act.
The Court of Appeals found that an assistant director of the Administrative Office of the Courts was not the custodian of court system emails. It rejected AOC's argument that the individual writers of email were the custodians, and instead found that the director of AOC is.
Wake Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens ordered UNC Chapel Hill and 10 media outlets that have sued the university to mediate their dispute over public records. Stephens told lawyers for the university he was "troubled" that the chancellor had announced the discipline or firing of nine employees without providing additional information.
The Burlington Times-News sued Alamance-Burlington School System in October seeking copies of closed-session meeting minutes related to the departure of Superintendent Lillie Cox. Special Superior Court Judge Lucy Inman ruled this week that the records can be withheld, and the newspaper said it would appeal.
WRAL: The U.S. Department of Defense on Thursday released information about what specific pieces of surplus military equipment were provided to local law enforcement agencies across the state. The N.C. Department of Public Safety had previously refused to release the information citing the public records exemption for specific details about security plans.
A coalition of 10 media outlets filed a lawsuit Monday against the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill over the university's refusal to release information about employees punished or dismissed in the wake of the Wainstein report on academic irregularities. This is the third public records lawsuit against the university since the academic-athletic scandal began in 2010.
Media outlets asked Mecklenburg Superior Court Judge Richard Boney to unseal court orders authorizing the surveillance after the existence of the secret program was revealed by the Charlotte Observer in October. The District Attorney's office must now review hundreds of cases to determine if information was improperly kept from defendants in cases dating back to 2010.
Under threat of sanction from the State Board of Education, Charter Day School, Inc. finally released salary information to the Department of Public Instruction. Despite Charter Day stamping the information a "trade secret," DPI said it will release the data to the public Monday evening.
UNC Chapel Hill Vice Chancellor and General Counsel Leslie Strohm has accepted a similar position at the University of Louisville. Strohm has been the university's top attorney through several public records lawsuits.
Toward the end of a wide-ranging interview with WFAE public radio in Charlotte, Gov. Pat McCrory said that the state's personnel laws need to be changed to allow more transparency. McCrory's statement was in response to a question about the resignation of Charlotte-Mecklenberg Schools Superintendent Heath Morrison.
The Sylva Herald: The SBI is investigating allegations of rape and underage drinking related to a high school Halloween party. The party was held at the business of a contractor with the sheriff's office, and was attended by a deputy and a county dispatcher. Superior Court Judge Brad Letts sealed court records related to the investigation for 90 days.
Gov. Pat McCrory held an invitation-only meeting Thursday with representatives of state and federal agencies as well as the oil and gas industry to discuss the possibilities of offshore drilling in North Carolina. Several environmental groups requested the meeting be open to the public. McCrory opened the meeting at the end for a question and answer session.
The State Board of Education is threatening sanctions against Charter Day School, Inc., of Wilmington, in an ongoing dispute over disclosure of salaries of employees contracted through a for-profit company. Charter Day School has refused to disclose them to the state unless a promise of confidentiality is made and it has not provided the information when requested under the N.C. Public Records Law.
The Charlotte Observer and WBTV on Friday filed a motion in Mecklenberg County Superior Court seeking access to court files related to Charlotte-Mecklenberg Police Department's use of StingRay technology, which mimics cellphone towers and allows police to track cellphone use. The court files have remained sealed at the police's request, and the records go back to 2006.
As part of the university's response to a long-running academic and athletic scandal, it launched a new public records tracking website Wednesday. The public can see what requests have been made of the university.
The Times-News: On Friday, the Burlington Times-News filed a public records lawsuit against Alamance-Burlington School System over minutes from closed meetings that led to the resignation of Superintendent Lillie Cox. The newspaper requested the meeting minutes in early October. The school system claims they are confidential. Closed session minutes become public once their release would not frustrate the purpose of the closed session.
A two-story gay pride flag was hung from Asheville City Hall Thursday in anticipation of a historic civil rights ruling. The city council apparently approved the display outside of a public meeting and the decision has drawn an open meetings complaint.
Watauga Democrat: A recently formed nonprofit has hit multiple hurdles after requesting records related to a Boone water intake project on the New River. The group is now asking for mediation over the dispute.
Watauga Democrat: A Watauga GOP leader requested emails of a professor, who is active in Democratic politics, in October 2013. The university says the dealy is a result of the size of the request, which covers more than 19,000 emails.
StarNews: The same information was the subject of a public records request from the StarNews, which has since sued to get access.
The City of Greensboro considers video collected by body worn cameras to be personnel records of the individual officers. The panel discussion was intended to spur discussion about possible changes to the public records law.