Charlotte Google event raises meetings law questions

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

On Tuesday, Google announced that it is bringing its high-speed Internet fiber service to the Triangle and Charlotte metro areas in the near future. On Wednesday the company followed up with an invitation-only reception at The Liberty restauarant in Charlotte. The company invited a number of state and local elected officials. 

A majority of the Charlotte City Council attended the meeting. A Charlotte Observer reporter who tried to attend was turned away by Google representatives, the newspaper reports. 

The N.C. Open Meetings Law defines an “official meeting” as one where a majority of a body is present “for the purpose of conducting hearings, participating in deliberations, or voting upon or otherwise transacting the public’s business within the jurisdiction, real or apparent, of the public body.” The law makes an exception for social gatherings or other informal gatherings where a majority of a body is present, such as a Super Bowl party, as long as the group isn’t purposefully trying to avoid the public records law. 

An organized reception with corporate representatives of a firm that is making a major infrastructure investment in a city on its face would appear to fall into the “otherwise transacting the public’s business” prong of the official meeting definition, unless there was no discussion of the company’s plans by either the corporate executives or the council members.

Read coverage from the Observer here.