Family sues Belmont over refusal to release third-party investigative report

The city of Belmont hired an outside firm to investigate complaints about conduct and management of its police department. The police chief was fired following the investigation, but the city has refused to release the investigative report.  

Siblings Dan Deitz and Ellen Deitz Tucker filed a public records lawsuit Friday against the city of Belmont for its refusal to release an investigative report into the police department. The report was prepared by an outside contractor. 

Deitz and Tucker have been raising questions about the police department ever since their sister, Donna Deitz, and former Mayor Kevin Loftin were killed in 2012 when the car they were in was struck by a suspect who was fleeing police during a high-speed chase. 

Last year Belmont hired U.S. ISS Agency, a private investigation firm, to conduct an investigation into complaints about the police department. Separately Deitz and Tucker hired a private investigator to look into their sister’s death. The private investigator requested a copy of U.S. ISS Agency’s report on the police department under the Public Records Law, according to the complaint filed in court. The city denied access to the report claiming it is exempt under the municipal personnel statute

The Civitas Institute Center for Law and Freedom then stepped in and requested the same documents on behalf of Deitz and Tucker, noting that in News & Observer v. Poole, under a similar statute, the North Carolina Supreme Court held that information gathered by a third-party investigator would not be considered part of a personnel record unless it was first gathered by the government agency. 

The lawsuit filed Friday is asking the court to require the city to provide a copy of the investigative report. Read additional coverage of the lawsuit from WCNC in Charlotte here

Return to the Sunshine Center’s page here