N.C. Legislature overhauls open meetings law
NORTH CAROLINA — It’s now more difficult for public bodies such as city councils, school boards and county commissioners to meet in secret.
The legislature overhauled the state’s open meetings law in late June. Government bodies have only seven reasons, instead of the previous 21, to hold closed meetings.
Public agencies may close meetings that include discussions with an attorney about litigation, talks about the qualifications and performance of individual employees, and reports about investigations of alleged criminal conduct.
The legislature deleted a host of former exemptions.
Public bodies now must openly discuss the purpose and location of any possible property purchase, although the price itself is still exempt.
Governmental bodies discussing contingency plans for labor disputes, such as a bus strike, must hold meetings in public. Investigations and reports of election fraud must be conducted in the open.
The University of North Carolina and its constituent institutions are specifically described as public bodies. Negotiations about airport landing fees, contracts and facilities may not be conducted in private.
All appointed boards are public under the new law.
Agencies must cite specific reasons when going into a closed session, and they must keep minutes of the closed meetings.
If an official is convicted of intentionally violating the law, the person may be ordered to pay attorney fees out of pocket. Courts must give priority to lawsuits brought to enforce the revised open meetings law.
(House Bill 120, 140th Leg., 2d Sess.)