Recent Blog Posts
Authored by: Chris McLaughlin on Friday, May 27th, 2016
In rem foreclosure is becoming an increasingly popular remedy for enforcing local government liens on real property. The process is quicker and cheaper than traditional mortgage-style foreclosures and can be used for a variety of liens including property tax liens, nuisance abatement liens, minimum housing code enforcement demolition liens, and ambulance service liens.
The increased popularity of in rem foreclosure has led to increased demand for in rem guidance and resources. I’m hopeful my newest publication, In Rem Foreclosure Forms and Procedures, will help satisfy that demand. Read more »
Authored by: Diane Juffras on Wednesday, May 25th, 2016
On May 18, 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor released the final rule raising the minimum salary an employee must make to be exempt from overtime and, by that act, making many more salaried employees eligible for overtime compensation. The rule may be found here. The changes to the old rule are few and not surprising as they closely track the proposed rule published last July. The most significant change is, as expected, an increase in the amount an employer must pay for an employee to qualify for exempt status. It increases from the current $455 per week to $913 per week – that’s an increase of just over 100% from $23,600 annually to $47,476 annually. The new salary minimum will be effective December 1, 2016. Read more »
Authored by: Frayda Bluestein on Friday, May 20th, 2016
Many North Carolina law enforcement agencies have invested in body-worn cameras (BWCs). A major selling point is transparency. The cameras will document law enforcement activities and the recordings may be especially important in situations where there are questions about whether officers have performed appropriately. As I noted in my blog post here, the status of these records under the North Carolina public records law is not entirely clear. The criminal investigation records exception in the Public Records Act likely applies to most BWC recordings. Under that exception the recordings are not public records. Some of the recordings may be confidential personnel records under the city, county or state personnel privacy statutes. North Carolina cities and counties have adopted varying polices regarding the release of these recordings.
In the current session of the General Assembly, state legislators have taken a step toward a uniform set of rules with the introduction of House Bill 972. This blog post describes the key provisions of the proposed law and provides comments about how it might be interpreted and implemented if enacted. Read more »
Authored by: Chris McLaughlin on Friday, May 6th, 2016
The property tax exclusion for inventory keeps getting bigger. Traditionally, the exclusion was limited to property that was held for sale and not put to any other use. But last year the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled that the inventory exclusion applies to jet airplanes that are used for corporate trips so long as those jets remain for sale. And last month that same court expanded the inventory exclusion to cover property never even offered for sale in the Appeal of Michelin North American, Inc.
The Michelin case involved taxation of tires used in the company’s testing facility in Mecklenburg County. The company argued that the tires, valued at roughly $500,000, should be considered excluded inventory. The county disagreed based on the fact that the tires were not held for sale. The dispute went before the Property Tax Commission, which ruled in favor of the county in late 2014. In early April 2015 the Court of Appeals reversed the PTC decision and ruled in favor of the company after an extended analysis of the Machinery Act’s definition of “inventory.”
The specific property at issue in the Michelin case—aircraft tires that must be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. military—is unlikely to be a concern for many other counties. But the principle involved in this case is extremely important for all counties: the inventory exclusion is no longer limited to property held for sale. Read more »
Authored by: Adam Lovelady on Wednesday, April 27th, 2016
What developments qualify as subdivisions and which ones are exempt? Who can review a subdivision plat and what standards can apply? Can the local government require streets and infrastructure? And what can local governments do with performance guarantees? A comprehensive resource now is available to answer these and other questions of land subdivision regulation. Read on for the details.
Authored by: Aimee Wall on Tuesday, April 26th, 2016
Child abuse investigations and case files. Applications for Medicaid, child care subsidies, and cash assistance. Financial records related to exploitation of disabled adults. These are only a few examples of the types of records maintained by county departments of social services. These records obviously contain very sensitive information and, as a result, are protected by numerous federal and state confidentiality laws. Social services directors, social workers, attorneys, and others involved with providing assistance to individuals all need access to this information in order to do their work and the laws clearly authorize them to have it. But what about the agency’s governing board? Does the law authorize board members to have access to identifiable information contained in these sensitive records? This post explores the relevant laws and highlights particularly restrictive provisions that apply in two areas: child protective services and public assistance.Read more »
Authored by: Frayda Bluestein on Monday, April 25th, 2016
North Carolina local governments occasionally receive requests for records under the wrong law. Here’s an example:
Dear FOIA Officer:
Pursuant to the federal Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552, I request access to and copies of the following records… Please waive any applicable fees. Release of the information is in the public interest because it will contribute significantly to public understanding of government operations and activities…If my request is denied in whole or part, I ask that you justify all deletions by reference to specific exemptions of the act.
Does FOIA apply to local governments? No. Is the local government obligated to respond? Perhaps not. Should a local government respond? I think so. Even if the requester cites the wrong law, the local government should recognize and respond to the request if it is within the scope of North Carolina’s public records law. This blog post provides information about FOIA, and provides a sample response that local governments can use should they decide to honor the request. Read more »