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  • Municipal Elections–Odd Year and Odd Man Out

    Authored by: on Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

    In North Carolina, we do our voting for almost all elected officials in even-numbered years.  It’s in 2012 and 2014 and 2016 that we vote for statewide executive branch and judicial branch officials, members of the General Assembly, district attorneys, sheriffs, clerks of court, registers of deeds, county commissioners, and federal officers.  That’s a lot of offices and it makes for what is commonly called the “long ballot.”  Look here for all the offices we fill by election.

    But there are two offices we fill by election in odd-numbered years.  In 2015 and 2017 and 2019 we will vote for mayor and city council.  In very recent years there has been a modest movement—a few North Carolina municipalities have changed—toward holding municipal elections in even-numbered years along with all the others.  Why are municipal elections held so differently from all others?  What is the motivation behind the possibility of change? Read more »

  • Special Property Tax Rules for Low-Income Housing

    Authored by: on Monday, June 29th, 2015

    North Carolina law offers a variety of exemptions, exclusions, and appraisal benefits for property used to provide housing for low- or moderate-income residents. Here is a quick summary of those special rules with links to the full statutes and to more-detailed blog posts on related issues.  If you think I missed any relevant statutes, please don’t be shy—that’s what the comment section is for! Read more »

  • The North Carolina Criminal Self-Dealing Statute (G.S. 14-234): Five Things You Should Know

    Authored by: on Friday, June 26th, 2015

    In North Carolina, it is a crime for certain public officials and employees to contract with the units of government they work for or represent. G.S. 14-234 makes it a misdemeanor for a government official or employee who is involved in making or administering a contract to derive a direct benefit from that contract. The terms “making or administering a contract” and “direct benefit” are defined in the statute. These definitions are set out at the end of this post.

    Here are five things you should know about this statute: Read more »

  • HB 44 and Proposed Changes to the Preaudit Process

    Authored by: on Thursday, June 25th, 2015

    In recent years local governments and public authorities (collectively, local units) have struggled to comply with the statutory preaudit (G.S. 159-28(a)) and disbursement (G.S. 159-28(b) & (d)) processes, in particular when making web-based purchases, or when using credit cards, purchase cards, and fuel cards. In 2013 the North Carolina Court of Appeals made compliance even more difficult when it interpreted the provisions of G.S. 159-28(a) to require that all obligations subject to preaudit be in writing. See Howard v. County of Durham, 748 S.E.2d 1 (NC Ct. App. 2013), disc. rev. den’d, 367 N.C. 238 (N.C. 2013); Executive Medical Transportation, Inc. v Jones County Department of Social Services, 735 S.E.2d 352 (NC Ct. App. 2012), disc. rev. den’d, 737 S.E.2d 378 (N.C. 2013). This raised additional difficulties for units when dealing with electronic transactions and also when hiring, or changing the compensation of, at-will employees.

    A bill (HB 44) was introduced this session that, if enacted, would address these issues, modernize the preaudit and disbursements processes, and (hopefully) make it easier for local governments to comply. The amendments would go into effect on July 1, 2015 (again, if enacted), and would apply to any obligations incurred on or after that date. This post summarizes the proposed changes to the preaudit process. A future post will look at the proposed changes to the disbursement process. Read more »

  • Adult Protective Services: A New Reporting Requirement

    Authored by: on Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

    Last month, the North Carolina General Assembly enacted legislation (S.L. 2015-36) amending some of the specific reporting requirements that apply to employees and volunteers at facilities providing services for people who are mentally ill, developmentally disabled, or are substance abusers (MH/DD/SA facilities).  The new reporting requirements apply to situations involving certain types of criminal sex offenses, including rape and sexual assault. Because some of these reporting requirements intersect or overlap with the adult protective services (APS) reporting requirements, there may be some confusion when the law goes into effect on December 1, 2015. This post briefly reviews the existing APS reporting requirements and describes how the new provisions fit into the overall framework.

    Read more »

  • When May a Board Member Change a Vote?

    Authored by: on Monday, June 15th, 2015

    A five-member city council is debating a motion to adopt the proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Eager for more time to persuade others to support increased funding for some of his priorities, Councilmember Tom Delay moves to postpone a vote on the proposed budget for one week. (The council’s rules don’t require a second.) Following discussion the mayor calls for a vote on the postponement motion. Delay, distracted by an incoming text message, mistakenly votes against his own motion, which fails two votes to three. The mayor immediately calls for a vote on the motion to approve the budget, at which point Delay realizes his mistake and asks to change his vote on the motion to postpone. May Delay change his vote at this point?

    This blog post examines the rules for vote-change requests and applies them to the scenario described above. It also considers a few of the options open to a member whose request to change a vote has been denied. Read more »

  • Retention Elections for the State Supreme Court?

    Authored by: on Thursday, June 11th, 2015

    The North Carolina General Assembly has just enacted House Bill 222 and it now awaits the governor’s signature. It would change the way we elect our state supreme court justices. After once being elected in a regular contested election, the justice thereafter would be subject only to yes/no retention votes at the end of each eight-year term. That is, after that first contested election no one else would get to file for that seat or to run against the justice. Instead, there would be only a vote on whether the justice should be retained in office.

    If the governor signs the bill, the question arises: Is a retention election consistent with the North Carolina Constitution’s requirement that justices be “elected” by the voters of the state? Read more »