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  • North Carolina Public School Teachers and the Status of Tenure

    Authored by: on Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

    Every once in a while, the North Carolina General Assembly makes a major change in some big aspect of teacher employment in our public schools.  It did it again in 2013, making changes as sweeping as any in the past.  Those changes are now being considered by the appellate courts and the outcome remains to be seen.

    In 1955 the General Assembly ended all existing contracts with teachers, saying: “The contracts of all principals and teachers now employed in the public schools of North Carolina are hereby terminated as of the end of the school term 1954-1955.”  The legislation put all teachers on one-year contracts renewable in the discretion of the county board of education.  Starting that year, the board had to consider each teacher individually at the end of each school year and decide whether to renew or not.  In effect, each year constituted a new decision on whether to continue to employ each teacher.  It’s hard to image a system further removed from a tenure system than that.  Without a new decision “yes” for a specific teacher, the renewal answer for that teacher was “no.” Read more »

  • Law Enforcement Video Camera Records: An Ongoing National Debate About Transparency

    Authored by: on Thursday, February 26th, 2015

    In a previous post, I described how North Carolina’s public records laws may apply to law enforcement body and vehicle video camera records. [I’ve recently updated that post to note a newly promulgated records retention standard for these records.] The push for transparency and for more documentation of law enforcement-citizen interactions through the use of video cameras continues. And though there may be some consensus about the benefit of using vehicle and body cameras, there remains significant disagreement about policies for their retention and use, and especially regarding their release to the public. The technology is available and simple to use, but its use raises complicated operational and policy issues. Read more »

  • County Tax Websites and Public Records Law

    Authored by: on Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

    Most of North Carolina’s 100 counties maintain tax websites that allow users to search for property information by name and address.  Even tiny Graham County (population 8,800) offers on-line access to its tax records.  Larger counties have more elaborate websites with more information available.  Durham County, for example, offers on-line access not only to photos of properties but also maps, past sale prices, and building permits.

    I get lots of questions about what may, must, and cannot be made available via local government tax websites.  Some of them were spurred by legislation proposed last summer that would have required counties to remove from their websites information pertaining to law enforcement officials.

    Here are my thoughts on county tax websites. Read more »

  • Employers: Warning! Your Overtime Costs Are About to Go Up

    Authored by: on Friday, February 20th, 2015

    Whether they know it or not, virtually all employers in America are about to face a significant increase in their overtime pay obligations. The time to start thinking about the budget implications of that fact is now. For North Carolina governmental employers, the impact is likely to hit in the middle of fiscal year 2016. Read more »

  • Access to Records in Financial Exploitation Investigations

    Authored by: on Monday, February 16th, 2015

    It will now be much easier for county social services agencies and law enforcement officials to investigate reports of suspected financial exploitation of disabled adults and older adults. The Administrative Office of the Courts just approved a new form (AOC-SP-630) that officials can use to ask a district court judge to issue a subpoena directing a financial institution to provide copies of the adult’s financial records. This new subpoena authority was authorized in legislation (S.L. 2014-115, s. 44) that went into effect October 1, 2014.

    Government officials have several tools available to help them obtain access to financial records for exploitation investigations, but each tool is different, and one may be more appropriate than another depending on the circumstances. This post will review the options and highlight some of the key differences among them. Read more »

  • County and Municipal Government in North Carolina: New Edition is Now Available

    Authored by: on Friday, February 13th, 2015

    Do you have questions about North Carolina local government? Want to know what “spot zoning” really means? Confused about what kinds of annexation cities can still do? Looking for a summary of changes in the structure of mental health and other human services? Want to know more about benchmarking, IT and social media trends, the respective roles of the manager and the governing board, or the governance and funding structure of public schools in North Carolina? Searching for a general overview of the public records and open meetings laws?

    You can find all this and much more in the new edition of County and Municipal Government in North Carolina, now available for purchase.  Read more »

  • (Yet Another) Internet Sweepstakes Update

    Authored by: on Thursday, February 12th, 2015

     

    The North Carolina General Assembly banned internet sweepstakes more than four years ago.  The North Carolina Supreme Court upheld that ban more than two years ago.  A few months later that court struck down excessive municipal privilege license taxes on these businesses.  Last year the General Assembly eliminated nearly all municipal privilege licenses, including those on sweepstakes operators, as of this July.

    And yet the headlines are still filled with sweepstakes news.  “Greensboro Police Department to begin ‘full enforcement’ of sweepstakes law in March.”  “Sweepstakes, internet cafés put on notice” after Rockingham County sets March 31 as the deadline for sweepstakes operators to cease operations or face criminal prosecution.  What’s going on here? Read more »