Recent Blog Posts

  • The Land Development Permit Extension Legislation: Some Applications and Examples

    Authored by: on Monday, September 14th, 2009

    UPDATE Septemeber 2013:  Land development permit extension was extended in 2010 for one additional year.  The suspension period ended December 31, 2011 rather than December 31, 2010. For an analysis of this change see here my blog of August 3, 2010.  

    The recently passed legislation concerning land development permit extensions (Session Law 2009 – 406 (H 831), as amended by Session Law 2009 – 484 (S 838), Session Law 2009 – 550 (H 274), and Session Law 2009 – 572 ( H 1490)) has raised a number of questions.  As a follow-up to the August 28 blog of Dave Owens, I offer the following examples of the new law’s application. Read more »

  • New Special Assessment Authority for Local Governments

    Authored by: on Monday, September 14th, 2009

    UPDATE August 2013: For more detailed information about special assessment authority in North Carolina, click here. Note also that the General Assembly extended the sunset on the new special assessment authority to July 1, 2015. It also made a few modifications to that authority. See S.L. 2013-371.

    For years, North Carolina counties and municipalities have been authorized to impose special assessments on real property to fund certain public improvements that benefit the real property being assessed. During the 2008 and 2009 legislative sessions, the General Assembly bestowed new special assessment authority on local governments—entitled special assessments for critical infrastructure needs—providing units another avenue to fund certain capital projects. (S.L. 2008-165 (HB 1770); S.L. 2009-525 (SB 97)).

    The new special assessment authority became effective on August 3, 2008, and currently expires on July 1, 2013. For a detailed description of the contours of the new authority, including the procedures for imposing the assessments, click here. For a brief summary of the differences between the traditional and new special assessment authorities, read on…. Read more »

  • City and County Attorneys as Public Officers – a Possible Upside

    Authored by: on Friday, September 11th, 2009

    In last week’s blog post, I discussed the status under the public records law of records kept in his or her law office by a local government attorney who serves on a contract basis, rather than as an employee.  I noted that one of the rationales given by the Court of Appeals, in the Kitty Hawk case (181 N.C. App. 1), for holding that the records were subject to public inspection was that the city attorney in the case was a public officer.  In this blog post I want to discuss the potential implications of that holding and rationale for closed sessions under the open meetings law. Read more »

  • Conflicts of Interest: How Do The Voting Statutes Relate to the Criminal Statute?

    Authored by: on Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

    The subject of conflicts of interest for city and county elected officials has both legal and ethical dimensions. In the legal realm, there are two main statutory provisions: 1) the contracting statute, which creates criminal liability when a public official or employee who is involved in making or administering a contract derives a direct benefit from the contract; and 2) the voting statutes for city and county governing boards, which provide that a member shall be excused from voting only upon “matters involving the member’s own financial interest or official conduct.” This post identifies some important differences between the two statutory provisions, and discusses to issues about how they relate to each other. Next week’s post will discuss the process of excusing members from voting. Read more »

  • Buying Without Bidding: Limits on Three Common Exceptions to the Bidding Laws

    Authored by: on Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

    Your county needs to buy 5 new law enforcement vehicles costing $30,000 each, and the sheriff tells you that he prefers a specific make and model with certain options.  The sheriff also tells you that he knows that a neighboring county recently bought 10 law enforcement vehicles of the same make and model, with the same options.  You contact the dealership that sold the vehicles to the other county, and learn that the dealership sold 2008 models to the other county, but is now out of the 2008 models and only has 2009 models.  Can you use the piggybacking exception to purchase these vehicles? Read more »

  • NC Supreme Court Weighs in on Local Funding Scheme for Public Schools

    Authored by: on Monday, September 7th, 2009

    UPDATE August 2013: Note that the legislature recently codified the clarifications to the fact-finder’s role under G.S. 115C-431 discussed below. Click here for a summary of the new provisions.

    On August 28, 2009, the North Carolina Supreme Court issued Beaufort County Bd. of Educ. v. Beaufort County Bd. of Commissioners (No. 106PA08), a decision stemming from a 2006 local public school funding dispute. In my opinion, there are three major holdings:

    1.  G.S. 115C-431, which prescribes the dispute resolution process for local funding of public schools, does not impermissibly delegate to the courts the legislature’s constitutional duty to provide for a “general and uniform system of free public schools.”

    2.  A court (when acting pursuant to G.S. 115C-431) may not require a county to fund more than the minimum level of funding for its local school administrative unit(s) required by state law.

    3.  A county’s funding responsibility for its local school administrative unit(s) is not limited to capital outlay.

    Each of these holdings is discussed in more detail below. First, a bit of context… Read more »

  • Client-Related Records and the Public Records Law

    Authored by: on Friday, September 4th, 2009

    When local governments retain attorneys who are in private practice, when are records held by the attorneys subject to the public records law and therefore open to public inspection?  The court of appeals has ruled on this issue in a case involving attorneys representing a city, but one rationale given by the court would extend the ruling only to county attorneys.  The subsequent rationales, however, would also reach attorneys for school boards and for special purpose agencies such as water and sewer authorities.  Read more »