Recent Blog Posts

  • 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 »

  • Taxes, Telephones and Traffic Cones: Do Tax Foreclosures Extinguish Easements?

    Authored by: on Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

    An interesting discussion from the Local Government Law listserv last week: Do tax foreclosures extinguish easements? 

    The answer must be no, don’t you think? If public utility and transportation easements could be extinguished by tax foreclosures, then the authority of the phone company to run telecommunication lines and the Department of Transportation to maintain highways would be dependent on the willingness of thousands of individual property owners to keep current with their property taxes.  That sounds like an unworkable system to me.

    But the relevant statutory language suggests the answer might not be so simple.  Read more »

  • Controlling H1N1 Flu in North Carolina

    Authored by: on Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

    UPDATE February 28, 2017: This post has been updated to delete links to resources that are no longer available online. The post itself has been retained to provide historical information about the 2009 H1N1 flu outbreak, and to serve as an example of how North Carolina communicable disease control law provides for disease control measures during an emerging illness event. 

    You’re no doubt aware that there has been an outbreak of H1N1 flu (formerly called “swine flu”) in North Carolina this summer. To date, 175 state residents have been hospitalized and nine have died from this new strain of flu. Of the 660 cases that were reported to the state’s flu surveillance system between May and August, 587 (nearly 90%) were H1N1. However, because the vast majority of cases are not reported, state health officials estimate that there actually have been between 30,000 and 50,000 cases of H1N1 in North Carolina already. Read more »