Recent Blog Posts

  • The Guardian’s Role in Health Care Decision-making

    Authored by: on Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

    A county director of social services may be appointed to serve as guardian for an adult who has been adjudicated incompetent by a clerk of superior court. Making decisions about health care, particularly end of life care, is often one of the most challenging issues a guardian may face. Sometimes, prior to being adjudicated incompetent, the adult may have expressed his or her wishes regarding some of these critical decisions. The adult may have discussed his or her wishes with family, friends or a doctor or possibly executed a health care power of attorney or living will. After the DSS director has been appointed guardian, what happens to those legal documents? How do they impact the DSS director’s authority and role as guardian?

    Please note that this blog post is not intended to provide a comprehensive overview of end of life decision-making. Rather, the purpose is to help DSS directors who serve as guardians understand their responsibilities and the legal hierarchy of decision-making during these difficult times.

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  • What is the “special character” of the historic district?

    Authored by: on Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

    After a city or county establishes a historic district or historic landmark, the local historic preservation commission is authorized to prevent certain changes that “would be incongruous with the special character of the landmark or district.”  But, what is the special character? And what is incongruous with it?  This blog reviews applicable laws and cases to outline the procedural requirements for establishing the special character (through formal report, ordinance description, and design guidelines) and subsequently determining whether a particular change is incongruous (through a quasi-judicial evidentiary hearing). Read more »

  • Periodic Inspections, Permits, and Registration of Residential Rental Property: Changes in 2017

    Authored by: on Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

    Local governments establish residential rental property inspection, permit, and registration (IPR) programs to ensure that residential rental properties within their jurisdictions are maintained in a safe and decent condition. In recent years, the General Assembly has sought to protect code-compliant landlords from what legislators perceived as overly zealous IPR programs. The most recent legislation in this area, Session Law 2016-122, became effective on January 1, 2017, and is explained in Community and Economic Development bulletin #9. This blog post offers some highlights from the new law. CED Bulletin #9 should be consulted for more detail. Read more »

  • What Does It Mean to be Charitable?

    Authored by: on Monday, March 20th, 2017

    Last year I blogged about the increasing willingness of local governments to push back against charitable property tax exemptions for non-profit organizations.  Two recent law review articles demonstrate that this trend continues to gather steam. Although the articles involve different types of non-profits and different types of property, they both focus on the same key property tax exemption question: What does it mean to be “charitable?” Read more »

  • Open Meetings Book: New Edition Now Available

    Authored by: on Friday, March 10th, 2017

    Can the board of county commissioners meet in closed session to discuss the performance of the elected sheriff or register of deeds? The open meetings law allows a public body to meet in closed session to talk about employees. But are these elected officials considered to be employees? The county commissioners have no authority to hire, fire, or discipline them. So what’s the answer? You can find it on page 64 of the new (eighth) edition of Open Meetings and Local Governments in North Carolina: Some Questions and Answersnow available from the School of Government, just in time for Sunshine Week. Read on to learn more about the latest version of this publication, and to see the answer to the question. Read more »

  • Who Gets the Refund?

    Authored by: on Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

    Usually the most difficult question about a refund is whether that refund is lawful.  We’ve talked a bunch about how the Machinery Act limits refunds to taxes levied due to clerical error and illegality (read this and this).  But we haven’t discussed the question that arises after deciding that a refund is lawful: who should get the refund check?

    If the tax payment being refunded was made by the owner of the property and the property hasn’t changed hands, the “who gets the check?” question is easy to answer.  The property owner gets the check.

    But what if the refund is for a prior tax year and the property is now owned by a new party? What if the payment being refunded was made by somebody other than the property owner?   The question of “who gets the check?” suddenly becomes much more difficult.

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  • Email as Public Record: Five Things You Should Know [Updated]

    Authored by: on Monday, February 20th, 2017

    This is an update of my January 27th, 2010 blog post on this topic. 

    You probably already know that the definition of public records in our state law is extremely broad, and certainly includes electronic records like email. This means that email is subject to both the public access and records retention aspects of that law. Here’s a list of five other things you should know about email as a public record.  Read more »