Recent Blog Posts

  • UPDATED: Limitations on the Authority and Role of Adult Protective Services Programs

    Authored by: on Monday, August 22nd, 2016

    Yesterday, August 21, was National Senior Citizens Day. When President Reagan issued the proclamation first recognizing this day, he explained:

    For all they have achieved throughout life and for all they continue to accomplish, we owe older citizens our thanks and a heartfelt salute. We can best demonstrate our gratitude and esteem by making sure that our communities are good places in which to mature and grow older – places in which older people can participate to the fullest and can find the encouragement, acceptance, assistance, and services they need to continue to lead lives of independence and dignity.

    This sends a powerful message and it is one that I think about often. As I’ve been working with the adult protective services program for the past few years, one of the issues I have struggled with is the balance between providing protection and preserving “independence and dignity” of older adults and disabled adults. Once a county department of social services (DSS) receives a report of alleged abuse, neglect, or exploitation of an adult, it will take action quickly to screen the report and, if appropriate, conduct an evaluation. In some situations, DSS will not intervene to provide protective services to the adult who is the subject of the report. This post explores some of these circumstances and will discuss the reasons why DSS may not have the authority to provide protective services. Also, at the end of the post I’ve included details about some free training resources related to financial exploitation.

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  • Board Majorities Attending External Events or Meetings: When is Notice Required?

    Authored by: on Monday, August 15th, 2016

    Three (of five) board members walk into a bar…. Sounds like the beginning of a joke, right? In fact it’s the beginning of a frequently asked legal question. Stated more broadly the question is whether the mere presence of a majority of a public body in the same place at the same time always constitutes an official meeting, triggering the public notice and access requirements under the state Open Meetings Law (OML). The easy answer is “no,” it doesn’t always trigger the law, but sometimes it might. As I noted in my blog post here, if members of a public body are not transacting public business, there is no need to provide notice. That’s the easy answer. But what if it’s a political event or a setting that relates to public business and a majority shows up? When is a majority of the board considered to be “gathered” or “assembled” in a meeting within the meaning of the OML? Public agencies often give notice any time there is a possibility that a majority will be at the same place at the same time. This blog examines when such notice is necessary and when it’s not. Read more »

  • Government Property and Property Taxes

    Authored by: on Friday, August 5th, 2016

    Property owned by a government—local, state, or federal—is exempt from property taxes in North Carolina.  That’s one of the most simple, straightforward provisions in the entire Machinery Act. (You can find it in G.S. 105-278.1).  So why do we need to spend an entire blog post talking about government property? Because the topic isn’t as simple as it appears at first glance.  Here are a few of the more common—and complex—tax questions that arise when a government purchases property in North Carolina. Read more »

  • 2016 Public Health Legislation Highlights

    Authored by: on Thursday, July 28th, 2016

    The SOG will host its 2016 legislative update webinar next Monday, August 1 at 10:00 a.m. This annual tradition is your opportunity to learn about significant legislation affecting North Carolina local governments. The webinar will cover current hot topics such as law enforcement body cameras and House Bill 2, as well as providing a timely update in areas ranging from criminal law to the environment. You can register for the webinar here.

    Unfortunately, I will be out of town and unable to participate in the webinar. Fortunately, my colleague Aimee Wall has offered to summarize this year’s public health legislation highlights, so if you tune in you will get the critical updates. This post provides some background and more details about some of the 2016 legislation affecting public health and local health departments. Read more »

  • Interpreting the Zoning Ordinance

    Authored by: on Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

    Interpreting the zoning ordinance—like interpreting any legislation—can be tricky business. Ordinances may be imprecise, development continually evolves, and terms are not always clear.  Reasonable minds may disagree over the correct interpretation and application of a particular provision of the ordinance.  Still, the zoning official must make hard determinations about the meaning of the ordinance.  A recent decision from the North Carolina Court of Appeals, Long v. Currituck County, offered reminders about the rules of thumb for interpreting the ordinance.  This blog discusses the case and highlights those rules of thumb. Read more »

  • Rabies Prevention and Control: Integrating Recent Research into North Carolina’s Legal Framework

    Authored by: on Monday, July 25th, 2016

    UPDATE:  The rabies law was amended in 2017.  A revised version of this post is available here.

    Your dog, Duke, is outside in the yard and has an unexpected encounter with a raccoon. The raccoon bit Duke and there is a small break in the skin on his leg. At this point, the public health system’s rabies prevention and control laws and programs are set in motion. This post briefly walks through the legal framework for responding to suspected rabies exposures, including issues such as booster shots, euthanasia, and confinement. It also addresses a recent development in the public health veterinary research community that may result in local health directors authorizing shorter confinement observation and quarantine periods in certain circumstances. Read on to find out what will happen to Duke.

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  • Must Travel Time to Training and Conferences Be Paid?

    Authored by: on Monday, July 25th, 2016

    In a previous blog post, I explained the Fair Labor Standards Act rules that govern paying for nonexempt employees for training time. Much of an employee’s training, of course, is done on-site. But what happens when an employee travels to attend a training or a conference? Is the time spent driving to the training event compensable? Does it matter whether the employee is the driver or is a passenger in a vehicle driven by another? You bet it does. The rules governing the compensability of travel time are among the most confusing that the U.S. Department of Labor has issued under the FLSA. Read more »