Recent Blog Posts

  • Counting the Mayor in Quorum Calculations

    Authored by: on Friday, July 22nd, 2016

    Scenario 1: A city council has six members and no vacant seats.  Three of the members fail to show up for this month’s regular meeting, leaving only the mayor and the other three members in attendance.

    Scenario 2: The same council, but four of the six members attend the meeting, and the mayor is absent.

    Is a quorum present in either scenario? Read more »

  • Answers to Questions About North Carolina’s Body-Worn Camera Law

    Authored by: on Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

    On July 11, 2016, Governor McCrory approved new legislation that creates rules for access to law enforcement recordings, including body-worn camera and dashboard camera records. Following a national trend, North Carolina’s law enforcement agencies have adopted these technologies, and the status of the recordings they create under the state’s public records law has been unclear. Legislators considered several approaches over the course of the 2015-16 session, ultimately arriving at an approach that allows a limited right of access only to individuals who are depicted in the recordings (and representatives of those individuals), and places with the courts the primary responsibility for allowing disclosure to the public. This blog post provides an overview of the new law, S.L. 2016-88 (HB 972), and some answers to questions about it. Read more »

  • Confidentiality of Taxpayer Income Information

    Authored by: on Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

    The General Assembly avoided messing with the Machinery Act during their session that just ended, which means that you don’t need to worry about any big property tax law changes this year.  The only ratified bill relating to local property taxes worth mentioning is one that affects the confidentiality of taxpayer income information contained in local tax records.  The new law presents a nice opportunity to review the rules concerning this important category of non-public information. Read more »

  • HB 2 and Bathrooms: What Must North Carolina Units of Government Do Now?

    Authored by: on Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

    Updated September 1, 2016:  Three federal court rulings in separate cases, all in August 2016, make the job of the school attorney described near the end of this blog post much more difficult.  In G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board, cited in the blog post as controlling the school board attorney’s advice, the U.S. Supreme Court on August 3 issued a stay, making it appear that the school board attorney should not rely upon the G.G. decision.  But then, on August 26, a federal district court judge in North Carolina, ruling in an unrelated lawsuit concerning HB 2, held that the G.G. decision, despite the stay, remains controlling law.  That ruling is in Carcano v. McCrory.  The school board attorney will be put to a hard task to decide how to advise the school board.  Must it abide by G.G. or not?  The third court ruling was issued on August 21 by a federal district court in Texas, in litigation not involving North Carolina.  State of Texas v. United States of America.  That court issued a nationwide injunction barring federal agencies from enforcing guidelines that the G.G. court had relied on in its ruling.  This ruling gives weight to the position that a federal government challenge to compliance with HB 2’s bathroom use requirements is unlikely.  The law of bathroom usage in public schools, in light of these three court rulings, remains very much in a state of confusion and change.  Additional rulings will be necessary to discern a clear direction


    Here is the basic requirement with respect to bathrooms that HB 2 imposes on cities and counties and other units of government in North Carolina:  “Public agencies shall require every multiple occupancy bathroom or changing facility to be designated for and only used by persons based on their biological sex.”  GS 143-760(b).  That requirement has two parts.  First, it requires that multiple occupancy bathrooms be “designated” for use by persons based on their biological sex.  Second, it requires that those bathrooms be “only used” by persons based on their biological sex. Read more »

  • Adult Protective Services: Which County is Responsible?

    Authored by: on Thursday, June 30th, 2016

    If you have reasonable cause to believe that a disabled adult has been abused, neglected, or exploited and is in need of protective services, you are required to report your concerns to the county department of social services (DSS). GS 108A-102. DSS is then required to take action on the report. But what if multiple counties are involved? Which one should take the lead?  In most circumstances, it will be the adult’s county of residence but there may be some exceptional situations. A working group convened by the North Carolina Division of Aging and Adult Services (DAAS) recently developed policy guidance intended to clarify some ambiguities related to the interpretation and application of state statutes and regulations. This guidance is now in draft form but it will likely be integrated into the Adult Protective Services manual and incorporated into forms used by county social workers. This blog post explains the legal framework involved and highlights some of the recommendations included in the working group’s guidance materials.

    Read more »

  • The Latest on North Carolina Body-Worn Camera Legislation

    Authored by: on Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

    The national debate about body-worn cameras continues as more law enforcement agencies adopt this powerful tool. As I’ve noted in a previous blog post here, this issue involves numerous competing issues, including safety, privacy, fairness, and transparency. Public expectations of transparency have often been frustrated by laws and policies that limit access to recordings. A recent New York Times piece criticized the City of New York for its reluctance to release recordings of police interactions with citizens and cited North Carolina as an example of a state that is taking steps to limit access to body and dashboard video. The reference was to the latest version of HB 972, a bill under active consideration in the North Carolina General Assembly. This blog post summarizes the most recent version of the proposed legislation, and focuses on the main issue: Who controls disclosure and release of these records? Read more »

  • Local Government Support for Privately Constructed Affordable Housing

    Authored by: on Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

    County officials from Tarheel County as well as City officials from the county seat were approached by two residential developers who are seeking to construct housing that is affordable to low and moderate income (LMI) persons. One developer, DoGooder Inc., is a private, for-profit developer who intends to construct multi-family housing in which half of the twenty apartment units will be rented at a rate that is affordable to LMI persons. DoGooder is financing the project through conventional private financing but has asked the City and County for a cash subsidy to “make the project feasible.” The other developer, Good Habits for Humans, is a nonprofit corporation whose staff and volunteers plan to construct one single family home and sell it to a family headed by a LMI person. Good Habits has asked the City and County to provide a cash grant to help them pay for staff supervision and construction materials for the project.

    This post describes the legal authority for the City and County to provide the requested subsidies and explains some important differences between City and County authority in this area. Read more »