Recent Blog Posts

  • Immediate Disclosure of Body-Worn Cameras Related to Death or Serious Bodily Injury

    Authored by: on Monday, September 27th, 2021

    The North Carolina General Assembly, in legislation enacted this month, has sped up the process for disclosure of law enforcement recordings in cases of death or serious bodily injury.  The state’s body-worn camera law was in the national news this year with focus on the timing and process for disclosure and release. Law enforcement officers, local officials, the press, and citizens were left confused and disappointed. You can see John Rubin’s blog on this here. Changes came as part of an omnibus criminal law Session Law 2021-138, Part XXI. The new law creates a process for immediate disclosure for death or serious bodily injury. This blog answers some questions about the changes. Read more »

  • Will President Biden’s Emergency Vaccination-or-Weekly-Test Mandate Apply to Local Government Employers?

    Authored by: on Thursday, September 23rd, 2021

    On September 9, 2021, President Biden announced a new COVID-19 Action Plan that included three items of interest to local government employers: 1) a directive that certain employers ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work; 2) a directive that requires certain employers to provide paid time off for the time it takes for workers to get vaccinated or to recover if they are under the weather post-vaccination; and 3) a directive that requires vaccination of all employees of any healthcare organization (potentially including local health departments) that receives reimbursement from Medicare or Medicaid. The first two requirements will certainly apply to North Carolina local government employers. The third requirement may apply to local health departments. To learn what we know and don’t know as of now, keep reading. Read more »

  • The Role of a Director of Social Services in the Disposition of Unclaimed Bodies

    Authored by: on Friday, September 17th, 2021

    As the United States has faced a new surge of COVID-19 cases, hospitals in North Carolina and other states are having to use mobile morgues to store bodies when on-site morgues reach capacity. Unfortunately, this means that it’s an appropriate time to discuss one of the lesser-known duties of the director of a county department of social services (“DSS”) in North Carolina: arranging for final disposition of unclaimed bodies. Pursuant to North Carolina General Statute (hereinafter, G.S.) 130A-415, a county DSS director has ultimate responsibility for the burial or cremation of an unclaimed, deceased body that has been declined by the Commission of Anatomy. Below are a few questions and answers describing the applicable law and highlighting some of the gray areas in the process. Read more »

  • Types of Development Decisions

    Authored by: on Tuesday, August 24th, 2021

    Suppose you own a vacant lot in town and you want to build a small, six-unit apartment building on the site. What standards apply? Who decides and how much discretion do they have? Do the neighbors get to weigh in?

    The short answer is it depends. The standards, the decision-maker’s discretion, and the role of public input depend on whether the decision is administrative, quasi-judicial, or legislative. This blog provides an overview of the factors, procedures, and limitations for each type of land use decision.
    Read more »

  • COVID-19 and the Workplace Part 3: OSHA’s Healthcare Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS)

    Authored by: on Monday, August 23rd, 2021

    On June 21, 2021, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) COVID-19 Healthcare Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) became effective. Many local government employers didn’t pay much attention. After all, the ETS was publicized as applying to employees in healthcare. But did you know that the ETS covers emergency medical services personnel? That means almost every North Carolina local government should be concerned with the ETS, not just those local health departments that run medical clinics. The ETS is effective now. To learn more about the ETS and what it means for your employees, read on. Read more »

  • Comprehensive Plans and Land Use Plans Required for Zoning

    Authored by: on Thursday, August 19th, 2021

    What investments should our town make to lure new economic development? How can we improve housing options? How can we revitalize downtown? How do we preserve our agricultural lands and ensure property rights? How do we protect our community from natural disaster?

    These are essential questions for communities large and small. Questions of prosperity and opportunity, character and preservation, resilience and revitalization. Questions without simple answers.

    A quality comprehensive plan or land-use plan seeks to answer these big questions. A good planning process is focused on land use planning, grounded in key data for current conditions and trends, guided by authentic community input, informed by planning best practices, and aligned with practical implementation strategies. Through that process and with an adopted plan, a local government can engage citizens in policy-making, wisely invest public dollars, guide development decisions, qualify for certain grants and government funding, and more.

    Additionally, a new state law requires that if a local government wants to enforce zoning the local government must have and maintain a comprehensive plan or land-use plan. This blog outlines the statutory requirements for plans, suggests some alternatives for smaller communities, and highlights possible assistance for planning efforts. Read more »

  • American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP): Using ARP Funds to Pay Employee Vaccination Incentives

    Authored by: on Wednesday, August 18th, 2021

    For local governments considering offering COVID-19 vaccination incentives to local government employees, my colleague Diane Juffras authored a comprehensive blog on the employment law issues here. A related issue is how to pay for the vaccination incentives. Incentives may take many forms—ranging from allowing an employee to take paid time off to receive the vaccine to providing bonuses, gift cards, gift certificates, or other tangible items (vaccination incentive rewards) to employees who provide evidence of vaccination. I’ve been asked by several local officials whether they may use their Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds of H.R. 1319 American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP) monies to fund the vaccination incentive rewards. The answer, of course, is maybe. US Treasury guidance indicates that a vaccination incentive reward program for not-yet-vaccinated employees is an ARP-eligible use. Things get more complicated if a local government wants to use ARP funds to also provide vaccination incentive rewards to employees who have already been vaccinated. Read on for the full analysis. Read more »