Recent Blog Posts

  • Governmental Immunity for Local Government Buildings: What Are the Current Rules?

    Authored by: on Friday, July 25th, 2014

    As I have previously explained here and here, governmental immunity bars tort claims (negligence, assault, trespass, etc.) against cities and counties for personal injuries or property damage caused by the carelessness or intentional wrongdoing of their personnel in the performance of governmental functions. When the harm to a plaintiff stems from the performance of a proprietary function, however, governmental immunity does not apply, and the local government is subject to liability on the same basis as a private employer. Recently, in Bynum v. Wilson County, the North Carolina Supreme Court had to decide whether governmental immunity bars tort claims arising from an individual’s fall at a county building used for both governmental and proprietary functions. This blog post takes a quick look at the history of the governmental/proprietary distinction and analyzes the impact of Bynum on local government liability for injuries caused by unsafe premises. Read more »

  • File or Get Fined: New Penalties for Violating MPO/RPO Ethics Disclosure Requirements

    Authored by: on Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

    If you are a local government official who serves on the TAC of a MPO or RPO, recently enacted legislation makes you subject to civil fines and potential criminal prosecution for failing to file or filing incomplete your SEI and RED.

    Huh? If you know what this means, you definitely should keep reading. Even if you don’t know what these acronyms mean, you might still be interested.

    Read more »

  • King v. Town of Chapel Hill: The Supreme Court Issues a Major Decision on the Police Power of Local Governments (Part 2)

    Authored by: on Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

    In my last blog post I listed and discussed seven points that local governments should take away from King v. Town of Chapel Hill, perhaps the North Carolina Supreme Court’s most significant decision yet on the general police power of local governments. Part 1 of my analysis focused primarily on the portions of King that uphold the broad exercise of regulatory powers by cities and counties. As I noted, however, King also has much to say, both directly and indirectly, about constitutional and statutory limitations on the police power. This blog post picks up where my last one left off and offers five additional takeaways from King. Read more »

  • Court of Appeals Opines on Ptax Appeals

    Authored by: on Monday, July 21st, 2014

    If you could change one provision in the Machinery Act, which would it be?  Near the top of my list would be standardizing the deadline for property tax appeals to county boards of equalization and review (“BOERs”).

    The Machinery Act generally succeeds at creating a transparent, consistent system of taxation.  Sadly the deadline for appeals to the BOER is neither transparent nor consistent, a situation that leads to taxpayer confusion and complaints.  It also led to a recent Court of Appeals ruling on a dispute over the timeliness of a Guilford County taxpayer’s BOER appeal.

    This blog post describes the current law, explains the Court of Appeals decision, and offers a simple statutory solution. Read more »

  • The FLSA’s Administrative Exemption from Overtime Pay, Part 2: Some Examples

    Authored by: on Friday, July 18th, 2014

    In previous blog posts, I discussed the executive and administrative exemptions to the Fair Labor Standards Act rule that an employee is entitled to overtime pay after working 40 hours in a week. When an exemption applies, the position is said to be “exempt” and the employee is not entitled to overtime pay even at 60 or 80 hours worked in a week. Whether a position is exempt under the executive duties test or the administrative duties test, it must satisfy the following requirements:

    • the position must be paid on a salary basis; and
    • the position is must be paid a minimum of $455 per week.

    The executive duties test evaluates whether the position is a management position with significant authority over other employees. The administrative duties test evaluates whether the position is an office position that supports management and has significant decision making authority in areas other than supervision of employees. To satisfy the administrative duties test, a position must meet an additional two requirements. The position must also:

    • have a primary duty of office or nonmanual work directly related to management or general business operations of the employer, and
    • perform work requiring the exercise of discretion and independent judgment on matters of significance to the employer.

    As I noted in my earlier blog post on the administrative duties test, these two requirements are anything but straightforward. In this blog post, I’ll continue the discussion of the administrative duties test by taking a close look at some examples.
    Read more »

  • Subdivision Plat Approval: What type of decision is it?

    Authored by: on Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

    A decision about a rezoning request is legislative. A review of an application for a special use permit or variance is quasi-judicial. But what about the preliminary plat review? What type of decision is it: administrative, quasi-judicial, or legislative? What is the process for review? And what are the rules for appeal? This blog explores the nature of subdivision plat approvals. Read more »

  • Do Local Governments have Federal Constitutional Rights?

    Authored by: on Friday, July 11th, 2014

    The United States Constitution includes many provisions that protect persons and entities from government action. For example, the Due Process Clause (Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments) safeguards against arbitrary denial of life, liberty, or property by the government. The Equal Protection Clause (Fourteenth Amendment), prohibits the state from denying any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. And the Contract Clause (Article I, section 10, clause 1) prohibits the state from enacting any law that retroactively impairs contract rights.

    But do these Constitutional protections extend to local governments? Does the Due Process Clause, for example, require that a state legislature provide notice and an opportunity to be heard to a local government before deannexing property within the local unit’s territorial jurisdiction? Or does the Contracts Clause prohibit the state from requiring that a local government utility cease providing service in a particular area, over the objection of local officials? As my colleague, David Lawrence, explains in a recent Local Government Law Bulletin, Judicial Doctrines that Differentiate Local Governments and Private Persons or Entities, the answer is no. Read more »