Recent Blog Posts

  • Access to Records in Financial Exploitation Investigations

    Authored by: on Monday, February 16th, 2015

    It will now be much easier for county social services agencies and law enforcement officials to investigate reports of suspected financial exploitation of disabled adults and older adults. The Administrative Office of the Courts just approved a new form (AOC-SP-630) that officials can use to ask a district court judge to issue a subpoena directing a financial institution to provide copies of the adult’s financial records. This new subpoena authority was authorized in legislation (S.L. 2014-115, s. 44) that went into effect October 1, 2014.

    Government officials have several tools available to help them obtain access to financial records for exploitation investigations, but each tool is different, and one may be more appropriate than another depending on the circumstances. This post will review the options and highlight some of the key differences among them. Read more »

  • County and Municipal Government in North Carolina: New Edition is Now Available

    Authored by: on Friday, February 13th, 2015

    Do you have questions about North Carolina local government? Want to know what “spot zoning” really means? Confused about what kinds of annexation cities can still do? Looking for a summary of changes in the structure of mental health and other human services? Want to know more about benchmarking, IT and social media trends, the respective roles of the manager and the governing board, or the governance and funding structure of public schools in North Carolina? Searching for a general overview of the public records and open meetings laws?

    You can find all this and much more in the new edition of County and Municipal Government in North Carolina, now available for purchase.  Read more »

  • (Yet Another) Internet Sweepstakes Update

    Authored by: on Thursday, February 12th, 2015


    The North Carolina General Assembly banned internet sweepstakes more than four years ago.  The North Carolina Supreme Court upheld that ban more than two years ago.  A few months later that court struck down excessive municipal privilege license taxes on these businesses.  Last year the General Assembly eliminated nearly all municipal privilege licenses, including those on sweepstakes operators, as of this July.

    And yet the headlines are still filled with sweepstakes news.  “Greensboro Police Department to begin ‘full enforcement’ of sweepstakes law in March.”  “Sweepstakes, internet cafés put on notice” after Rockingham County sets March 31 as the deadline for sweepstakes operators to cease operations or face criminal prosecution.  What’s going on here? Read more »

  • Special Purpose Local Governments and Public Authorities

    Authored by: on Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

    North Carolina is a non-home rule state, which means that its local government entities are created by, and derive all their authority from, the General Assembly. The General Assembly has created a relatively flat local government structure. Almost all governmental responsibilities have been vested in two general-purpose governments—counties and municipalities (cities, towns, villages). This makes North Carolina relatively unique; many other states have a tiered local government structure with various boards, districts, commissions, townships, hamlets, and other local entities layered on top of one another.

    The legislature has authorized some special-purpose local governments, though. A special-purpose local government typically serves only limited functions—such as providing water or sewer services, tourism development, public education, public transportation, or even mosquito control. The territorial boundaries of a special-purpose local government often cut across more than one general-purpose local government. This allows for certain services to be provided within a portion of a governmental unit or across multiple governmental units. 

    A special-purpose local government is commonly referred to as a public authority. I am frequently asked about the general powers and authorities of a public authority. There are actually none. A public authority is not a legal entity. And the term “public authority” is not synonymous with “special-purpose government.” Instead, “public authority” derives from the Local Government Budget and Fiscal Control Act (LGBFCA), specifically G.S. 159-7. That provision makes certain types of special-purpose local governments—labeled either “units of local government” or “public authorities”—subject to the fiscal control act based on their particular structures. Being classified a public authority only means that a particular entity is subject to the LGBFCA’s provisions. It says nothing about the powers or authorities of the particular special-purpose local government.

    This post reviews the various ways that special-purpose local governments are established. It then details how to determine whether or not a special-purpose government is a unit of local government or public authority, and thus subject to the LGBFCA.  Read more »

  • Removing Elected Board Members From Office

    Authored by: on Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

    The need to remove an elected member of a local governing board—the city council, the board of county commissioners, or the board of education—may arise when it is discovered that the board member is for some reason disqualified from holding the office.  The desire to remove an elected board member may arise in a wide variety of circumstances when it appears that the board member, though not disqualified, is incapable of performing or unwilling to perform the duties of the office at an acceptable level or in an acceptable way.

    Let’s look at North Carolina law of removal when there’s a need and when there’s merely a serious desire. Read more »

  • What’s a Public Body?

    Authored by: on Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

    North Carolina’s Open Meetings Law requires all official meetings of public bodies to be open to the public (unless the public body has specific statutory authority to meet in closed session).

    Think about whether the groups described in the following scenarios constitute public bodies:

    1) For the past two years, a group of local officials has met quarterly for lunch. The group comprises the city manager, the mayor, the county manager, the chair of the board county commissioners, the superintendent of the local school district, and the chair of the local school board. They talk about issues that face their respective jurisdictions and share information about local issues. The officials share information from these meetings with the boards and staffs of their respective units.

    2) For the past two years, every third Thursday of the month, the planning directors of the county and all the municipalities within the county meet for lunch. They talk about planning issues within the county, and they share other professional information and advice. Some of the units reimburse the attendees for the lunch expense because it is considered to be primarily a working lunch.

    3) a) The mayor has created a 2020 Visioning Task Force consisting of community leaders and volunteers from various civic groups. The task force meets at the chamber of commerce and the mayor leads the discussions and organizes the agendas for each meeting. The mayor reports back to the city council about the group’s progress but the board has never formally or informally commissioned or approved the task force, and no public funds or other city resources have been used for their work.

    b) After a year of working on a vision for the future of the city, the 2020 Task Force has come up with a set of strategic initiatives. The task force presented the list to the city council and the council members provided feedback by individually putting green sticky dots next to the ones they liked best. The task force is now moving forward to implement the top three initiatives and the city is providing staff support and other resources for their work. No formal vote has ever been taken to appoint or approve the task force or its work. Read more »

  • May Unimmunized Children be Excluded from School in North Carolina?

    Authored by: on Friday, January 30th, 2015

    A serious measles outbreak is underway in the United States. The outbreak began in late December in California and has since spread to other states. As of this morning, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 84 confirmed cases in 14 states.

    Public health officials have attributed this and other outbreaks in recent years to declining vaccination rates in some parts of the United States, especially when underimmunized children are concentrated in particular geographic areas.

    Marin county, California, is an example of an area that has a large population of underimmunized children. Earlier this week, the parents of a boy in Marin county made national news when they asked their child’s school to exclude some unvaccinated children for the duration of the outbreak. Their son is a cancer survivor whose treatments have compromised his immunity, making him more susceptible to infections but also medically unable to take the vaccine himself. The parents’ request is focused on the 6.45% of Marin county kindergarteners who are unvaccinated for reasons that aren’t medical.

    What would happen if this situation arose in North Carolina? Could school or public health officials exclude unvaccinated children from school?

    Read more »