Recent Blog Posts

  • Deannexation

    Authored by: on Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

    UPDATE August 2013: A new statute, G.S. 105-380, requires a municipality to release property tax liability for any deannexed property that was within the town limits for six months or less before being deannexed, if no notice has been sent to the taxpayer. This provision became effective July 1, 2013 and expires July 1, 2016 (S.L. 2013-19).

    The city clerk has received a deannexation petition signed by all the owners of property in a particular neighborhood within the city.  How should the city respond? Does the city have the authority to deannex the property? Must the city hold a hearing on the petition? Is deannexation available for properties that were not brought into the city through an annexation process (such as property that was part of the original boundaries of the city)? Does deannexation require the approval of the governing board?  What services must or may be provided to the area if it is deannexed? This blog post answers these and other questions regarding deannexation.

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  • “Employment at Will” vs. “Right to Work”

    Authored by: on Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

    Here are two terms that people get mixed up all the time:  “employment at will” and “right to work.”  Is North Carolina an employment-at-will state?  Yes.  Is North Carolina a right-to-work state?  Yes.  But those two terms do not mean the same thing.  And for state and local governmental employers in North Carolina, one term is very meaningful and the other has no practical consequence. Read more »

  • Which City and County Ordinances Apply in the ETJ?

    Authored by: on Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

    The county zoning inspector received a call from a citizen complaining about a large accumulation of junk in a neighbor’s back yard.  The caller said there are several old refrigerators, some discarded furniture, and “a whole bunch of other junk” scattered about the yard.  The caller said she had politely asked her neighbor to clean the mess up as it was becoming a safety hazard as well as an eyesore, but had been rebuffed in terms she could not repeat over the phone.  The inspector told her the county did indeed have a nuisance lot ordinance and it sounded like this might well be a violation, so he would investigate and let her know what he found.

    As a first step in the investigation, the inspector looked up the property information for the site of the alleged violation to verify the property ownership.  At this point he discovered that although the property is located a mile and a half outside the city, it is in the city’s extraterritorial planning jurisdiction.  He knew the city handled all complaints about zoning violations in this area, but what about this situation?  Should he refer the complaint about the nuisance lot to the city or is this the county’s responsibility? Read more »

  • The Daily Bulletin: Big Changes Ahead

    Authored by: on Thursday, December 20th, 2012

    Exciting news in the world of legislative reporting—the Daily Bulletin is going exclusively online! Since 1935, the School (a/k/a the Institute) of Government’s Legislative Reporting Service has been creating the Daily Bulletin, which includes summaries of every filed bill, amendment, committee substitute, and conference report. Faculty members and staff working from an office in the basement of the legislative building write these summaries every day the General Assembly is in session. They publish the bulletin at the end of each legislative day (which, at times, can be as late as 2 a.m. the following day). Over time, the Bulletin evolved from a mimeographed paper copy that was hand-delivered and mailed to a PDF version that was sent via email. The new Daily Bulletin Online is the next tremendous step forward and we hope that it will make it easier for everyone to monitor and understand legislative developments as they unfold in Raleigh. Want to hear more about all of the new features?  Read on.

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  • “Bah, Humbug” Gamers Say: Video Sweepstakes Statute Upheld

    Authored by: on Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

    If you are looking for a last-minute holiday gift for someone at this time of year, you may want to forego purchasing your friend or relative a gift card at the local video sweepstakes operation (VSO). That gift card may not be worth so much in the new year, if law enforcement personnel in North Carolina have their way. Plans are now afoot to close down these operations in light of the North Carolina Supreme Court’s decision last week. In Hest Technologies, Inc. v. State ex rel Perdue, the court upheld the constitutionality of the statute that makes it a criminal offense to conduct video sweepstakes games “through the use of an entertaining display.” (G.S. 14-306.4(b)). Game sponsors may now seek to block enforcement of the law, pending an appeal to the United States Supreme Court. The purpose this blog is not so much to trace the history of North Carolina’s attempt to regulate gambling and sweepstakes operations or to analyze the key legal doctrines in the Hest Technologies case.  (See my earlier blog and  the blogs of my colleagues Dave Owens, Chris McLaughlin, and Jeff Welty.) Instead the purpose is to consider what implications the decision has for those communities that are currently regulating such establishments through zoning. Read more »

  • Did the NC Supreme Court put cash economic development incentives in jeopardy?

    Authored by: on Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

    Cash economic development incentives are widely used by local governments to induce companies to locate in their jurisdictions. A 2006 survey indicated that more than 40% of North Carolina local governments employ cash incentives for business recruitment. And yet, no statute contains language specifically authorizing cash incentive payments. G.S. 158-7.1(b) contains a rather comprehensive list of activities in which local governments may engage for economic development, but cash incentives are not found on that list. Rather, authority for cash incentives is derived from a general grant of authority for making appropriations for economic development found in G.S. 158-7.1(a). In other words, the authority to offer cash incentives is implied from a general grant of authority. But what happens when the North Carolina Supreme Court becomes reluctant to find implied authority? Read more »

  • Questioning an Employee about Possibly Criminal Conduct

    Authored by: on Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

    There is reason to believe that an employee of the city has broken into a pharmacy to steal prescription drugs.  There are reports that a public school teacher has touched female students in a terribly inappropriate way.  It appears that a county inspections employee may have exploited money from a permit applicant in exchange for favorable treatment.

    In each case you, the city manager or the superintendent of schools or the county manager, would like to have the employee questioned, perhaps by the employee’s supervisor or the human resources director or the unit’s attorney.  You want to know what really happened.  If the suspicions are true, you need to get rid of this employee right away.  This is not conduct you can tolerate in an employee.

    But you are aware of a problem.  In each case, the conduct may be not only unacceptable but also criminal.  The police have been informed and will be conducting their own examination.  The district attorney may end up prosecuting, and he will not want his prosecution jeopardized.  The police and the DA may wish you would hold off on your investigation entirely.  After all, under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution your employee, like every citizen, has the right to refuse to answer questions if the answers may implicate him in a crime.  That right of refusal applies in criminal trials, by the very wording of the Amendment itself.  It has also been interpreted to extend the privilege not to answer to any other kind of proceeding, civil or criminal, formal or informal, where the answers might incriminate the person in future criminal proceedings.

    So, you want to question your employee, but you are aware he may assert his constitutional right not to answer.  If he does, are you stuck?  It’s a constitutional right, after all.  You can’t make him answer.  Can you fire him for not answering? Read more »