Apodaca proposes making violations of open records, public meetings laws a misdemeanor

State Sen. Tom Apodaca is sponsoring a bill that would make violations of the state’s open records and public meetings laws a misdemeanor. Currently, civil action is the only way to enforce those laws.

The short bill, cosponsored by Sen. Thom Goolsby of Wilmington, makes it a class 3 misdemeanor to deny access to public records or to violate the open meetings law, and would become law Dec. 1.

A class 3 misdemeanor carries a maximum $200 fine and up to 10 days of community service on the first offense. Currently, if a citizen or organization can’t obtain a public record or government is violating open meetings law, they have to pursue a lawsuit themselves. A recent local example was the unsuccessful attempt by local media outlets (including Xpress) to get District Attorney Ron Moore to release an audit of the Asheville Police Department evidence room.

The bill has drawn an endorsement from the North Carolina Press Association, of which Xpress is a member, noting that “the bill would provide teeth to the state’s laws on public meetings and records, instead of relying on civil action to compel enforcement.”

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3 thoughts on “Apodaca proposes making violations of open records, public meetings laws a misdemeanor

  1. Jeff

    So in a situation such as the media outlets vs. District Attorney Ron Moore, who exactly would the prosecute this case? When the person allegedly breaking the law is the representative of the law, who can you count on to set things right?

    • Dionysis

      That would normally fall under the purview of the state’s Ethics Commission. They could (in theory, anyway) prosecute the prosecutors. However, it seems unlikely something as minor as this, even if it became law, would rise to that level.

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