Asheville’s local media call for DA to release evidence room audit

Today, an array of local media has united in a call for District Attorney Ron Moore to release the audit of missing guns, drugs and money from the Asheville Police Department evidence room. A joint statement declares that Moore’s actions in ignoring open records requests for months “are not in compliance with either state law or the practices of transparent government.”

Last year, when news emerged about more than 115 missing items from the evidence room, it became a major issue of public trust in local law enforcement. APD Chief Bill Hogan resigned, and every case involving APD evidence was halted. The city approved $175,000 for a full audit. This was completed in January, and the results were given to Moore.

Xpress made an open records request in January and, after receiving no response from Moore, again in March. Attorneys from the North Carolina Press Association have noted that according to state law, the audit should be a matter of public record. Also, according to the audit contract, Moore should have given the city of Asheville a copy of the audit when it was completed.

Last week, Xpress began approaching local media in an effort to unite behind a statement calling on Moore to release the audit. The effort has garnered support from many organizations, ranging from print to radio to online.

Xpress continues to talk with other local media as well, and hopes to add more to the declaration. The signatories have also committed to highlight the issue through their respective outlets.

We also invite citizens to sign a petition for Moore to release the audit.

The statement reads as follows:

Last year, news emerged that guns, drugs and money were missing from the Asheville Police Department’s evidence room. Asheville City Council allocated $175,000 in taxpayer money to fund an audit of the evidence room, to reveal how many items were missing. The issue became a major question of public confidence in local law enforcement.

That audit was completed in early January, and delivered to District Attorney Ron Moore, who has not made it public.

Moore has also not responded to repeated open records requests in the ensuing months, neither turning over the records nor citing a clear legal reason why they should not be released. In doing so, Moore has failed to comply with state law requiring a response to open records requests “as promptly as possible.”

Furthermore, according to attorneys from the North Carolina Press Association — longtime experts in open records law — the results of the audit should be public.

District Attorney Ron Moore’s actions are not in compliance with either state law or the practices of transparent government that the people of Buncombe County deserve from their elected officials, especially those charged with upholding the law.

As members of the local media who believe in a free press and open government, we call on Moore to turn over the results of the evidence room audit and help restore public trust.

David Forbes
Senior News Reporter, Mountain Xpress

Jeff Fobes
Publisher, Mountain Xpress

Jody Evans
Executive Director, Western North Carolina Public Radio, Inc./WCQS

David Hurand
News Director, WCQS

Angie Newsome
Executive Director, Carolina Public Press

Jerri Jameson
News Director, Clear Channel Asheville

Pete Kaliner
Host, the Pete Kaliner Show

Blake Butler
Host, Local Edge Radio

Matt Mittan and Agnes Cheek
Hosts, Take a Stand with Matt and Agnes

Kim Roney
President of the Board, Friends of Community Radio/Asheville FM

Clint Parker,
Editor, Tribune Papers

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6 thoughts on “Asheville’s local media call for DA to release evidence room audit

  1. Dionysis

    Why should the media and public have to initiate ‘petitions’ at all? The DA is ignoring the law, pure and simple, and City officials apparently are okay with his imperious attitude.

    • David Forbes

      From my reply to Council member Bothwell on the Facebook comments above:

      NC open records law states that “the use of a public record in connection with a criminal investigation or the gathering of criminal intelligence shall not affect its status as a public record.” NCPA attorneys note that that provision applies in this case and that while memos on possible charges, etc. are certainly not public record, the audit itself

  2. D. Dial

    It’s the oddest thing…how power changes peoples perception of what their responsibilities to the paying public are.

  3. Barry Summers

    My understanding is that because the evidence room audit is, in itself, evidence in a pending investigation, it is not subject to an open records request.

    I believe the law states that any portion of the audit that might compromise an investigation can be redacted by the DA, and not subject to release. That doesn’t make the entire audit evidence. Unless every single thing in the audit showed evidence of the tampering or theft they are investigating (not really credible), I’m not buying the contention that it’s within the DA’s authority to withhold the entire audit from the City. Since they are granted the specific authority to redact portions that shouldn’t be released, I think they’re on extremely thin ice with this.

    Unless Ron Moore now investigating the auditing firm, that is. Just a thought…

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