Bill could expand access to N.C. public records

An Open Government Act filed in the N.C. House yesterday (HB 1134) would create an Open Government Unit in the Department of Justice for purposes of furthering government transparency. The unit would work with the public and government agencies through education concerning open-meetings law, and through mediation (for a fee) in public-records disputes. The legislation would also enable judges to allow recovery of “reasonable attorneys’ fees” when parties suing for public disclosure “substantially prevail.”

As noted in an article about the bill in today’s News & Observer of Raleigh, a proposal to allow automatic recovery of attorney’s fees died in the House last year because it removed discretion from the judges. That bill had been unanimously approved by the Senate.

According to the N&O, the N.C. Press Association is urging for automatic recovery of fees in records lawsuits because of the cost of taking an issue to court. NCPA attorney John Bussian, as attributed in the article, thinks some public officials have no fear of improperly withholding public records because so few people can afford to sue.

“They do it because there’s no consequences,” Bussian was quoted as saying. According to the article, the N.C. League of Municipalities opposes the bill.

Rep. Ray Rapp of Haywood, Madison and Yancey counties is a co-sponsor of the bill.

Nelda Holder, associate editor






Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

One thought on “Bill could expand access to N.C. public records

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.