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NC Court of Appeals Issues New Opinion On Open Meetings Law

By Lori R. Keeton

Hildebran Heritage & Dev. Ass’n., Inc. v. The Town of Hildebran

On March 21, 2017, the North Carolina Court of Appeals issued a new opinion interpreting North Carolina’s Open Meetings Law (N.C.G.S. Chapter 143, Article 33C).

In Hildebran Heritage & Dev. Ass’n., Inc. v. The Town of Hildebran, No. COA16-568, the Court held that it was not a violation of the Open Meetings Law for the Town to hold a meeting in a space that was insufficient to accommodate all persons who wished to attend. In the meeting at issue, 20-25 people had to stand outside the meeting room and there was no equipment to permit them to observe or hear the meeting.

In addition, the Court held that it was not a violation of the Open Meetings Law for one of the council members to call certain other members of the City Council individually prior to a scheduled meeting to express his intention to attempt to amend the agenda to call for a vote on an issue (i.e. the preservation or demolition of a historical building) where the publicly available agenda stated that they were only going to discuss the matter. Even though the council member admitted that he contacted the members in that manner to avoid holding an official meeting and did not contact a particular member who he knew would be opposed to the motion and would alert the public to said amendment, the Court nonetheless concluded that it was not a violation because the vote itself was held in public. Justice Bryant dissented, expressing her belief that the individual council member’s conduct was a violation of the Open Meetings Law. To read the entire opinion, click here: Hildebran Heritage & Dev. Association v. Town of Hildebran

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