Media and advocacy coalition settles public records lawsuit

A coalition of eight news media companies and advocacy groups- including SELC - who sued former North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory and several of his cabinet agencies in 2015 for wide-ranging violations of North Carolina’s Public Records Law have reached a settlement with the state. The settlement ensures prompt and effective access to public records.

During the first two years of the McCrory Administration, the Office of the Governor and cabinet offices systematically abused the North Carolina Public Records Act, effectively thwarting public access to government records. SELC attorneys and client groups were charged steep fees and faced inordinately long delays after straightforward requests for public information. We were not alone. The news media and other public interest groups experienced the same unprecedented lack of transparency from Governor McCrory’s executive branch agencies.

In the settlement agreement finalized this week, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper agreed to enhance public access to government records by interpreting and applying key provisions of the law differently from his predecessor. Among other things, Cooper agreed that his cabinet agencies, unlike McCrory’s, will not charge fees to persons who merely seek to inspect public records.

“We appreciate the recognition that the public records and public information compiled by North Carolina’s government are first, and foremost, the property of the people,” said SELC attorney Kym Hunter. “The Public Records Law provides access to all in a non-partisan fashion and as promptly as possible. Only with full access to government records can SELC attorneys work to ensure that North Carolinas have access to safe water and healthy air.”

 

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