Multimedia Publishing of North Carolina, Inc. v. Henderson County

550 S.E.2d 846 (2001)

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Multimedia Publishing of North Carolina, Inc. v. Henderson County

North Carolina Court of Appeals
550 S.E.2d 846 (2001)

LJ

Facts

On November 12, 1998, the Henderson County Board of Commissioners (the board) (defendant) held a special public meeting to consider adopting a moratorium on racetracks. The purpose of the moratorium was to afford the board additional time to consider adopting a revised noise ordinance. The board discussed the proposals in open session and then convened in closed session to consult with its attorney prior to making its decision. The purpose of the closed-session meeting was to allow the board to obtain confidential legal advice. The closed-session meeting minutes reflected that during the board’s closed-session discussions, the attorney explained the difference between a land-use and a police-power ordinance. The attorney also discussed the legality of extending the moratorium and expressed his opinion that the moratorium would be legally challenged. The attorney also suggested proposed revisions to the moratorium ordinance. After the closed-session meeting, the board reconvened in open session. No public comment was permitted, and the moratorium was unanimously approved by the board. Following this action, the board maintained the confidentiality of the closed-session meeting minutes and did not release them to the public. On December 8, Multimedia Publishing of North Carolina (the publisher) (plaintiff) filed a complaint against the board, alleging that it violated North Carolina’s open-meetings law by falsely invoking the attorney-client privilege exception and by failing to maintain accurate and complete minutes of the closed-session proceedings, and asserting that the minutes should be released. The trial court held that the closed-session discussion did not fall within the attorney-client privilege exception, because it was used to discuss general policy matters. The trial court further determined that the minutes satisfied the general accounting requirements of the open-meetings law but that the minutes should have been released once the board reconvened in open session and disclosed its closed-session deliberations. The district filed an appeal.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Hunter, J.)

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