Sunday, August 16, 2015

Julian Bond: 1940-2015

Julian Bond was a smart, articulate, handsome leader of the American Civil Rights movement at a crucial juncture in our history. I was saddened today to learn of his passing. He served his country well.

Not all heroes are military ones.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Cuba: 1955 - 2015

Watching the news this evening reminded me of the first time I saw Cuba. It was 1955, I was aboard USS Iowa (BB-61) for a training cruise - it was early August, and we were sailing along the southern coast on the way to Guantanamo Bay.

We could see smoke from campfires in the Sierra Maestra mountains, which we were told was home to a guerrilla uprising. Nervous about the welfare of the midshipmen, Naval authorities didn't allow us off of the naval base at Guantanamo. Over the 60 years since then, I was to visit Gtmo about half a dozen times, but never set foot off the base.

Now that we have established diplomatic relations, I hope to visit Cuba someday soon.

An Old Saying About Deception Comes To Mind

Fool me once, shame on you. 
Fool me twice, shame on me.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Is It Just Me? Or Is It Something I Said?

In recent posts, I have raised the problem of missing records of closed sessions of the Town Board relating to South Avenue and Avenue A.

I knew that sounded familiar, and mentioned that I thought the same thing happened before.

It did.

As I reviewed old blog posts, I find that the LAST time I requested closed session records concerning South Avenue (Town of Oriental v. Henry), the binder of closed session records went missing. That was in 2009, 6 years ago, before that year's municipal elections.

The rule seems to be, that every time I ask for closed records concerning South Avenue, the records disappear.

After the 2009 election was over, the closed session minutes mysteriously reappeared.

Here is my blog entry concerning the prodigal documents.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Town Of Oriental Releases (Some) Records Of South Avenue Closed Meetings

Last night, a special meeting of the Town of Oriental Board of Commissioners voted to release some of the records of closed meetings concerning South Avenue that I requested in June and July.

There appear to be some anomalies. I will probably have more to say about them later. One anomaly was mentioned last night by Town Dock.

At least two of the records I requested have not been provided: 1) the record of the closed meeting of January 13, 2012, which was the first Board action revealing the idea of "sale or exchange" of real property; and 2) the closed meeting of July 9, 2012, which has never been explained. Not only that, the Town of Oriental web site does not include any minutes of the open portion of the special meeting held that date, recording the motion to go into closed session and the reasons therefore.

My own blog entries for July 9, 2012 record the only information ever provided to the public about that meeting, which lasted for an hour and a half. I do know that at the August meeting of the Board the Board approved minutes for the July 3 public hearing on South Avenue that falsify what went on at that meeting. I have the Town's own audio recording of the July 3 meeting.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Town Of Oriental Can't Produce Requested Documents

Interesting Town Board Meeting tonight.  Raised more questions than it answered.

1. Why was the Board in such a hurry that they appointed Warren Johnson as mayor during last Thursday's Agenda meeting rather than at today's monthly Town Board meeting where such business is normally conducted? Especially as Warren wasn't at tonight's meeting due to a previously planned vacation? Was it an effort to keep something from happening? I don't know.I certainly have no objection to Warren's appointment, but it might have made more sense to appoint Sally Belangia, who is running unopposed for the office in November.

2. Why is the Town unable or unwilling to provide the records of closed session meetings that I requested over the past two months? Unable in some cases because the requested records have mysteriously disappeared. Is this a case of deja vu all over again? Some may recall records mysteriously disappearing when Randy Cahoon was Town Manager a few years ago, apparently removed by someone with access to the manager's office. As I recall, the disappearances ceased after Randy changed the locks. Thoday's Board was unwilling to provide some records that are not missing, even though there is no apparent legal justification for continuing to withhold them. What is the Board trying to cover up? I seem to recall the previously missing records reappeared after that year's elections.

Here is what I asked for:

June 2, 2015:

Request for Records of Closed Meetings of Oriental Town Board-member

To: Town Manager

From: David R. Cox, 409 Academy Street, Oriental, NC 252 646 5543,

I hereby request copies of the minutes of all closed sessions in which the Town's agreement with Chris Fulcher or my suits against the Town of Oriental were discussed, as well as all “general account[s] of the closed session so that a person not in attendance would have a reasonable understanding of what transpired. Such accounts may be a written narrative. Or video or audio recording.” NCGS 143-318.10(e). Such minutes and accounts are public records under GS 132-1, provided that they may be withheld from public inspection so long as public inspection would frustrate the purpose of a closed session.

Attached is a copy of a Merorandum (sic) to me from Mayor Sage denying a previous request of mine for records of closed meetings. I note that his assertion that records of closed sessions “are to be kept sealed” until the Town Board of Commissioners votes to open them to the public is not supported by the plain language of the statute. There is no provision giving the Town Board discretionary authority to keep the records sealed.

My request includes but is not limited to the following closed sessions:

1. January 13, 2012

2. February 7, 2012

3. February 10, 2012

4. July 9, 2012

5. September 4, 2012

I am continuing to review the Town's published minutes to compile an additional list of closed sessions for which I want the records.


David Cox

July 16, 2015:

 Article 33C.
Meetings of Public Bodies.
§ 143-318.9.  Public policy.
Whereas the public bodies that administer the legislative, policy-making, quasi-judicial, administrative, and advisory functions of North Carolina and its political subdivisions exist solely to conduct the people's business, it is the public policy of North Carolina that the hearings, deliberations, and actions of these bodies be conducted openly. (1979, c. 655, s. 1.)

§ 143-318.10.  All official meetings of public bodies open to the public.
(a)        Except as provided in G.S. 143-318.11, 143-318.14A, and 143-318.18, each official meeting of a public body shall be open to the public, and any person is entitled to attend such a meeting.
§ 143-318.11.  Closed sessions.
(a)        Permitted Purposes. - It is the policy of this State that closed sessions shall be held only when required to permit a public body to act in the public interest as permitted in this section. A public body may hold a closed session and exclude the public only when a closed session is required:
(1)        To prevent the disclosure of information that is privileged or confidential pursuant to the law of this State or of the United States, or not considered a public record within the meaning of Chapter 132 of the General Statutes.
(2)        To prevent the premature disclosure of an honorary degree, scholarship, prize, or similar award.
(3)        To consult with an attorney employed or retained by the public body in order to preserve the attorney-client privilege between the attorney and the public body, which privilege is hereby acknowledged. General policy matters may not be discussed in a closed session and nothing herein shall be construed to permit a public body to close a meeting that otherwise would be open merely because an attorney employed or retained by the public body is a participant. The public body may consider and give instructions to an attorney concerning the handling or settlement of a claim, judicial action, mediation, arbitration, or administrative procedure. If the public body has approved or considered a settlement, other than a malpractice settlement by or on behalf of a hospital, in closed session, the terms of that settlement shall be reported to the public body and entered into its minutes as soon as possible within a reasonable time after the settlement is concluded.
(4)        To discuss matters relating to the location or expansion of industries or other businesses in the area served by the public body, including agreement on a tentative list of economic development incentives that may be offered by the public body in negotiations, or to discuss matters relating to military installation closure or realignment. Any action approving the signing of an economic development contract or commitment, or the action authorizing the payment of economic development expenditures, shall be taken in an open session.
(5)        To establish, or to instruct the public body's staff or negotiating agents concerning the position to be taken by or on behalf of the public body in negotiating (i) the price and other material terms of a contract or proposed contract for the acquisition of real property by purchase, option, exchange, or lease; or (ii) the amount of compensation and other material terms of an employment contract or proposed employment contract.
(6)        To consider the qualifications, competence, performance, character, fitness, conditions of appointment, or conditions of initial employment of an individual public officer or employee or prospective public officer or employee; or to hear or investigate a complaint, charge, or grievance by or against an individual public officer or employee. General personnel policy issues may not be considered in a closed session. A public body may not consider the qualifications, competence, performance, character, fitness, appointment, or removal of a member of the public body or another body and may not consider or fill a vacancy among its own membership except in an open meeting. Final action making an appointment or discharge or removal by a public body having final authority for the appointment or discharge or removal shall be taken in an open meeting.
(7)        To plan, conduct, or hear reports concerning investigations of alleged criminal misconduct.
(8)        To formulate plans by a local board of education relating to emergency response to incidents of school violence or to formulate and adopt the school safety components of school improvement plans by a local board of education or a school improvement team.
(9)        To discuss and take action regarding plans to protect public safety as it relates to existing or potential terrorist activity and to receive briefings by staff members, legal counsel, or law enforcement or emergency service officials concerning actions taken or to be taken to respond to such activity.
(b)        Repealed by Session Laws 1991, c. 694, s. 4.
(c)        Calling a Closed Session. - A public body may hold a closed session only upon a motion duly made and adopted at an open meeting. Every motion to close a meeting shall cite one or more of the permissible purposes listed in subsection (a) of this section. A motion based on subdivision (a)(1) of this section shall also state the name or citation of the law that renders the information to be discussed privileged or confidential. A motion based on subdivision (a)(3) of this section shall identify the parties in each existing lawsuit concerning which the public body expects to receive advice during the closed session.

§ 143-318.10.  All official meetings of public bodies open to the public.

(e)        Every public body shall keep full and accurate minutes of all official meetings, including any closed sessions held pursuant to G.S. 143-318.11. Such minutes may be in written form or, at the option of the public body, may be in the form of sound or video and sound recordings. When a public body meets in closed session, it shall keep a general account of the closed session so that a person not in attendance would have a reasonable understanding of what transpired. Such accounts may be a written narrative, or video or audio recordings. Such minutes and accounts shall be public records within the meaning of the Public Records Law, G.S. 132-1 et seq.; provided, however, that minutes or an account of a closed session conducted in compliance with G.S. 143-318.11 may be withheld from public inspection so long as public inspection would frustrate the purpose of a closed session.  (1979, c. 655, s. 1; 1985 (Reg. Sess., 1986), c. 932, s. 4; 1991, c. 694, ss. 1, 2; 1993 (Reg. Sess., 1994), c. 570, s. 1; 1995, c. 509, s. 135.2(p); 1997-290, s. 1; 1997-456, s. 27; 2011-326, s. 8.)

In accordance with the above provisions on North Carolina General Statutes, I hereby request the following public records:

A. The minutes and any general account of the following closed sessions of the Town of Oriental Town Board pursuant to NCGS 143-318.11, including both written records and accounts and any video or audio records such that a person not in attendance would have a reasonable understanding of what transpired. These records are required to be kept in compliance with NCGS 143-318.10(e).

The requested records relate to closed sessions concerning two complaints filed by me in the Pamlico County Superior Court against the Town. In view of the fact that these complaints have been settled, the withholding of these public records would no longer frustrate any purpose of the closed sessions in question. The request includes but is not necessarily limited to records of the following closed sessions:

1. February 20, 2013;

2. July 18, 2013;

3. August 6, 2013;

4. September 2, 2013;

5. December 2, 2014;

6. March 3, 2014.

7. In addition, I request a copy of the minutes of the Town Board of Commissioners to which the terms of the settlement have been entered as required by NCGS 143-318.10(3).