Local watchdog group to sue county

Published 1:45 am Monday, April 17, 2017



Members of a local political group say they’re suing the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners for what they claim are multiple violations of the North Carolina Open Meetings Law.

Citizens for a Better Government of Beaufort County, with help from up with the North Carolina conservative think tank Civitas Institute, allege that the board closed its meetings four times in 2015, but the redacted minutes of those session reveal discussions that should have taken place in view of the public, according to a press release from the organization.

“Decisions made in backrooms out of the public’s view are bad business,” wrote CBG Chairman Ray Leary.

Thursday, County Manager Brian Alligood said neither he nor county attorney David Francisco had been served papers regarding the lawsuit. Later the same day, Leary wrote in an email that because of the Easter holiday, it would likely be later this week that the lawsuit is filed.

The lawsuit does not seek monetary damages. Instead, CBG is seeking an injunction requiring the board to comply with open meetings law.

Alligood said he was not aware of any incidents in which commissioners violated the Open Meetings Law.

CBG got its start as the “Stop the Jail Committee,” an effort to prevent commissioners from moving forward with a public safety/detention center in Chocowinity Industrial Park, at a cost of approximately $27 million. Once the jail plan was tabled after an election shifted the makeup of the board to those against the project, the group continues to active in county politics.

“We have tried on repeated occasions to get the Board to comply, without success,” Leary wrote. “We believe, and North Carolina law requires, that the public’s business should be conducted in public. We are determined to make sure that the Board will conduct the public’s business in open meetings as required by North Carolina law.”