CLF Files Opening Brief on the Merits in Public Records Lawsuit

Today, the Civitas Institute Center for Law and Freedom (CLF) filed a memorandum in support of summary judgment in Deitz v. Belmont. At issue is whether the City of Belmont violated North Carolina public records law when it denied a public records request for an investigation into its police department. The question before the Court is relatively straightforward—is the third-party investigation a public record or a confidential personnel file? We argue that it is a public record, either in its entirety or at least in part. From our summary of argument:

The ISS report was not “gathered by” the city for purposes of the personnel statute, and therefore is a public record subject to disclosure. Defendants’ arrangement for an “internal investigation” with ISS has no bearing on the proper application of North Carolina law. Further, ISS could not act as an agent of Defendants for purposes of the personnel and public records statutes, because Defendants do not have the legal authority to create such an agency relationship. ISS is therefore a private third-party, and any records gathered by it and turned over to the Defendants were not “gathered by” Defendants, making them public records subject to disclosure rather than private personnel records.

All or portions of the ISS Report are not “with respect to” individual city employees, and are therefore public records subject to disclosure. ISS proposed a “written report” that would include a description of “any violations of Town of police policies and rules for consideration by the Town Manager.” Further, Defendants’ understanding of what constitutes information “with respect to” individual employees is overly broad. For these reasons, the ISS Report likely contains information that is not “with respect to” individual employees.

Read the entire memorandum here. The Defendants will be filing a response brief next week, followed by oral argument the morning of May 16th in Gaston County Superior Court.

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