Award of legal fees to media coalition could influence other county and city governments


A coalition of media organizations, including Carolina Public Press, scored a court victory last week when Buncombe County Superior Court Judge Steve Warren ruled the city of Asheville must pay legal fees related to a proposed closed meeting in March.

Judge Warren awarded the media coalition’s attorneys nearly $4,200 for their efforts, a move allowed under state law granting attorney fees and costs to the winning party.

Earlier this year, the city of Asheville proposed keeping a five-hour stretch of a two-day retreat off-limits to the public, calling it a team-building exercise. State law says “informal gatherings” need not be open to the public — a designation Asheville City Attorney Brad Branham argued in court as he attempted to shield that portion of the meeting from public scrutiny.

The media coalition — CPP, Mountain Xpress, the (Asheville) Citizen Times and Blue Ridge Public Radio — sued the city and prevailed in a hearing a day before the meeting.

Last week’s ruling closed the loop on the issue — namely reimbursement of attorney fees and other costs for the media coalition, led by attorney Amanda Martin.

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