I want to begin with my gratitude for the vital and hard work that you all have been doing to report on the coronavirus crisis. Personally, I check five or six news websites about every hour to see what has developed, what has changed. I know I am not alone. On behalf of all your readers and viewers, thank you!
It has become apparent that in the coming weeks and months, government operations are going to be disrupted beyond recognition, making your job harder at the very time that it is more important. You’ll find here a few reminders I hope will be useful, as well as links to some government resources that might be helpful.
First, UNC’s School of Government Professor Frayda Bluestein reminds, there is nothing about the Governor’s state of emergency declaration that relieves public officials and public agencies of their obligations under North Carolina open government laws. Neither the Governor nor local officials can wipe away those requirements.
Second, a quick refresher on the Open Meetings Law. Remember, the OML applies to quorums of public agencies. At its core, the OML requires three things: notice, access and minutes.
Remember to use the Open Meetings Law and Public Records Law in concert with one another. If you are not able to be present at a meeting – either because it was closed to the public or because you’re covering developing news over at the hospital – remember that likely there are associated public records that might be instructive. In addition to asking for agendas and meeting packets, ask for memos, emails or other documents exchanged in advance of (or after) the meeting. Ask for notes taken by public officials at the meeting, too.
UNC’s School of Government has several resources detailed analyses, including these:
Stay tuned for updates on the issue of court access in light of Chief Justice Beasley’s order closing most courts. To see Chief Justice Beasley’s COVIC press conference and for official updates on the courts, including memos and court orders, go to
Finally, as one reporter said just last week when we were discussing COVID-19, these laws set minimums for transparency. Our job always is to push for as much access and as much information as possible. That’s how we can best serve the public who are relying on us to collect, digest and report information in these incomprehensible times.
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Stevens, Martin, Vaughn & Tadych, PLLC
Providing legal counsel to traditional and social media and strategic communicators
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Stevens Martin Vaughn & Tadych, PLLC
1101 Haynes Street, Suite 100
Raleigh, North Carolina 27604-1455
Main telephone: 919-582-2300
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