North Carolina Open Meetings Law
The North Carolina Open Meetings Law legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted. Article 33C, statutes 143‑318.9-18 of the North Carolina code define the law.
Relevant legal cases
- See also: Court cases with an impact on state FOIA
Here is a list of open meetings lawsuits in North Carolina. For more information go the page or go to North Carolina sunshine lawsuits.
(The cases are listed alphabetically. To order them by year please click the icon to the right of the Year heading)
We do not currently have any pages on open meetings litigation in North Carolina.
Proposed open meetings legislation
We do not currently have any legislation for North Carolina in 2010.
Statement of purposeThe statement of purpose of the Open Meetings Act states,
"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."
Which government meetings are open to the public?
The law states that an official meeting is any gathering of a public body to discuss or decide upon public business. The act also includes simultaneous communication via any electronic means in this definition of meeting.
Notable exemptions to this definition include:
- social meetings and informal assemblies
What government bodies are subject to the laws?
The act defines government body as all political agencies of the state and all political subdivisions which are composed of two or more individuals and exercise "legislative, policy‑making, quasi‑judicial, administrative, or advisory function." The act explicitly includes all boards associated with state universities, all public and non-profit hospital boards and the standing committees and commissions of the legislature.
Notable exemptions to the definition of public body include:
- hospital medical staffs
- professional staffs of a public body
- Grand and petit juries
- Any body that is directed by law to meet in closed session
- Judicial Standards Commission
- North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission
- Legislative Ethics Committee
- conference committee of the General Assembly
- General Assembly caucuses
- hearings concerning applicants for occupational licenses
- bodies subject to the State Budget Act when participating in quasi-judicial functions
- boards of trustees of endowment funds
- Board of Awards
- General Court of Justice
Portions of the legislature fall under the North Carolina Open Meetings Law while others do not. The law explicitly includes standing committees and commissions of the legislature while exempting the Legislative Ethics Committee, conference committees and caucuses. In addition, unlike the broader law which establishes deadlines, the law requires the legislature to provide reasonable notice by announcing upcoming meetings in session or posting notice on the website.
Most public bodies are required to maintain a schedule of regular meetings at their local or state office. Changes in this regular schedule require a 7 day notice prior to the first meeting of the new schedule. Meetings outside of these regular meetings require notice to be posted 48 hours prior to the meeting. Notice must be posted within the departments local office and be provided to all news agencies and private individuals who have requested notice. Emergency meetings can be called with less than 48 hours notice, provided that notice is sent to the news media as soon as possible.
All public agencies are required to record detailed minutes of both open and closed meetings through either written minutes or audio or video recording. The minutes of all open meetings are considered public records and must be made available to the public at their request. All voting must take place in the open and must be recorded within the minutes of the meeting. The public body may not prevent indivudals or the media from recording the meetings, using either audio or video recording equipment.
|Common executive session exemptions|
|Personal privacy (including employees)|
|Purchase or sale of property|
|Exempt under other laws|
Executive sessions can be called by a majority vote in an open meeting for the following purposes:
- to prevent disclosure of information exempt under the North Carolina Public Records Law and federal statutes
- to prevent premature disclosure of honorary awards and degrees
- for any exemption associated with the attorney-client privilege
- to discuss the location or expansion of local industries
- contract negotiation planning with regard to employees and business contracts with the public body
- to consider qualifications, performance or character of an employee or potential employee or to consider disciplinary complaints of public employees
- for investigations of alleged misconduct
- to develop emergency response plans for school violence
- to discuss public safety and security measures
Any individual may bring charges against a public body for violation of the open meetings act. If the judge determines that the public body violated the open meetings act, he or she may void any action taken or discussed during the meeting in question if the suit was filed within 45 days of the disclosure of the violation. The court may also assess attorney fees to either party depending on the degree of violation and if the lawsuit was frivolous. The court may also compel individual public officials to pay the attorney fees, if they were specifically in flagrant violation of the law.
State of North Carolina
|State executive officers||
Governor | Lieutenant Governor | Attorney General | Secretary of State | Treasurer | State Auditor | Superintendent of Public Instruction | Commissioner of Insurance | Commissioner of Agriculture | Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources | Commissioner of Labor | Chairman of Utilities |