in the Court of Appeals 19 October 2016.
by Plaintiff from order entered 16 December 2015 by Judge
Michael O'Foghludha in Alamance County No. 14-CVS-2033
Bussian Law Firm, by John A. Bussian, for the
Tharrington Smith, LLP, by Deborah R. Stagner and Neal A.
Ramee, for the Defendants-Appellees.
Stevens Martin Vaughn & Tadych, PLLC, by C. Amanda
Martin, for amicus curiae North Carolina Press Association.
Christine T. Scheef and Allison B. Schafer, for amicus curiae
N.C. School Boards Association.
Times News Publishing Company ("Times News"), a
publisher of a daily newspaper, originally brought this
action seeking an order compelling the Alamance-Burlington
Board of Education (the "Board") to provide
unredacted minutes of a series of closed sessions of the
Board. Times News appeals an order in which Judge
O'Foghludha determined that only certain portions of the
minutes were subject to disclosure. We affirm Judge
2011, Dr. Lillie Cox was hired by the Board to serve as the
superintendent of the Alamance-Burlington School System. In
May 2014, during a closed session of the School Board, Dr.
Cox resigned her position as superintendent. The Board agreed
to pay her $200, 000 as a severance payment and $22, 000 in
unused vacation pay.
October 2014, Times News submitted a written request to the
Board seeking access to the minutes from certain closed
sessions, including the May 2014 closed session,
"pursuant to the Public Records Act." Times News
specifically requested disclosure of unredacted minutes of
"specially called meeting[s], including any closed
sessions in or about May of 2014 relating to the continued
employment of the then current Superintendent of
Schools." In response, the Board produced forty-five
(45) pages of heavily redacted minutes of closed sessions
held between March and May 2014.
News subsequently commenced this action, seeking a court
order compelling the Board to produce the meeting minutes in
their unredacted form, alleging that the Board had
violated the Open Meetings Law and the Public Records Act by
failing to produce the minutes. In response, the Board filed
a motion to dismiss and an answer, claiming that the redacted
portions of the meeting minutes consisted of confidential
personnel information and information protected by
trial court granted the Board's motion to dismiss,
concluding that "the records sought by [Times News]
[were] not public records subject to disclosure under the
Public Records Act." Times News appealed the trial
court's grant of the Board's motion to dismiss to
this Court in December 2014.
Times News's first appeal, our Court reversed the trial
court's ruling, holding that a trial court presented with
an Open Meetings Law claim concerning closed meeting minutes
"must review the minutes in camera-meaning in
private, not in open court-and 'tailor the scope of
statutory protection in each case' based on the contents
of the minutes and their importance to the public."
Times News Publ'g Co. v. Alamance-Burlington Bd. of
Educ., __ N.C.App. __, ___, 77 ...