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We believe the Carolina Shores Board of Commissioners violated N.C. Open Meetings Law last week when it went into closed session to discuss, what we later found out, were concerns about Mayor Stephen Selby’s “behavioral pattern.”
Following the hour-and-a-half closed session, the board reconvened in open session and agreed unanimously to have the town attorney, Holt Moore III, send a letter to Selby about his behavior.
There are a number of reasons a government body can go into closed session, but none of them, we believe, cover the board’s claim it had the legal right to confidentially talk about Selby’s behaviors.
Commissioners and Moore have denied requests to talk about what happened.
After consulting press attorneys, we made a formal request last week that the town immediately release minutes from that closed session, as well as any audio recordings of the proceedings.
As of press time Tuesday the town has refused to do so.
Moore claims General Statute 143-318.11(a)(3) allowed the closed session so the board could give the attorney (Moore) instructions about handling the settlement of a claim.
While the law does state, “The public body may consider and give instructions to an attorney concerning the handling or settlement of a claim, judicial action, mediation, arbitration or administrative procedure,” we argue that applies directly to legal proceedings, not “claims” made by commissioners or others against the mayor.
If board members were discussing pending litigation—and based on the information we have received so far we would argue they were not—the law requires identification of the parties in each existing lawsuit of which the board expected to receive advice during the closed session.
If there was pending litigation, the board failed to meet the letter of the law by not making that information public.
Further, the town and Moore have argued attorney/client privilege as a reason why they can remain hushed on the subject. Again, we disagree.
Moore has denied the Beacon’s request for a copy of the letter to be sent to Selby saying, “We believe the purpose of the closed session would be thwarted if the minutes were to be released.”
It is our opinion that once the letter has been penned and sent to Selby, the reason for the closed session is concluded, and therefore minutes of the closed session should be made public. Also, we argue all correspondence sent to or from the town’s mayor is a matter of public record and should be provided per General Statute 132-1.
The public should be outraged by the town’s refusal to make a very public matter public. As we demand the town to release this information, citizens should do the same. This is your government and you have the right to know what is going on. And remember, your tax dollars are paying the attorney fees for town legal matters. How much has already been spent on this situation? Don’t you want to know what it was all about?
Carolina Shores residents, demand the town release the information we believe the law says is rightfully public. A good town government is one operated in the public eye, not behind closed doors.