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Yours for the taking—What you’re entitled to at every level of government

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By Caroline Curran, Reporter

Public records are property of the people, so here’s a list of what’s yours for the taking (at every level of government.)

Municipal

•Employee job descriptions and salaries

•Budgets

•Meeting minutes

•Minutes of closed session meetings after the reason for the closed session is resolved

•Government contracts and bids on government contracts

•Correspondences, including e-mails, between board members and town staff

•Meeting agendas and meeting dates

•Town ordinances

•Land-use plans and unified development ordinances

•Proposed plans for planning and zoning

•Police departments’ arrest and incident reports

•Fire department incident reports

County

•Budgets and budget amendments

•Employee job descriptions and salaries

•Government meeting minutes

•Minutes of closed session meetings after the reason for the closed session is resolved

•Government contracts and bids on government contracts

•Correspondences, including e-mails, between board members and county staff

•Meeting agendas and meeting dates

•County ordinances, including land-use plans and unified development ordinances

•Proposed plans for planning and zoning

•Capital improvement plans

•Statistics, but not specific cases of communicable disease records reported to the county health departments

•Voter registration, absentee ballots and campaign finance reports

•Tax records

•Geographical Information Systems (GIS) databases

Law enforcement

•Sheriff’s office incident reports and arrest reports

•Gun permits, including the name, date, place of residence, age, former place of residence, etc. of each permit holder

•Search warrants and arrest warrants are public after they are served

•Sexual offender and predator registers. The following information about sexual offenders are public record: Name, gender, address, physical description, picture, conviction date, offense for which the registration was required, the sentence imposed as a result of conviction and registration.

The law also states, “The sheriff shall release any other relevant information that is necessary to protect the public concerning a specific person, but shall not release the identity of the victim of the offense that required registration.”

•Sheriff’s office budget

•Personnel list to include salaries, equipment and benefits

•The contents of 911 and other emergency telephone calls received by or on behalf of public law enforcement agencies, except such contents that reveal the name, address, telephone number and other information that may identify the caller, victim or witness.

•The time, date, location and nature of a violation or apparent violation of the law reported to a public law enforcement agency.

•The name, sex, age, address, employment and alleged violation of law of a person arrested, charged or indicted.

•The circumstances surrounding an arrest, including the time and place of the arrest, whether the arrest involved resistance, possession or use of weapons, or pursuit and the description of any items seized in connection with the arrest.

•The contents of communication between or among employees of public law enforcement agencies that are broadcast over public airways.

•The name, gender, age and address of a complaining witness.

Courts

•Criminal histories

•Lawsuits

•Case and docket information for District and Superior Court

•Government settlements

•Casefolders and documents, including the complaint and answer

•Grand jury indictments

•Search warrants become public after they are executed

Schools

•Budgets

•Personnel information including employee job descriptions, salaries and benefits

•Textbook lists

•Test scores: percentages of improvements

•School construction or expansion projects

•Capital improvement plans

•Bids of government contracts

•Community college records. All records of the state board of community colleges, the community colleges system office and the local boards of trustees are public records. Individual student education records are not public record.

State

•Budgets, bank statements, tax levies, utility accounts and contracts

•Bids for government contracts

•Autopsy reports, including any findings and interpretations conducted by the state medical examiner

•Audit reports issued by the state auditor

•Community college records

•Economic development records

•Election records, including campaign finance reports, voter registration records and absentee ballot registry

•Elevator inspection records

•Fire incident reports compiled by local fire marshals or fire chiefs are public records, but fire investigation records are not.

•Insurance commissioners’ records

•Lobbyist reports

•Minutes of government meetings

•Prison, parole and probation records

•Vital statistics—birth, death and marriage certificates

•General assembly records

Federal

•Operating budgets of federal executive agencies

•Case and docket information from Federal Appellate, District and Bankruptcy courts

•Names and addresses of presidential, senate and house candidates and their authorized committees

•Candidates with figures of their receipts, disbursements and cash on hand for the current election cycle

Information exempt from the N.C. Public Records Laws

•Emergency response plans adopted by a constituent institution of The University of North Carolina, a community college or a public hospital as defined in N.C.G.S. 159-39 and the records related to the planning and development of these emergency response plans are not public records as defined by N.C.G.S. 132-1 and shall not be subject to inspection and examination under N.C.G.S. 132-6.

•Economic development incentives. Subject to the provisions of this chapter regarding confidential information and the withholding of public records relating to the proposed expansion or location of specific business or industrial projects when the release of those records would frustrate the purpose for which they were created, whenever a public agency or its subdivision performs a cost-benefit analysis or similar assessment with respect to economic development incentives offered to a specific business or industrial project, the agency or its subdivision must describe in detail the assumptions and methodologies used in completing the analysis or assessment. The description is a public record and is subject to all provisions of this chapter and other law regarding public records.