RALEIGH – News media outlets have banded with left-leaning policy organizations to sue Gov. Pat McCrory and eight of his cabinet secretaries over access to public records. The lawsuit was filed by lawyers representing plaintiffs including the News and Observer, the Charlotte Observer, Capital Broadcasting (WRAL), the Southern Environmental Law Center, and N.C. Policy Watch.
According to a copy of the suit released by WRAL, it claims that the governor’s office and cabinet agencies violated North Carolina public records law “regularly and repeatedly” by ignoring requests, delaying responses and charging unlawful fees. The plaintiffs claim that the practices they describe are “the consequence of concerted policies and practices adopted and followed by the defendants for the avoiding or circumventing the public records law and discouraging or intimidating public records requesters.”
McCrory’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the lawsuit, which was filed in Wake County around noon today.
Along with McCrory, the lawsuit names as defendants the secretaries of the eight state agencies in the governor’s cabinet (Administration, Commerce, Cultural Resources, Environment and Natural Resources, Health and Human Services, Public Safety, Revenue, and Transportation).
Public records requests have been something of a political beach ball lately, with newspaper editorial boards excoriating McCrory for what they claim was his lack of openness, and the N.C. Republican Party claiming that N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper has been slow in responding to a records request the party submitted in March. Today N.C. GOP Chairman Hasan Harnett sent a letter to Cooper that states that if the party does not receive a “meaningful” response in seven days it will “initiate legal action and seek a court order” to compel release of the records.
Cooper is expected to run for governor against McCrory in 2016. His office responded to the letter, saying the Attorney General’s office had been compiling the requested records — more than 14,000 of them — but N.C. GOP staff stopped communicating with Cooper’s office about the request.