Cary Council Members Accused of Violating Open-Meetings Law
Posted July 22, 1998 7:00 a.m. EDT
CARY — Some people in Cary are accusing four town council members of violating the open meetings law. That law requires a meeting to be public any time a majority of the group gets together to talk about town business.
The council members say an illegal meeting never took place. They say they talked, one on one, but never four at a time. Those involved in the controversy stand on different sides in an underlying debate. The accused council members support managing growth in Cary. Their accusers do not.
It all started with a full page advertisement which council members David Brooks, Glen Lang, Jack Smith and Jess Ward took out in the Cary News on June 24. The ad touts the Adequate Public Facilities law, a proposed law which calls for managing growth in Cary
Some say the council members had an illegal meeting in order to put the ad together.
"I don't know how something like this could be published in the paper unless the four of them were collaborating in some way shape or form independent from the rest of the council and the public," says Cary businessman Art Kamm.
Under North Carolina law, any meeting of a majority of any governing body in which government business is discussed, must be open to the public.
"It appears that public business is being conducted other than in public -- outside and away from public scrutiny," says attorney Clyde Holt.
But the council members say the allegations are being made by people who simply disagree with their ideas to manage growth in Cary. They say they did not violate the law.
"So, we never physically met," says Lang. "We never had a phone conference. There was never more than two of us together."
The council members who place the ad say they were aware of the law, and that's why they handled most of their communications through email.
"The law says that we can't meet for the purpose of deliberating," says Brooks. "In fact we don't meet for any purpose we are very careful to avoid the appearance of impropriety."
"Cary has always demonstrated that we'll do our debates in public and I think that this is no different," says Smith.
Thursday night, part of the legislation which is the cornerstone of this debate is up for a final vote. The council will vote on a proposal that limits development until there are adequate roads to handle the extra traffic.