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Questions Surround Raleigh Council 'Meeting'

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RALEIGH — A former Raleigh City Council member fileda lawsuit against five current members Monday afternoon, charging thatthey held what constitutes a secret meeting to discuss the proposedmulti-use Raleigh arena.

Raleigh Mayor TomFetzer and four other members of city council met privately at the home of Mayor Pro Tempore Paul Coble to watch the Wake Forest University vs.University of Maryland basketball game on January 19. While they werethere, a comment on Wake Forest's new arena spurred some conversationabout the proposed multi-use arena in Raleigh.

All five council members at Councilman Paul Coble'shouse admit that. What they take issue with is a charge that the gatheringconstituted an illegal meeting.

North Carolina law states that a majority of Council cannot gatheroutside of official meetings forthe purpose of conducting hearings, deliberations, voting or otherwisetransacting public business, but that an "informal assembly" for socialreasons is not considered a meeting.

Councilman Marc Scruggs (pictured at right) was at the gathering andsaysthe group did not violate any law.

Scruggs admitted there was some conversation about the arena.

In addition to Scruggs, Coble and Fetzer, John Odom and Kieran Shanahanwere also in attendance. While the five often vote as a bloc, Fetzersays theyhave continued to disagree on the arena issue since the gathering atCoble's house.

Councilman Brad Thompson was not invited to the January 19 gathering.He says he thinks discussion of the arena would be best confined toofficial meetings where the public knows what's going on.

Thompson and some others are concerned about the future impact of theJanuary 19 meeting on the controversial debates over the arena.

The former council member who filed the lawsuit says he did so toprevent this sort of informal meeting in the future.

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