***UPDATE*** TOWN OF MATTHEWS V. WRIGHT – On March 11, 2014 Judge Donald Bridges ruled the Town of Matthews as being “Arbitrary and Capricious” in the condemnation of the Wrights property. Matthews has appealed the court ruling concerning the condemnation and is referring back to the March 25, 1985 Resolution in which Matthews claims Home Place is a public street. This has already been argued in court and was found as being “null and void.” We were told the Wrights property was needed by the Town of Matthews “for the opening, widening, extending or improving roads, streets, alleys and sidewalks.” On April 8, 2013 it was decided to condemn the Wrights property. Matthews Watch has since learned there were no plans to widen, extend or improve Home Place. With twenty years of information and documentation June and July will be entirely dedicated to this matter. You will see court cases, affidavits, depositions to over 300 emails between Mayor Taylor, Commissioners and neighbors along Home Place. Instead of holding the grantors of the Davinmor Development responsible for breaking subdivision laws of Mecklenburg County the Town of Matthews has now hired the Law FIrm of Parker, Poe, Adams & Bernstein of Charlotte.
2014 ANNUAL PLANNING CONFERENCE & TECHNOLOGY ALLOWANCE
On February 27th thru March 2nd on the taxpayer’s dime our city officials took a beach trip to Ocean Isle for the Annual Planning Conference. A total of twelve attended this meeting and it included Mayor Jim Taylor, Mayor Pro Tem Joe Pata, Commissioners, John Higdon, Chris Melton, Jeff Miller, Kress Query and John Ross. Also in attendance were Town Clerk Lori Canapinno, Communications Director Annette Privette Keller, Town Attorney Charles Buckley, Town Manager Hazen Blodgett and Assistant Town Manager Jamie Justice.
They enjoyed a 5,000 square foot beachfront home for a three night stay costing the residents of Matthews $4,501.76. They also enjoyed a $527.56 breakfast & lunch at the Town Hall, $384.47 dinner at The Boundary House, $210.00 lunch at Antonio’s, $263.36 dinner at Roberto’s Italian, $166.76 lunch at China King, $296.64 dinner at Grapevine Restaurant, $213.77 of supplies and $263.88 travel reimbursement to Asst. Town Manager Jamie Justice and $212.44 travel reimbursement to Commissioner Jeff Miller. This is grand total of $7,037.64 with more expenses to come.
In the Matthews Mint HIll Weekly Mayor Taylor stated “Leaders may have been at the beach, but the conference was not a vacation, Taylor added as town leaders worked to create a cohesive board, with leaders’ new and old working together for the common good. We spent an awful lot of time getting (new members) up to speed to where we are and how we got here, more than any other planning conference that I’ve ever been involved in.”
Critics would argue with that kind of money being spent, would the taxpayers be better served with the conference being held locally and funneling that money into our local economy and supporting our local businesses. We have a beautiful Grand Town Hall where the residents of Matthews could have attended the conference instead of being alienated by their trip to Ocean Isle Beach. If the beach trip was not a vacation, then why take the trip?
On March 6, 2014 I requested a copy of an audio DVD of the conference. Being that the conference was held so far away I assumed there would have been an audio or video available. I was informed the Planning Conferences are not audio or video recorded the minutes are in summary, I then requested a certified copy of the minutes. On March 7th I was informed by Town Clerk Lori Cannapinno “Yes, the minutes of the Planning Conference are like those of the other Board of Commissioners meetings — summary in nature, not verbatim. I will be happy to provide you with a certified copy of the approved minutes once they have been approved. They will be placed on the March 24th consent agenda for approval.”
All public records are owned by the citizens of the United States of America, whether they are in draft form to approved minutes. Anyone has the right to inspect, examine and request copies of public records. When requesting copies of public records you do not have to disclose your identity or the reason you may have for requesting them. After Ms. Canapinno was reminded of the “Records Retention and Disposition Schedule Municipal” I received certified copy of the Planning Conference.
RECORDS RETENTION AND DISPOSITION SCHEDULE MUNICIPAL North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, Division of Historical Resources, Archives and Records Section Government Records
“Page 4: Q. Do I have to make copies of drafts available to the public that haven’t been approved?” A. Yes, even if a report, permit, or other record has not been finalized. Any record that is not confidential by law must be copied when a request is received, whether it is “finished” or not.”
To learn more on your rights, below I have attached “Understanding Public Records – NC Attorney General Roy Cooper.” **Information provided by Department of Justice **
UNDERSTANDING PUBLIC RECORDS Questions and Answers:
1. What is the public policy regarding public records? The North Carolina General Assembly has declared as a matter of public policy that the public records and public information compiled by agencies of North Carolina government or its subdivisions are the property of the people. N.C.G.S. § 132-1(b)
2. What are public records? Public records are documentary materials that are either made or received by government agencies in North Carolina in carrying on public business. Public records include documents, papers, letters, maps, books, photographs, films, sound recordings, magnetic or other tapes, electronic data-processing records, artifacts or other documentary material, regardless of physical form or characteristic. N.C.G.S. § 132-1
3. Who may inspect or get copies of public records? Any person may inspect and get copies of public records. N.C.G.S. § 132-6
4. To whom should a request for public records be directed? The Public Records Law does not describe any specific procedure that a person must follow in requesting to inspect public records. Normally, a request to any employee in a government office is sufficient to get access to records in that office. However, it is the custodian of public records who is specifically required to allow those records to be inspected. The public official in charge of an office is designated to be the custodian of records for that office. N.C.G..S. § 132-2
5. When are public records available for inspection or copying? The Public Records Law says that inspection and examination of records should be allowed at “reasonable times” and under the reasonable supervision of the agency. “Reasonable times” is generally understood to mean during regular business hours. N.C.G.S. § 132-6
6. May citizens request copies of public records in any media available? If an agency has the capability to provide copies of public records in different kinds of media (for example, in print or on computer disc), people requesting copies may choose to get copies in any and all the media available. People requesting copies of computer databases may be required to make their requests in writing. N.C.G.S. § 132-6.2(c)
7. May an agency charge fees for public records? Government agencies may not charge fees for inspecting public records. Fees for certifying copies of public records are provided by law. However, unless otherwise provided by law, no public agency shall charge a fee for an uncertified copy of a public record that exceeds the actual cost to the public agency of making the copy. N.C.G.S. § 132-6.2(b)
8. Must a public agency provide information in verbal form? The Public Records Law requires that government agencies permit people to inspect or get copies of information that is in recorded form. The law does not indicate that government agencies are required to provide information verbally to people who request it. N.C.G.S. § 132-6.2(e)
9. What about inspecting or getting copies of records that contain both public and confidential information? Some records contain both public and confidential information. Government agencies may not refuse to permit inspection or to provide copies because public records contain some confidential information. Agencies must permit inspection and provide copies of the public, non-confidential parts of these records. N.C.G.S. § 132-6(c)
10. What are the remedies available if an agency refuses to release or disclose a public record? Any person who is denied access to public records for the purposes of inspection or examination, and any person who is denied copies of public records, may bring a civil action in court against the government agency or official who is denying access or copies.
Courts are required to set public records suits for immediate hearings and to give hearings of these cases priority over other cases. The court may order the agency to permit inspection or provide copies if the court determines that the person seeking the records is entitled to them. N.C.G.S. § 132-9
11. Are certain government records exempt from disclosure? The public records law exempts certain types of records from required disclosure. The law says that records containing certain communications between attorneys and their government clients, state tax information (N.C.G.S. § 132-1.1), trade secrets (N.C.G.S. § 132-1.2), certain lawsuit settlements (N.C.G.S. § 132-1.3), criminal investigation records (N.C.G.S. § 132-1.4), and records about industrial expansion (N.C.G.S. § 132-6(d)), are not public records.
Several statutes regulate public disclosure of personnel information of government employees. Although some personnel information is public (for example, name, age, date of employment, current position, title, current salary, date of most recent salary or position assignment change and location of current assignment) personnel files of state, county and municipal employees are generally confidential. See N.C.G.S. §§ 126-22, 153A-98, 160A-168, 115C-321, 115D-29, 122C-158, 130A-42, 131E-97.1, 162A-6.1. These rules apply to personnel information for applicants, current employees and former employees.
12. If records containing “criminal investigation” information are not public records, does that mean that all law enforcement records are confidential? N.C.G.S. § 132-1.4 (a) states that records of criminal investigations conducted by public law enforcement agencies or records of criminal intelligence information compiled by public law enforcement agencies are not public records. However, unless otherwise prohibited by law, certain information collected by public law enforcement agencies is public record as defined by the Public Records Law.
For example, the time, date, location and the nature of an apparent violation of the law reported to a public law enforcement agency, and the name, sex, age, address, employment and alleged violation of law of a person arrested, charged or indicted are public information. N.C.G.S. §132-1.4 (c) (1) & (2)
Note: State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) records are not public records and access to them is not available under the Public Records Law. Case law has held that access to SBI records is controlled entirely by N.C.G.S. § 114-15. Similarly, case law has held that prison records are confidential and are not subject to inspection by the public or by the inmate involved.
13. Does the Public Records Law cover access to records of federal agencies? Records of federal agencies in North Carolina are not covered by the Public Records Law. However, in 1966, Congress passed the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. § 552) generally provides that any person has a right, enforceable in court, of access to federal agency records, except to the extent that such records (or portions thereof) are protected by one of the nine exemptions or by one to three special law enforcement record exclusions.
Persons seeking federal records under FOIA should contact an agency public information officer. If this informal contact is not successful, a formal written request should be filed. Appropriate contacts may be determined by calling the agency or by referencing the Federal Register, available in the documents sections of larger institutional libraries or through the state library.
Have Questions? For more information about open meetings, contact Victims & Citizens Services, NC Attorney General’s Office, PO Box 629, Raleigh, NC 27602-0629 or call (919) 716-6780.
On March 24th the Board of Commissioners approved the 2014 Planning Conference minutes for public record a total of eight pages. Approved Planning Conf. Minutes
Here are the actual Planning Conference minutes in summary. You will see abbreviations for the names of who is speaking. I strongly urge everyone to read the second paragraph from Saturday 3/1 page 10 concerning the Erickson Project. “HB – should there be some sort of public information given out to explain what’s going on? JPT – fine once the land deal is finalized.” This is not Open and Honest Government.
Name Listing JPT – Mayor James P Taylor / JP – Mayor Pro Tem Joe Pata / JH – Commissioner John Higdon / CM – Commissioner Chris Melton / JM – Commissioner Jeff Miller / JR – Commissioner John Ross / KQ – Commissioner Kress Query / HB – Town Manager Hazen Blodgett / JJ – Asst. Town Manager Jamie Justice / CB – Town Attorney Charles Buckley / RSM – Public Works Director Ralph Messera / CJO – Town Engineer CJ O’Neil / CK – Recreation & Cultural Resource Director Corey King / KI – Planning & Development Director Kathy Ingrish / RH- Police Chief Rob Hunter / CS – Finance Director Christine Surratt / DG – Fire & EMS Chief Dennis Green / APK – Communications Director Annette Privette Keller / TOM – Town of Matthews / TB – Town Board
Certification and Receipts 2014 Planning Conference Receipts
Thursday February 27, 2014 – Meeting held at Town Hall. Discussion included Transportation pages 1-3, Tag Fee/Powell Bill pages 3-4, Connectivity-John St.-S. Trade pages 5-9, Buckley Way page 9, Pedestrian Connectivity pages 9-10, Weddington Road pages 13-15, Parks pages 15-17, Outen Pottery pages 17-19. 2014 Planning Conference notes Thur. 2-27
Friday February 28, 2014 – Meeting held at Ocean Isle Beach. Discussion included Review pages 1-5, Financial pages 6-9, Health Insurance pages 10-11, Open Discussion S. Trade/Condemnation pages 12-15 2014 Planning Conference notes Fri. 2-28
Saturday March 1, 2014 – Meeting held at Ocean Isle Beach. Discussion included Pylon Signs pages 3-5, Bowhunting pages 7-9, Erickson Project page 10 2014 Planning Conference notes Sat. 3-1
Sunday March 2, 2014 – Meeting held at Ocean Isle Beach. Discussion included Minicozzi Project pages 1-4, To do List /Notes pages 5-8, Term Limits page 9. 2014 Planning Conference notes Sun. 3-2
Jeff Miller travel expenses – Jeff Miller Reimbursement Planning Conf.
TECHNOLOGY ALLOWANCE REIMBURSEMENTS TOTAL TO DATE: Commissioner John Higdon – $888.33 pages 2-4 Commissioner Kress Query – $380.00 pages 5-24 Commissioner Chris Melton – $772.18 pages 26-28 Commissioner John Ross – $1,578.98 pages 30-32 Commissioner Joe Pata – $1,273.36 pages 34-37 Commissioner Chris Melton – $255.00 pages 38-53 Commissioner John Ross – $167.56 pages 54-56
Total amount of our tax dollars spent within FOUR months – $5,315.41. Each elected official is allowed $3,500.00 per term which comes to a total of $24,500.00. Below are the receipts submitted and pictures of items purchased. You can find them by page number or just scroll through. Technology Allowance Receipts & Pictures