N.C. Lawmaker Responds to Public Records Lawsuit by Hiding Names of Correspondents

Kitty Hawk Resident and ACLU Ask Court to Order Full Release of Public Records

May 23, 2018 10:15 am

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RALEIGH – A Kitty Hawk resident seeking public records from his elected official is asking a court to order full release of the documents he is seeking, after Rep. Beverly Boswell responded to a public records lawsuit with documents that conceal the identity of everyone her office communicated with on matters of public interest.

“There is no legally defensible reason for elected officials to hide who they communicate with about the public’s business,” said Chris Brook, Legal Director of the ACLU of North Carolina, who is representing Boswell constituent Craig Merrill in the public records lawsuit. “Public officials have a legal and ethical responsibility to be open and transparent about their work and release public records upon request.”

Since April 2017, Merrill has repeatedly asked Rep. Boswell to release public records of phone and email correspondence between her office and the residents and businesses she represents in North Carolina House District 6, which includes parts of Beaufort, Dare, Hyde, and Washington counties. After Rep. Boswell refused to provide any, the ACLU filed a public records lawsuit on Merrill’s behalf in January. Merrill has since narrowed his request to messages from 2017 including certain keywords.

In a motion for summary judgment filed today, the ACLU says that there is no legal justification for Rep. Boswell to conceal who she and her office were corresponding with on matters related to her work as a public official on issues including the Outer Banks plastic bag ban. Many of the documents Rep. Boswell provided contain the following message: “Email correspondence to and from this address is subject to North Carolina Public Records Law and may be disclosed to third parties.”

The motion for summary judgment, filed today in Wake County Superior Court, asks the court to set an immediate hearing and order Rep. Boswell to preserve and release the full records requested by Merrill.

The motion for summary judgment is available here.

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