Judge: Charlotte city leaders did not violate open meeting laws - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Judge: Charlotte city leaders did not violate open meeting laws

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

Superior Court Judge Nathaniel Poovey has determined that Charlotte city leaders did not violate NC open meeting laws.

Four former broadcast journalists were suing Charlotte city officials over what they claimed were illegal closed-door meetings held by city council meetings. 

WBTV spoke to plaintiff Ken Koontz after Poovey's ruling. 

"I'm disgusted," he said. 

WBTV also spoke to Mayor Pro Tem Michael Barnes. 

"I was comfortable along with what we did and didn't believe laws had been broken. I appreciate Judge Poovey's work and his decision on the matter," Barnes said. 

Mike Cozza, a former reporter and one of the plaintiffs had a different take on the ruling.

"This is a sad day for open government in Charlotte," Cozza said.

The plaintiffs had argued that the closed-door meetings violated North Carolina's Open Meetings Law. City council members conducted four meetings to discuss raising taxes to keep the Carolina Panthers from moving to Los Angeles.

Plaintiffs claimed council members went into closed-door meetings because of fear and speculation.

Court documents show city leaders mentioned a possible tax hike 176 times during those meetings. 

"The facts are going to show there was substantial discussion about raising taxes," Plaintiff Lawyer Donald Brown said Tuesday. "Especially from the meetings in January and February, also introduced in the September meeting."

The minutes from the four meetings were used as evidence. Brown argued in court Tuesday since Panthers owner Jerry Richardson was allowed in that closed door meeting to discuss an increase, then taxpayers should have been allowed too. City Attorney Jason Kay argued no laws were broken by Richardson attending a closed door meeting.

"Part of the purpose of the meeting statute and the exception meeting," City Attorney Jason Kay said. "Is to allow two parties to engage in business like discussions. We don't think the law excludes one of the parties from that discussion."

To read the entire court document, click here.

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