CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - In a lawsuit filed Tuesday the Mecklenburg County GOP claims county commissioners violated open meetings laws during the FY2020 budget process and that the budget should be put on hold because of it. The court will hear a motion on a temporary restraining order filed Monday asking to delay implementation of the budget.
The lawsuit claims the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners Chair George Dunlap sent emails from his personal account about the budget straw vote and held discussions with other commissioners about changes to the budget. WBTV previously uncovered other emails from commissioners that a public records expert says violate state open meeting laws.
“What we saw were conversations taking place behind the scenes that should have taken place and have always taken place in a public forum,” Mecklenburg County Republican Party Chair Chris Turner said.
In May commissioners voted on budget amendments in a motion that was emailed by Dunlap to other commissioners. At the time Commissioner Pat Cotham raises concerns about whether the emails and lack of discussion violated open meeting laws.
The lawsuit names eight county commissioners and excludes Cotham. In the complaint MECKGOP claims commissioners “engaged in a deliberately secret process designed to reach budget decisions outside of the public view.”
“If we do not have a public say in this then we’re going to have nine people or seven people sitting behind a dais or via email making decisions for us,” Turner said.
When reached for comment Mecklenburg BOCC Chair George Dunlap texted “Call our lawyer if you want to talk about the lawsuit. That’s my response.”
Dunlap clarified he was referring to County Attorney Tyrone Wade.
A spokesperson for the county emailed WBTV that the county does not comment on pending litigation on the FY2020 budget is already in effect.