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WBTV sues CMS, school board over failure to produce Myers Park HS records

An archway outside of the entrance to Myers Park High School is pictured here on an overcast day.
An archway outside of the entrance to Myers Park High School is pictured here on an overcast day.(Corey Schmidt)
Published: Aug. 24, 2021 at 12:11 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 24, 2021 at 12:38 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - WBTV has filed a lawsuit against Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, members of the school board, Superintendent Earnest Winston and General Counsel Andre Mayes.

The lawsuit seeks records related to the district’s handling of reports of rape and sexual assault at Myers Park High School, which the station first began investigating in 2015 and resumed looking into in May.

Document: Click here to read the complaint filed by WBTV

As part of its investigation, the station requested a range of records from school board members, Winston and staff he supervises, and Mayes and staff in her office.

The complaint focuses on four specific public records requests.

“Because no custodian is taking responsibility for their obligation to search and produce public records in their custody, productions have been self-evidently inconsistent and incomplete,” the lawsuit said.

Related: After weeks of silence, CMS superintendent responds to Myers Park students’ reports of rape, sexual assault

“Moreover, Ms. Mayes appears to be improperly advising Defendants that certain records are exempt from the Public Records Law disclosure mandate, and she improperly withholding certain public records both in response to the request directed to her and to the other custodians.”

The complaint goes on to cite multiple instances in which Mayes is alleged to have given board members improper legal advice or claimed, incorrectly, that records were not public.

Among the instances cited in the complaint is an email Mayes sent school board members taking responsibility for a statement reacting to a WBTV story that was posted on the board’s Facebook page. The post was quickly taken down. Mayes claimed that email was a personnel record; the complaint says otherwise.

Related: CMS failed to track reported rapes, assaults on campus

“WBTV counsel has repeatedly contacted CMS records custodians regarding deficiencies in their productions in an effort to avoid burdening this Court with time-consuming records litigation,” the lawsuit said.

“Most of those custodians failed to respond. Ms. Mayes responded, but rather than address the specific issues raised in undersigned counsel’s letters, she stated that further communications about the Requests ‘are pointless,’ asked counsel to stop contacting her and other CMS custodians, and invited WBTV to ‘please take whatever legal steps you believe are appropriate.’”

The lawsuit was filed Monday, August 16. By law, parties in a public records lawsuit must participate in a mediation and attempt to settle the case before the claims can be brought to a judge.

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