Former journalists file second suit against City of Charlotte

Former journalists file second suit against City of Charlotte

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by DIANNE GALLAGHER / NBC Charlotte

Bio | Email | Follow: @DianneG

WCNC.com

Posted on August 29, 2013 at 5:45 PM

Updated Thursday, Aug 29 at 6:29 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A group of former journalists filed a second lawsuit Thursday against the City of Charlotte on the grounds it violated the North Carolina Open Meeting Law.

"The law requires them to take their votes in public, so people can come in and complain if they want, but they didn't do that in this case," said Paul Whitfield, the attorney representing the group.

The lawsuit focuses on city council's closed door dealings back in February of this year, over millions in tax dollars being used to help fund the upgrades and renovations at Bank of America Stadium.

"The city broke the law. You can't be a little bit pregnant. They either followed the law or broke the law. We contend they broke the law," said Wayne Powers, one of the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs pointed to minutes from the February 8 closed door meeting that show now-Mayor Patsy Kinsey said, "When we vote today, it's a done deal."

A spokesman for Mayor Kinsey issued this statement in response:

"This group has grossly mischaracterized Mayor Kinsey's comments and taken them out of context to serve their own agenda. In her statement, Mayor Kinsey was merely trying to underscore the importance of the vote on the Panthers’ proposal that the Council was about to take, by pointing out that while there would be other opportunities to discuss it, the vote would put considerable momentum behind the proposal. The Mayor was in no way trying to finalize the deal in closed session before the public had a chance to weigh in on it as this group has suggested."

The former journalist filed a previous lawsuit that was thrown out by a judge on, what they call, a technicality.

Powers claimed they tried to avoid heading back to court by submitting a proposal for the city to sign. It was rejected.

"It was ten points that essentially just promised, yes, we will obey the law from this point forward," said Powers.

City Attorney Bob Hagemann responded via statement:

"The City Council takes its duty to comply with the law seriously. However, Mr.Whitfield's clients demanded that the City agree with their interpretation of the law. Given that their interpretation is, in my opinion, wrong, the Council appropriately declined to do so. This is their second trip to court. The first ended with a ruling in the city’s favor. I am confident that we will achieve a similar result this time as well."

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