Officials stay away from private DOT meeting, stay within bounds of law

It appears local government officials obeyed the Open Meetings Law when they attended a private N.C. Department of Transportation meeting about the controversial N.C. 107 connector last week.

The Smoky Mountain News reported in the Nov. 26 edition that the government officials were poised to violate the Open Meetings Law because the meeting had not been advertised to the public.

The towns of Webster, Forest Hills, Sylva and Jackson County all had representation at the meeting, but stayed within the bounds of the law by not having a majority of their respective boards present.

According to the N.C. Open Meetings Law, an official meeting occurs when a majority of a public board is present at a meeting pertaining to public business. Such a meeting requires that the public be given notice of the meeting, which it was not in this case.

A meeting open to the public followed the private meeting between DOT and the government officials.

DOT said that it wanted to have a meeting with the public officials first to inform them about the project so they would be prepped to answer constituents’ questions. At the meeting, elected leaders were called on to talk about concerns and questions they may have involving the road project.

Franklin Alderman Bob Scott tipped The Smoky Mountain News off about the meeting, saying he thought it was a violation of the Open Meetings Law. By not informing the public about the meeting, it seemed as if DOT wanted to tell the local officials something it didn’t want to tell the citizens, Scott said.

The Smoky Mountain News attended the meeting.

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