by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
A unanimous three-judge panel of the N.C. Court of Appeals has upheld a trial-court ruling favoring the N.C. Revenue Department in its public-records dispute with a Charlotte TV reporter.
Reporter Nick Ochsner has been fighting the state Revenue Department in court since 2016. Ochsner accused the department of failing to cough up public records. Ochsner first sought the records after receiving notice in 2016 that the department had questions about one of his old tax bills from 2011. In his complaint, Ochsner said the department’s questions arose only after he had “reported multiple stories pertaining to government officials, including members of the General Assembly and Governor Pat McCrory.”
Writing for the unanimous panel, Judge Donna Stroud found:
After Defendant produced over 13,000 pages of responsive documents, conducted searches of its employees and other persons identified as having potentially responsive records, and provided sworn statements that it had conducted the searches and produced all records discovered, the trial court properly determined Defendant had completed its obligations under the parties’ Memorandum of Understanding and thus denied Plaintiff’s motion for enforcement and dismissed the action as moot. In addition, the trial court properly exercised its judicial oversight function under the Public Records Act.