Dropped portion of election board's minutes could be allowed
WINSTON-SALEM — Experts in government law say the chairman of the Watauga County Board of Elections broke no state law when he asked that a heated discussion during a board meeting be dropped from the minutes.
UNC School of Government Professor Frayda Bluestein said the board can limit the detail in the official minutes as it sees fit.
After board chairman Luke Eggers learned that a first draft of the meeting minutes contained a description of the discussion at the Aug. 12 meeting, he requested that it not be used.
Board member Kathleen Campbell said the parts of the earlier meeting erased from the minutes include her question on how much money would be saved by consolidating precincts, eliminating a polling location at Appalachian State University.
Jonathan Jones, director of the N.C. Open Government Coalition at Elon University, said that Eggers' handling of the minutes was not out of bounds:
"Because the minutes are the official record, it would be a best practice to include the basics of the discussion. But what the law requires is that the minutes include a record of actions taken," Jones said.
Amanda Martin, a media lawyer with Stevens Martin Vaughn and Tadych in Raleigh, said that state law is vague as it relates to minutes, but she agreed with Bluestein and Jones that they do not have to include the discussion. In the end, however, the public has not been left in the dark.
"Here's the thing to remember: Even though the original version of the minutes have been reduced, the original minutes still exist," Martin said. "In my mind, what they did is meaningless."