Judge Rules Plaintiffs May Seek Belmont Records
On June 21, Judge Carla Archie of the 26th Judicial District ruled that the plaintiffs in Deitz v. City of Belmont may seek records from the city, as they have standing to bring and have properly stated their claims under North Carolina's Public Records Act.
The plaintiffs in Deitz are seeking access to an investigative report into the Belmont Police Department compiled by the U.S. Investigative Services Agency, a private company based in Huntersville. The city argues that the report is a confidential personnel file, and is therefore not subject to public records law. But the plaintiffs argue that the report is a third-party investigation that goes beyond individual employee misconduct, putting it outside the protections of the personnel statute. The case was originally launched by the Civitas Institute in 2015.
The parties argued both the defendants' motion to dismiss and the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment on May 17 in Gaston County Superior Court. At issue was (1) whether the plaintiffs had properly sued the city and (2) whether the city would compelled to produce the investigation into its police department as a public record.
Judge Archie's June 21 order settles the first of these issues in favor of the plaintiffs. She has yet to issue a final ruling as to whether and to what extent Belmont's refusal to produce the investigative report was in violation of public records law.