Judge Orders Belmont to Produce Portions of Investigative Report
Judge Carla Archie of the 26th Judicial District has ordered the City of Belmont, North Carolina to produce portions of an investigative report into its police department. The order is the result of a lawsuit launched in August of 2015 with the support of the Raleigh-based Civitas Institute. Barring an appeal by the City, the portions will be produced within ten days of the filing of Judge Archie's order.
In the spring of 2015, the Huntersville-based U.S. Investigative Services Agency, LLC conducted an investigation into the Belmont Police Department at the request of City officials. Upon receiving the results of the report, former Belmont City Manager Barry Webb fired former Police Chief Charlie Franklin.
Siblings Ellen Tucker and Dan Deitz sought access to the investigative report as a public record, but were told that it was a confidential personnel record in its entirety. The two filed suit against Belmont in August of 2015.
Following oral arguments in May of 2016, Judge Archie denied the Defendants' motion to dismiss the case. However, she still had to decide whether the investigative report was a public record subject to disclosure or a confidential personnel file.
In her August 1 order, Judge Archie found that the investigative report is partially public record and partially a confidential personnel record. She ordered the city to produce certain portions in their entirety, and certain portions in redacted format. The complete findings are available here.
The final decision is similar to one reached in a 2009 lawsuit brought against the City of Greensboro. There, a private firm conducted a city-funded investigation into the Greensboro Police Department, and two plaintiffs sought access to the report as a public record. There, the judge ultimately ordered that the report contained both public and confidential portions.