LETTER: Editorial board is wrong on lawsuit

Jun. 05, 2014 @ 04:59 AM

To the Editor:

This is in response to The Herald’s May 30 editorial about the dropping the lawsuit against Lee County taxpayers.

One lesson learned in the Jay Calendine case is how shortsighted The Herald editorial board has become. The editorial board conveniently didn’t mention that the county commissioners did not violate any open meetings laws or rules according to the county attorney and the School of Government. I would hasten to add that Judge Gilchrist did not mention any malfeasance, either. No wonder that Mr. Calendine voluntarily dropped his case; it had no merit, and he well knew it.

The Herald editorial board is dead wrong. This case was about our citizens — all of our citizens — having equal access to their elected officials. I believe that the public understands that the county commissioners saw fit to conduct a series of town hall presentations to provide their constituents a thorough update on the work of county government. The 3,200 or so citizens of Carolina Trace were no less deserving of a local town hall meeting than every other citizen in Lee County. The Herald, it seems, would deny them that opportunity simply because they live in a secured setting. It is worth noting that the attendance at Carolina Trace was far greater than at any of the other town halls.

As it turns out, the meeting wasn’t even a public meeting until Commissioner Amy Dalrymple, a Democrat who wasn’t named in the lawsuit, showed up. How’s that for balanced reporting?

The lawsuit was by all appearances a contrived affair. It was terminated on the eve of the three Republican commissioners hiring a prominent attorney who most certainly would discover all the sordid background details of this case and who likely would then enjoin others in the suit as well. Mr. Calendine got out just in time to spare Mrs. Dalrymple, and perhaps others, of more embarrassment and cost associated with this unwarranted lawsuit.

Shame on The Herald for not reporting all of this.

Mark Cronmiller

Lee County

EDITOR’S NOTE: In response to Mr. Cronmiller, we point out — as was stated in the editorial — that the meeting itself appeared to be in violation of the open meetings law, an opinion confirmed by attorneys for the N.C. Press Association and other open government experts. We further stated in the editorial that we didn’t believe the county’s board of commissioners intentionally flouted the law, but the fact is, because some of those citizens trying to attend the meeting were denied access to Carolina Trace, the law was indeed violated, meaning that the meeting itself was in violation of state statute. As for the statement that “the meeting wasn’t even a public meeting until Commissioner Amy Dalrymple” appeared, the board’s intent was to have an open, public meeting. Commissioner Dalrymple’s attendance gave the board a quorum; a quorum legally constituted the meeting as open and subject to the state’s open meetings law.