Before taking a tour of MetLife Stadium on Wednesday, visitors on the Charlotte Chamber’s inter-city trip had a 30-minute meeting with New York Giants owner John Mara and Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson.
The meeting included Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx and six City Council members – a majority of the 11-member public body.
The Giants declined to invite any members of the media.
But did having a majority of the Charlotte City Council in attendance constitute a public meeting – especially considering the city is considering helping the Panthers finance an anticipated stadium renovation?
The N.C. Open Meetings Law states that a majority of a public body usually constitutes a public meeting, when “transacting the public business.” There are exceptions for “informal meetings” and “social gatherings.”
Charlotte City Attorney Bob Hagemann said he would research the issue, though he didn’t issue an opinion Wednesday.
Amanda Martin, general counsel to the N.C. Press Association, said she believed the meeting about the new stadium – coming at a time when the city and Panthers are discussing renovating Bank of America Stadium – would constitute an official meeting.
“I believe what they did was transact public business,” Martin said. “It sounds like a clear violation of the law.”
Charlotte City Council member David Howard said Foxx had asked him to step outside of the meeting, so they would only have five members present – not a majority. Howard said he forgot.
But he and other council members said nothing significant was discussed. Council members have danced around the Open Meetings Law before. Earlier this year, during negotiations over a capital budget, a group of six council members held a news conference to announce they had an agreement.
But during the press event, one council member stood aside to avoid having a majority.
In the past it’s been common for the majority of council – or sometimes almost all of the 11 members – to accompany the Chamber on its inter-city visits. The city paid for Foxx and six council members to attend the trip, at $3,095 per person.