The Charlotte Observer has filed a lawsuit against Gov. Pat McCrory seeking legal bills related to the governor’s defense of a public records suit filed in 2015 by a media coalition.
The suit filed Wednesday in Wake County Superior Court asks for an order compelling the governor to fulfill a public records request first filed by the Observer in October.
In that request, the newspaper asked for correspondence and billing records related to Charlotte law firm Robinson Bradshaw & Hinson’s defense of the media coalition lawsuit, which was filed in July 2015.
In that complaint, media companies and public interest groups, including the Observer and The News & Observer of Raleigh, alleged that the McCrory administration had shown “patterns and practices of delay, obfuscation, non-responsiveness, foot-dragging and stonewalling” when it came to fulfilling public records requests.
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The Observer requested the Robinson Bradshaw & Hinson billing records in October, but did not receive any acknowledgment of the request.
The Observer’s counsel, Mike Tadych of Stevens Martin Vaughn & Tadych, in December emailed a lawyer working for McCrory about the request and was told the governor’s office was aware of the request, according to the complaint.
The suit asks the court to hold an immediate hearing on the matter.
McCrory representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
Wednesday’s suit is the second filed by the Observer against the administration in recent months. In October, the Observer sued McCrory seeking emails related to House Bill 2 that had been requested six months earlier. The paper began receiving emails from the governor a little more than a week later.
In the 2015 media coalition case, a three-judge N.C. Court of Appeals panel this week rejected an appeal by the governor that said he had “sovereign immunity” and could not be sued over a claim that is not specifically spelled out in law. Such protections, McCrory’s attorneys contended, should shield the governor from the broader claims in the media coalition’s lawsuit.
The appeals court ruling means the case could move forward in trial court, absent a review by the state Supreme Court. McCrory, a Republican, this month conceded in his election contest with Democrat Roy Cooper.
Anne Blythe of The (Raleigh) News & Observer contributed.