The Charlotte Observer has filed a lawsuit against N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory seeking emails related to House Bill 2 that the newspaper first requested in April under the state’s public records law.
The suit filed Friday morning in Wake County Superior Court seeks an order compelling McCrory to disclose the records related to the controversial bill the governor signed into law in March.
On April 5, the Observer requested copies of emails sent or received by McCrory and his staff since Feb. 1 regarding a Charlotte nondiscrimination ordinance that was passed on Feb. 21 and later overturned by HB2 on March 23, according to the suit.
The Observer’s request included, but was not limited to, email exchanges with legislators, administration officials, companies, and Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina staff.
On April 7, Graham Wilson of the governor’s press office acknowledged the request, but the Observer has yet to receive the requested documents.
The suit asks for an immediate hearing on the matter and for an order compelling the governor to make the records available.
“It was no surprise to the governor’s office that his email is a public record,” said Observer Executive Editor Rick Thames. “Given the impact of HB2 on our state, it is appalling that he would ignore the law and continue to withhold that record six months after we requested it.”
McCrory’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
McCrory signed HB2 into law in March to nullify the Charlotte ordinance, which had generated controversy by protecting transgender people who use public restrooms based on their gender identity. HB2 also overrode local ordinances around the state that would have expanded protections for the LGBT community.
Opponents of the law have said it discriminates against LGBT individuals. In protest, the NCAA and Atlantic Coast Conference have pulled major college sporting events from the state, the NBA moved its All-Star Game from Charlotte, entertainers have canceled performances and business such as PayPal have pulled the plug on expansions.
McCrory has blamed politics for the HB2 fallout and said boycotts are being inconsistently applied to the state. Efforts to find a compromise that would include repealing the Charlotte ordinance and HB2 have not come to fruition.
A media coalition that includes the Observer filed a lawsuit in July 2015 against the McCrory administration, alleging a pattern of state records law violations that the plaintiffs say amount to “willful” failures to carry out mandatory duties.
Under state law, most records created by the government are to be available to the public as “promptly as possible.”
In a ruling in May, Superior Court Judge John Craig denied a motion to dismiss the suit, saying the news agencies are entitled to collect evidence to help the court determine whether the government is improperly delaying requests for public records.