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City ordered to pay news outlets’ costs in open meeting case

June 27, 2021 GMT

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — A judge has ordered a North Carolina city to pay over $4,000 in attorneys costs to a coalition of media outlets that successfully sued to open a portion of a City Council retreat.

The Citizen Times reports that the judge’s June 21 order said the city of Asheville must reimburse the Citizen Times, Mountain Xpress, Carolina Public Press and Blue Ridge Public Radio for their legal fees.

In March, Buncombe County Superior Court Judge Steven Warren ruled that it would be illegal for the council to close the public part of its annual retreat. The city subsequently announced that all of the retreat, except for a team-building portion, would be streamed online.

City Attorney Brad Branham had argued that a five-hour portion of the retreat at a casino’s arena did not constitute an official meeting and was an informal gathering and didn’t constitute an official meeting. But the judge ruled that it was a meeting subject to North Carolina’s open meetings law.