Charlotte is months behind on posting City Council minutes. Where are they?

Staffing issues are to blame for months of missing Charlotte City Council meeting minutes, the city says, and it’s bringing in outside help to get caught up.

Meeting minutes, which provide a complete accounting of what’s said and voted on in meetings, are not posted publicly for the vast majority of City Council meetings dating back to May 2022. They’re typically posted on the City Clerk’s website and on the City Council’s online calendar. The smattering of posted minutes are from committee meetings.

The city told The Charlotte Observer it’s working to address the issue by bringing in a contractor to help work through the backlog.

In the meantime, the city notes, recordings of meetings are available online. And that means the city is likely still compliant with state law, a legal expert said. The Charlotte Ledger first reported on the existence of the backlog.

Where are Charlotte City Council meeting minutes?

The Charlotte City Council stands after swearing in at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022.
The Charlotte City Council stands after swearing in at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022.

“Staff turnover in the Clerk’s Office” has led to “a backlog of minutes that need to be transcribed, approved by Council and posted,” said city spokesman Lawrence Corley.

“Currently there is one full-time employee dedicated to transcribing, formatting and auditing all City Council verbatim minutes,” he said.

And the city has faced struggles trying to staff the clerk’s office back up.

The city first posted a part-time position in the Clerk’s Office in January 2022 after the retirement of another employee but received “no qualified applicants,” Corley said.

The job was then posted again in February 2022, and an offer was extended “to the most qualified applicant.” That offer was declined, which led to the job being posted again in April 2022. That posting led to a hire, but the “new hire became ill while at work and subsequently resigned.”

The position was posted again in September 2022 and is “listed as ‘open until filled,’” Corley said.

Amid the hiring issues, the city brought in a vendor in the spring to help get up to date on minutes. Corley did not immediately respond to a follow-up question about how much the vendor is being paid.

“Progress is being made to reduce the backlog,” Corley said, and the city will keep using the contractor until it’s cleared.

Is Charlotte violating NC law with missing meeting minutes?

The legal requirements for meeting minutes in North Carolina are governed by state statute G.S. 143-318.10, attorney Mike Tadych said.

The statute says that public bodies such as the City Council must “keep full and accurate minutes of all official meetings, including any closed sessions.”

But, it continues, those minutes “may be in the form of sound or video and sound recordings.” And video and audio recordings are available on the city website for most meetings. Meeting videos “are also available on YouTube and Facebook for viewing,” Corley noted.

“Thus, it sounds like they’re compliant in having kept them,” said Tadych, who works with the North Carolina Press Association.

The city must also comply with public records laws, he added. That means the city would be required to release “draft written minutes or ‘unapproved’ recordings” if they were requested, he said.