The Sandhills Files: Destroying Public Records?

The way things are looking, the George Little-chaired Sandhills Community College Board of Trustees may find itself in hotter water than the Village of Pinehurst when it comes to the state Open Meetings Law.

SCC board of trustees meeting agendas — since as far back as October 2018 — have included THIS notation:

In other words, the board meeting will be recorded, but the tape will be destroyed after the meeting minutes have been completed.   Is that kosher?  Is it in line with state law?

How do we know the minutes are complete and accurate if the recordings are erased after the transcription of the meetings?   Board of Trustees minutes are not approved until the next upcoming meeting — two months later.  How would one dispute the minutes of the previous meeting if the recording has been destroyed?

Sandhills Community College IS a state facility.  It can be fairly assumed that all agenda items for the meetings are therefore public business. 

The UNC School of Government is widely seen as the authority on all matters related to the functioning of government bodies across the state.  Here’s what they had to say in 2022 about public records and record retention:

Hmmm.  “Sound recordings.”  It “sounds” like those meeting recordings DO INDEED count as public records. 




DOES the college have an “internal policy ” or minimum “retention period” clearly established in writing?  If not, they could be in violation of the Open meetings law. 

If you examine the meeting minutes documents for the board, they are quite vague.  Readers are not given details on any in-meeting policy discussions. Also, readers are not given copies or details on documents mentioned in the minutes.  A retained recording could help clarify things for interested parties.

Why not retain the recordings?  Body-cams have been a big help to police officers trying to defend their actions in the field.  Perhaps the recordings could help the board of trustees in any future instances where they have to defend their actions.