Onslow resident, ENC Weekly file lawsuit against Board of Education

POSTED: 6:03 PM Aug 28 2013   UPDATED: 6:10 PM Aug 28 2013
JACKSONVILLE, ONSLOW COUNTY -

A concerned tax payer in Onslow County and those at ENC Weekly have filed a lawsuit against the Board of Education through the N.C. Superior Court, accusing them of withholding public information.

"For me, this is a case about truth and transparency," said Mike Plienis.

Their attorney, Nathan Sweet, says this all started back in February at an Onslow County Board of Commissioners meeting. He says a school official allegedly lied about the condition of one of the schools that a bond is supposed to help replace.

Onslow County School officials are trying to get a $75 million bond -- paid off in part by tax dollars -- that will replace two older school buildings and provide extra security. The public will vote on this bond in November.

The lawsuit alleges that school officials have been having secret meetings about the bond with groups around the county. Plienis says after inquiring about where and when these meetings are, his requests have been ignored.

"If we're going to have groups of public employees going around giving public information to groups of the public about an issue that's going to be voted on by the public, we need to make sure that the truth is going out to all of these meetings," Plienis said.

Sweet is demanding calendars, emails and other correspondence about the bond issue from officials.

"We have a right, the media has a right, any person in our society has a right to access records that the state or local bodies have in their possession," Sweet said.

Public Information Office Suzie Ulbrich says school officials haven't done anything wrong.

"The Onslow County Board of Education takes very seriously its responsibilities under the statutes of the State of North Carolina, and also has made every effort to ensure that the citizens of Onslow County have a full understanding of the pending bond issue and the needs it is intended to address," Ulbrich said in a statement. "We do not believe that we have failed to comply with any of our public records obligations, and will defend this lawsuit fully. In the meantime, we will continue to focus our energy on serving the citizens of this County and providing a safe and meaningful educational experience for its students."