WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – The Wilmington Housing Authority says it could cost more than $70,000 to fulfill a public records request from Napier Fuller, a former candidate for Wilmington City Council and New Hanover County Commission.
Last month, Fuller requested an electronic copy of all digital documents, including emails and letters, from the WHA CEO and board members dating back to 2009.
He also asked to inspect all files involving legal settlements during the same time period.
Fuller said following the shooting of a sheriff's deputy in the housing authority's Creekwood community, he became interested in how often the housing authority evicted residents suspected of criminal activity.
According to a WHA press release issued Friday, the request will involve approximately 93,000 emails and 11,000 documents. A legal review of the documents is expected to cost more than $70,000.
"I had no idea it was going to be this complicated to get the information," Fuller said. "It's not been a problem with other organizations I've dealt with."
Fuller filed a formal complaint with NC Attorney General Roy Cooper's office Friday and said he has considered legal action against the housing authority.
"I looked at actually filing a lawsuit against WHA to get the information, but it would cost at least $200 for the filing fee plus it would have to go to arbitration, and I would have to pay for all that," Fuller said.
Late Friday, Fuller narrowed his request to emails sent and received from the WHA CEO since 2010.
But in his amended request, he questioned the need for a legal review of each email, suggesting the authority use search algorithms instead.
"It sounds easy on paper when someone makes that recommendation, but when we start looking at logistics, it's not as easy," said Jeff Hovis, chair of the WHA board.
Hovis stressed the importance of protecting confidential information.
"We have a responsibility to our residents, to citizens, to investors, to a number of different people, to employees," he said.
Hovis said a $70,000 legal bill would force a reduction in programs at the housing authority, and could affect a staff position.
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