State audit reveals NC Marine Fisheries Commission members violated open meeting laws

Published: Feb. 17, 2016 at 5:27 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 21, 2016 at 5:27 PM EST
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NORTH CAROLINA (WECT) - Emails shared among some members of the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries' Commission violated open meeting law, according to an audit by the NC Office of the State Auditor.

The 10-page report addresses a number of topics brought up by legislators, including alleged open meeting violations as well as spending, gifts and donations and licensing.

The alleged violation of open meeting law includes four separate email chains dated in Jan., Sept., July and Feb. 2015.

The emails occurred between commission members. The audit does not identify which members, but it states they were reminded by the Commission's legal counsel, Phillip Reynolds, of open meeting laws. They were also told to stop such communication via email.

Chairman Sammy Corbett said the laws are clearly stated.

"They tell you you really can't talk about this.unless the public is there to see what you're doing," Corbett said. "It's harder for some people more than others to be discussing things they shouldn't be discussing."

The audit also addresses why the NC Division of Marine Fisheries does not submit yearly internal audits. According to the report, the division is not required to do a yearly audit.

The findings also indicate where money for fishing licenses is deposited. According to the report, the money is deposited in various funds and the location of those funds is based on the type of license and the date of purchase.

"Only money from current season commercial fishing licenses not attributable to the recent fee increase is deposited in the NC General Revenue Fund," the audit states.

It's not immediately clear the consequences of the alleged violation of open meeting law. Commission chair Sammy Corbett said Wednesday morning he was just notified of the findings.

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