Landis resident told to leave public meeting
LANDIS — A Landis police detective told a resident she had to leave town hall property this week as a public meeting went on inside.
Though Nadine Cherry had the right, by law, to be there, the town’s mayor says he made the call to tell her to leave and would do it again.
Cherry, who regularly attends town board meetings and for nearly 10 years has recorded them on her video camera, said she was shocked by the order.
After adjourning a scheduled special meeting Wednesday, the town called an emergency meeting to discuss an ongoing criminal investigation. Cherry, the only resident who attended, left the meeting chambers as required when the town board went into closed session.
A short time later, as she stood outside the front door to Town Hall waiting for the board to end its closed session and resume the open meeting, Cherry was told to leave by Landis Police Detective Roger Hosey.
Cherry said she was stunned, but got into her car and left. She later told a Post reporter she felt the officer didn’t have the right to ask her to leave, but since he was law enforcement, she did what he said.
“He is an officer of the law and I know he had the right to arrest me,” she said.
But the law was apparently on Cherry’s side. A government body has the right to go into closed session to discuss certain matters, but must resume its public session to take action or adjourn the meeting.
In most cases during a closed session in Landis, residents wait outside in front of town hall until the session has concluded.
Amanda Martin, an attorney who represents the Salisbury Post and the N.C. Press Association, said Cherry “had a right to be there and they did not have the right to ask her to leave.”
But Martin said there is a gray area regarding where a person can stand, sit or wait while a board meets during a closed session. And she said in many instances, people who are told to leave just comply if they feel the alternative may be arrest.
Landis Mayor James Furr said the decision was his to have Cherry removed from the property. Furr said he asked the detective to remove Cherry. Although Cherry was separated from the board’s meeting room by a glass entrance door, a small lobby and another glass door, Furr said he believed Cherry was shooting video of the proceedings from outside.
“I don’t believe she has any right to make a recording of that proceeding. She had the video camera looking into the monitor pointed straight at me,” Furr said.
When asked why Cherry wasn’t simply instructed to turn off or put away her camera, Furr said he didn’t know the capabilities of her equipment. He said the board was discussing sensitive town information regarding a criminal investigation, and he felt he had the right to ask Cherry to leave.
“I don’t know if she wanted to get a copy of it (the meeting) or attempt to lip read,” he said.
Cherry said she recalls having her camera pointed toward the door, but denies trying to record the meeting. She said she was playing back what she’d recorded from the special meeting that had adjourned moments earlier, a meeting in which town board members considered a resolution concerning road improvements.
Cherry said she wasn’t concerned about the closed-door meeting because she knew the board would eventually discuss any subject that concerned residents in an open setting.
She did want to know why she was asked to leave that night. According to Cherry, the detective told her she had to leave because it was an executive meeting.
“I told him ‘I have not been asked to leave before. We’ve always been out here,’ ” Cherry said.
Cherry suffered a traumatic brain injury a number of years ago and records the meetings, she said, for her own memory and records.
“My intentions are not to do anything to harm this town. I am the one who is a consistent person that comes to the meeting. I’m interested in this town,” she said.
Cherry said she couldn’t see the mayor from the doorway. The mayor and the rest of the board sit in the front of the room on a platform. She said the most she could see from outside the door would be the end of a table near the front of the room.
Detective Hosey said he is an employee of the town and the decision was not his to ask Cherry to leave.
“As an officer of the town that’s what I did,” he said.
“I personally believe there was legal grounds for it. It was lawful to ask her to leave,” Hosey said.
Hosey said if the mayor had asked him to have Cherry stop shooting video, he would have asked her to stop.
Cherry said she did make phone calls to the N.C. Attorney General’s Office to determine what her rights were in this matter. She was told it was a local matter and she would have to contact local officials.
Friday afternoon, Cherry said she left messages for Town Manager Reed Linn, but had not gotten a response. Cherry was told Linn was working on the town’s budget and was not immediately available. She also went to the Landis Police Department to speak with Hosey, but he was not available.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253. Twitter: www.twitter.com/salpostpotts Facebook: www.facebook.com/Shavonne.SalisburyPost.