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Alcoa seeks minutes of Stanly meetings

Staff report
Alcoa Power Generating Inc. filed a brief in Stanly County Superior Court last Friday giving its reasons why Stanly County should produce minutes of what the company says were “secret meetings.”
At those secret meetings, Alcoa claims, Stanly County officials and several prominent citizens discussed the relicensing of the Yadkin Hydroelectric Project.
The brief is the latest court-connected development in the relicensing effort.
Meanwhile, state legislation has been introduced to set up a Yadkin River Trust and wrest control of the hydroelectric project from Alcoa.
Stanly County has characterized the notes or minutes Alcoa is seeking as attorney/client work product, which the county says should be protected.
In a June 5 letter, the county’s attorneys declined to provide access to the notes from meetings related to the relicensing on grounds that “Stanly County believes these documents are trial preparation materials that are exempt from disclosure” under a section of the Public Records Act.
Alcoa claims its efforts to obtain the minutes started 14 months ago when it requested documents under the N.C. Public Records Law that were related to the county’s opposition to the relicensing.
Alcoa says Stanly County essentially ignored the request, prompting the company to make a second request Aug. 8, 2008.
“This time, the county responded by producing the requested records slowly and sporadically,” said Joyce Fitzpatrick, a public relations consultant for the company.
Alcoa eventually sued Stanly County March 13 for the records and took depositions in May from four Stanly County officials, including Tony Dennis, chairman of the Stanly County Board of Commissioners, and Jerry Myers, former Stanly County manager.
“The deposition testimony revealed, for the first time, the existence of the secret Monday morning meetings and of notes or minutes of the meetings taken by Mr. Myers,” Fitzpatrick said.
Last Friday’s 14-page brief (plus numerous exhibits) goes with a motion that Alcoa filed after the county refused Alcoa’s demand for copies of the minutes, she added.
Alcoa says a judge is expected to schedule a court hearing on the motion this week.
Stanly County has made a motion to dismiss Alcoa’s action. “(Alcoa’s) claims are moot because Stanly County … has repeatedly asserted that it will produce to (Alcoa) all responsive public records that are not exempt from disclosure under the N.C. Public Records Law,” the county’s motion to dismiss says. “… Plaintiff’s claims fail because any document withheld … is trial preparation material.”
Alcoa attorneys also deposed Andy Lucas, the current county manager, and Chad Coble, the county’s director of information technology.
The company’s main argument is that Myers’ notes or minutes from numerous Monday morning meetings are not “protectable as trial preparation materials.”

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