Southern Environmental Law Center v. North Carolina Railroad Company

Supreme Court of North Carolina - August 13, 2021 - S.E.2d - 2021-NCSC-84 - 2021 WL 3575673

Requester brought action requesting the entry of an order declaring that the North Carolina Railroad Company was an agency of the State of North Carolina for purposes of the Public Records Act, declaring that the records requested from the railroad constituted public records, and ordering the railroad to make those records available for inspection.

After the case was designated a mandatory complex business case, the Superior Court granted railroad’s motion for summary judgment, and requester appealed.

The Supreme Court held that Railroad was not an agency of North Carolina government or a subdivision of such an agency.

North Carolina Railroad Company was not an agency of North Carolina government or a subdivision of such an agency as defined by the Public Records Act, although the State was the Railroad’s sole shareholder and the Railroad enjoyed a number of benefits due to its relationship with the State, where both the General Assembly and other governmental entities consistently treated the Railroad as a private corporation rather than a public agency or subdivision, the State lacked a sufficient degree of control over the day-to-day operations of the Railroad, and the Railroad consistently maintained its separate corporate identity and structure and made decisions independently of any directives that it might receive from governmental officials, and owned its own property and paid taxes to counties and the State.

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