Carolina Public Press press release:
ASHEVILLE — As Carolina Public Press and four other local-media outlets prepare for a court hearing Sept. 4, seeking the release of the Asheville Police Department evidence-room audit commissioned by Asheville City Council, the media coalition’s attorney has filed a new affidavit stating facts in the case.
The affidavit, written by Carolina Public Press Investigations and Open Government Editor Jon Elliston, summarizes key developments since the June 25 filing of the public-records lawsuit, which was jointly filed by CPP, the Asheville Citizen-Times, Mountain Xpress, WCQS and WLOS. Attorney Charles Coble, with the lawfirm Brooks Pierce, represents the coalition. Carolina Public Press organized the coalition’s formation.
The lawsuit contends that the evidence-room audit, which Asheville City Council appropriated $175,000 for in April 2011, is a public record and, as such, should be released in accordance with the state’s public records law.
The audit was conducted by Blueline Systems & Services and delivered last January to Buncombe County District Attorney Ron Moore, who has refused or ignored numerous requests to release the document. Meanwhile, officials with the city of Asheville have only in recent weeks begun to explore obtaining a copy.
The affidavit notes a series of relevant events and communications that have occurred since the original filing, including:
• The July 26 City Council meeting presentation by Mike Wright, Blueline’s manager, who described deep disarray in the evidence room and listed several of the recommendations his company included in the audit.
• Asheville Police Chief William Anderson’s statement, at the same meeting, that his department needs to see the audit report to help upgrade its operations.
• Asheville City Council’s instruction to City Attorney Bob Oast, at the same meeting, to request from Buncombe County District Attorney Ron Moore the recommendations stemming from the audit.
• The public release of five APD evidence-room internal inspections conducted since April 2011 (combined with the previous release of such inspection reports dating back to 2008), suggesting that the Blueline audit is the only inspection of the APD evidence room that has not been released.
• The recent push by council member Gordon Smith for the city to obtain at least a redacted copy of the audit, which is owed to the city, according to the contract for the audit approved by council. “We signed a legal contract with the company that calls for the release of a redacted copy in the event that the entire audit could not be released,” Smith wrote in one email cited in the affidavit. “It’s my opinion that we ought to execute the contract as we agreed. Otherwise we are abandoning the level of transparency available to us per the terms.
That email, as well as other public records recently obtained by Carolina Public Press, is attached as an exhibit to the affidavit, which can be viewed in its entirety below.