The North Carolina Supreme Court ruled on Aug. 13 that the North Carolina Railroad Co. is not required to share records with the public, even though it is owned by the state.
The decision upholds a lower court’s ruling. The state’s open records law calls for records to be available for public viewing.
The Southern Environmental Law Center pulled the short line railroad company into court back in 2019 after a rail project covering Durham and Orange counties crumbled after $160 million was spent.
The railroad owns 317 miles of track running from Charlotte to Morehead City. The state of North Carolina is the sole shareholder, and the board is appointed by the governor and General Assembly leaders.
“We determine that the railroad has been an independent, private corporation since it was chartered in 1849,” said State Supreme Court Justice Sam Ervin, “and that, while the state does exert a considerable degree of control over the railroad, it primarily exercises this authority in its capacity as the railroad’s sole shareholder rather than its capacity as a sovereign.”
Due to the fact other governmental entities consistently treat the short-liner like a private business, the Supreme Court said it is therefore not subject to the state’s open records act.