N.C. Publisher Arrested for Refusing to Leave Meeting He Says Should Have Been Public

May 30, 2007
Newspaper publisher charged with trespassing after refusing to leave an airport authority meeting

BURLINGTON, N.C. - A newspaper publisher has been charged with trespassing after refusing to leave an airport authority meeting that officials went on to conduct behind closed doors.

Thomas E. Boney Jr. was arrested Tuesday at the meeting of the Burlington-Alamance Airport Authority, said Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson. Boney owns and edits The Alamance News, a weekly newspaper published in Graham.

Johnson he was forced to arrest the publisher, whom he didn't handcuff and allowed to ride in the front seat of his patrol car.

"He's got a valid point about having access to public meetings," Johnson said.

Boney, 52, of Graham, said he refused to leave the meeting voluntarily because the commissioners wouldn't assure him there would be no talk or vote about a proposed financing package for land bought to lure an unidentified manufacturer.

"They are desperate. They've already purchased the land. Now they are seeking a loan to finance it. The closing date is Thursday," Boney said, adding that negotiations with the manufacturer have taken longer than anticipated.

"The point is the issue of the loan should be conducted in the open," he said.

Airport authority chairman Dan Danieley did not immediately return a call seeking comment Wednesday.

The state sunshine law allows closed sessions to discuss land purchases or economic development, but Boney said the financial requests were "government expenditures and there's no exception for a closed meeting for that purpose."

Boney has long campaigned for open government meetings. The Burlington City Council sued him in a pre-emptive attempt to stop him from challenging a closed meeting in 2002. The North Carolina Supreme Court ordered the city to pay him $33,000 in attorneys' fees, saying the city had no reason to sue.

Boney has a June 25 court appearance on the misdemeanor trespassing charge.

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