By Benjamin Schachtman | May 5, 2020 at 5:07 PM EDT – Updated May 5 at 5:07 PM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (PORT CITY DAILY) – For nearly two months, former New Hanover County Schools district General Counsel Wayne Bullard has refused to comply with a public records request for his phone records, despite being directed to do so by both the district’s interim superintendent and his replacement as general counsel.
Both state law and the New Hanover County Board of Education’s policy require public records to be maintained and provided for inspection in accordance with North Carolina Public Records Laws.
While the Board of Education has declined to comment on the situation, on Monday the district turned over two letters sent to Bullard: the first sent from Interim Superintendent Dr. Del Burns and the second sent from Deborah R. Stagner, of the Tharrington Smith, LLP law firm, who is the interim attorney for the Board of Education.
The request stems from several incidents where Bullard was seen filming ‘call to the audience’ speakers during board meetings. Bullard selectively filmed several speakers who criticized Bullard directly or the district in general.
Several of those speakers, and one board member, called Bullard’s behavior intimidation, and the district said “[i]t is not policy or practice for videotaping or photography to occur from the board table at any time.”
The day after Bullard announced his resignation, both Port City Daily and WECT requested his phone records — including any images or videos created and stored on his personal phone. The following week, NHCS agreed these were in fact public records.
On March 16, a day before Bullard’s resignation took effect, Burns emailed Bullard. Burns acknowledged that Bullard’s position was that his phone records were personal, but formally requested that Bullard turn over his phone records, saying “I believe there is a reasonable basis to consider them public records.”
Port City Daily refiled its public record request, noting that destruction of a public record is prohibited by state law except where permission has been granted by the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (to date, no such permission has been granted).
Letter from interim board attorney
Over a month after the request, following Port City Daily’s renewed public records request, Bullard was contacted by Stagner, who reiterated the district’s request that he turn over his phone records. Stagner went into greater detail about the laws requiring this.
According to Gibson, as of May 4 Bullard had not responded to Stagner’s request, either. Bullard has not responded to any request for comment from Port City Daily since he announced his resignation.
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