BEAUFORT — A commercial fishing advocacy group has dropped its civil complaint against the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission that alleged the commission had violated the N.C. Open Meetings Law.

The N.C. Fisheries Association, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting the state seafood industry, voluntarily dismissed a civil complaint it filed March 28, 2018, in Carteret County Superior Civil Court against the MFC. It was dismissed Sept. 25. The fisheries association alleged in its complaint the commission violated the state’s Open Meetings Law, a section of state statutes that sets the requirements for meetings of public bodies like the MFC.

The News-Times contacted the N.C. Department of Justice, which represents state agencies in legal matters, and NCDOJ Public Information Officer Laura Brewer confirmed the complaint had been voluntarily dismissed without prejudice. However, she said all other requested information on the matter was “privileged client information.”

The New-Times also reached out to the N.C. Fisheries Association and its attorneys for comment. However, nobody was available before presstime.

The association sought to stop action the commission took at its Feb. 14-15, 2018, regular meeting, which would change the requirements for commercial fishing licenses, including requiring license holders to demonstrate minimum levels of participation in a given fishery through landing reports or trip tickets. The association said in 2016, a state auditor found several MFC members exchanging emails to discuss the proposed license requirement changes, which it alleged was a violation of the Open Meetings Law.

Additional allegations were made that later actions by the commission also violated the meetings law, including an allegation that in April 2017, the then-chairman advised commissioners at a funding committee meeting to discuss issues over the phone rather than email because there wouldn’t be a record.

Contact Mike Shutak at 252-726-7081 ext. 206, email mike@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.  

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