a new chapter in the controversy over the repeal of the Outer Banks’
plastic bag ban, a Kitty Hawk resident has filed suit in Wake County
Superior Court to compel State Representative Beverly Boswell to
release records of her correspondence related to that legislation.
The local ban on plastic bags was officially repealed on Oct. 4 when
the North Carolina General Assembly overrode Governor Roy Cooper’s veto
of a bill that included the repeal. Despite vocal opposition from Dare
County, its municipalities and the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce,
Boswell and State Sen. Bill Cook were staunch supporters of the repeal
The plaintiff in the lawsuit filed on Jan. 25, Craig Merrill, is a
prominent advocate for the bag ban. Merrill says that he tried on more
than a dozen occasions over roughly a nine-month period to request
records of the correspondence between Boswell’s office and the
residents and businesses she represents, but none were forthcoming.
He told the Sentinel that in seeking those records, he was “trying to
understand the driving force behind the drive to repeal the single-use
bag ban. I wanted to understand what her motivation and logic was.”
Chris Brook, the Legal Director of the ACLU of North Carolina, which is
representing Merrill in the suit, said the efforts to obtain Boswell’s
correspondence fall under the state’s public records law.
“North Carolina statutes are very clear that public records are the
property of the people of North Carolina,” he said. “The North Carolina
legislature decided long ago that we were going to have a robust public
records law in this state.”
When contacted by the Sentinel, Boswell’s legislative assistant, Beth
Strandberg, said the office would have no comment on an “ongoing legal”
Merrill said that at one point during his attempts to contact Boswell,
Strandberg responded to him, and “referred to limitations on the open
records law that, in my opinion, did not apply to my request.”
As far as the impact of the bag ban repeal in Dare County goes, when
the Sentinel checked late last year, local Food Lion stores, as well as
Wal-Mart in Kitty Hawk, were only offering paper bags, while Harris
Teeter was giving customers the option of paper or plastic.