Publisher Arrested for Refusing to Exit Closed-Door Meeting

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

Thomas E. Boney Jr., 52, of Graham, 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. Boney has a court appearance scheduled for June 25.

“He’s got a valid point about having access to public meetings,” Johnson said.

Boney 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.

“The point is the issue of the loan should be conducted in the open,” he said. “The airport is a very good asset for the county. Our view with all these issues is they need to be handled publicly so taxpayers can see what is being contemplated on their behalf.”

Since the authority meeting, the Burlington City Council and Alamance County Board of Commissioners have been asked to approve the loan.

“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.

Airport authority chairman Dan Danieley didn’t immediately return a call Wednesday seeking comment.

The state Open Meetings 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. He was sued by the Burlington City Council in a pre-emptive attempt to stop him from challenging a closed meeting in 2002. He ultimately was given $33,000 in attorneys’ fees by the N.C. Supreme Court, which said the city had no reason to file its lawsuit.

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