Guilford County government has decided to stop worrying about a lawsuit from the Greensboro News & Record and three other area newspapers and finally move forward with the next phases of a plan to implement a new method of public notice – posting electronic notices on the county’s website – for a wide variety of legally required announcements.
For over a century, many types of public notices such as foreclosure announcements, legal announcements, tax liens, announcements of government meetings and other notices by law had to be publicized in a general interest newspaper with paying subscribers. However, over three years ago, the NC General Assembly voted to drop that requirement in Guilford County as part of a pilot plan in the state. Instead, notices in Guilford County could meet all legal requirements by being posted on the county’s website.
About two years ago, Guilford County, as the first step in this initiative, began putting its own notices on the county’s website – however, soon after the News & Record filed a lawsuit against the county and the state. While the county continued to put its own notices on the website, rather than in local newspapers, it did not move on to posting legal notices for local attorneys or posting the legally required notices for the cities and towns in the county.
While everyone knows the wheels of justice move slow, in this case those wheels seem to have ground to a complete stop. When Guilford County Attorney Mark Payne was asked recently about the status of the lawsuit, he said he had no news whatsoever.
The News & Record and three other newspapers taking the legal action – the High Point Enterprise, the Carolina Peacemaker and the Jamestown News – are opposed to the change because they lose revenue every time a notice is posted on the county’s website rather than in their newspapers.
Guilford County Clerk to the Board Robin Keller said the county is no longer waiting on a resolution of the lawsuit before moving on and expanding the program to other local governments. She said that, after the start of the New Year, Guilford County will begin posting notices from the cities and towns who wish to participate and then will continue on with program expansion plans despite the fact that the lawsuit hasn’t been resolved.
In addition to saving the county in advertising costs, as it’s already doing, the coming changes are expected to generate a good deal of revenue for Guilford County government from municipalities, private attorneys and others who must give public notice for things like foreclosures, deaths, public hearings and divorces.
In the past, Guilford County alone has spent between $70,000 to $100,000 to put required legal advertisements in the local papers.