(The Center Square) – The North Carolina Republican Party has filed a lawsuit against Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper for failing to hand over his schedule and travel records.
In the lawsuit filed Wednesday, the NCGOP asked the Superior Court of Wake County to order Cooper to immediately release the records and pay attorney fees and other costs associated with filing the claim.
"Despite his repeated promises of transparency, Gov. Cooper has been the most secretive governor in North Carolina history," NCGOP Chairperson Michael Whatley said. "The voters have a right to know what their governor is doing – even if he isn't actually doing anything to help them."
Under North Carolina's open records law, NCGOP Chief Counsel Philip Thomas sent a letter to Cooper's office July 29 requesting his schedule, travel finance reports, travel and flight plans and communication regarding his travel from Jan. 1 to date. After waiting a month-and-a-half without a response from Cooper's office, Thomas followed up Sept. 21, the lawsuit said.
Cooper's office responded to the follow-up request by saying it was "gathering and reviewing records that may be responsive" to the request, and it will make the "records available" once their "review process is complete."
As of Wednesday, NCGOP had yet to receive the records.
"North Carolina's public records laws were written to hold officeholders accountable, and we hope that the court will rule expeditiously to show North Carolina voters what the governor has been up to while he has been holed up in the Governor's Mansion," Whatley said.
Cooper's office did not respond to a request for comment.
Various media outlets also have sued Cooper for his administration's failure to provide public records.
In January, Charlotte's WBTV filed a lawsuit against Cooper and public safety officials for not providing records related to two trips Cooper took last year for political fundraisers in New York City.
A reporter at WBTV first requested records related to Cooper's travel for the two trips from the North Carolina State Highway Patrol on July 29, 2019. The agency provided seven pages of records, but the lawsuit said a reporter submitted a second request in October for additional documents related to the trips. The October request was denied, the lawsuit said.
In May, a coalition of more than two dozen media outlets sued Cooper, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen and Department of Public Safety Secretary Erik Hooks for not fulfilling 20 requests for records related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
WBTV, which also one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, reported Cooper said state employees were "stretched to the max" during the pandemic.
Cooper's office also has screened virtual news conferences, shutting out members of the media from asking questions.
"We have never had a less transparent governor than Roy Cooper," Whatley said. "Other than his closed-press press conferences and a few photo ops like his famous march with rioters, looters and vandals in front of the Governor's Mansion, voters have not seen the governor anywhere in North Carolina for more than eight months and have never been able to see his daily schedule."