February 10, 2016.
from Charleston County. J.C. Nicholson, Jr., Circuit Court
Judge. Appellate Case No. 2015-000406.
Clyde Childs, III, of The Childs Law Firm, and J. Falkner
Wilkes, both of Greenville, for Petitioner.
J. Hinchey, Jr. and Julia P. Copeland, both of Hinchey,
Murray & Pagliarini, LLC, of Charleston, for Respondent.
KITTREDGE. PLEICONES, C.J., BEATTY, HEARN, JJ., and Acting
Justice Tanya A. Gee, concur.
WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS
issued a writ of certiorari to review the court of
appeals' decision in Brock v. Town of Mount
Pleasant, 411 S.C. 106, 767 S.E.2d 203 (Ct.App. 2014),
that the Town of Mount Pleasant (the Town) did not violate
the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by taking unnoticed
action following executive sessions at special meetings.
Having carefully reviewed the record and law, we agree with
Petitioner Stephen George Brock that the Town technically
violated FOIA and that the court of appeals erred in relying
on the discussion of regular meetings in Lambries v.
Saluda County Council, 409 S.C. 1, 760 S.E.2d 785
(2014), in resolving the underlying challenge concerning
special meetings. We accordingly modify the decision of the
court of appeals. This technical FOIA violation shall be
included in the court of appeals' existing remand to the
trial court as an additional matter in Petitioner's
request for attorney's fees.
facts and procedural history are set forth in the court of
appeals' opinion. The disputed actions occurred during
special meetings for which the Town issued agendas listing an
executive session but not indicating Town Council would take
action following the executive session. Petitioner, who was a
member of the Town's Planning Commission and the
president and general manager of a local television station,
filed a complaint against the Town alleging numerous
violations of FOIA and seeking declaratory and injunctive
trial court granted Petitioner partial relief, but ruled
against him on the issue of " whether a matter added to
an agenda for an executive session may be acted on . . . by a
public body upon reconvening to open session." The court
of appeals ruled against Petitioner on the issue as well,
concluding that " the Town did not violate . . . FOIA by
acting on items added to special meeting agendas upon
reconvening to open session." Brock, 411 S.C.
at 124, 767 S.E.2d at 212. We issued a writ of certiorari to
review that portion of the court of appeals' opinion. We
note here that Petitioner does not seek to set aside any of
Town Council's actions, but merely seeks a declaration
that the Town violated FOIA.
The standard of review in a declaratory action is determined
by the underlying issues." Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co.
v. Rhoden, 398 S.C. 393, 398, 728 S.E.2d 477, 479 (2012)
(citing Felts v. Richland Cnty., 303 S.C. 354, 356,
400 S.E.2d 781, 782 (1991)). " The interpretation of a
statute is a question of law." Sparks v. Palmetto
Hardwood, Inc., 406 S.C. 124, 128, 750 S.E.2d 61, 63
(2013) (citing CFRE, L.L.C. v. Greenville Cnty.
Assessor, 395 S.C. 67, 74, 716 S.E.2d 877, 881 (2011)).
This Court may interpret statutes, and therefore resolve this
case, " without any deference to the court ...