North Carolina Department of Justice
North Carolina Department of Justice
North Carolina Department of Justice
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Reply to: Roy A. Giles, Jr. Property Control Section Telephone: (919) 733-7408 FAX: (919) 733-2947

March 1, 1999

Mr. Layton Getsinger Associate Vice-Chancellor

for Administration & Finance and Executive Director of Business Services East Carolina University 116 Spilman Building Greenville, North Carolina 27858-4353

Re: Advisory Opinion; Flexibility Legislation Pertaining to the Medical Faculty Practice Plan; Acquisitions and Dispositions of Real Property by the ECU Medical Faculty Practice Plan;

N.C.G.S. §116-40.6(d).

Dear Mr. Getsinger:

Section 11.8(f), Chapter 212 of the 1998 Session Laws enacted management flexibility legislation pertaining to the East Carolina University Medical Faculty Practice Plan (hereinafter referred to as the "Plan"). The legislation addressed four particular areas including (1) personnel, (2) purchasing, (3) property and (4) construction. The wording of N.C.G.S. §116-40.6(d) relating to property matters has raised certain questions for which you have sought the advice of this office.1

I. Procedures Normally Applicable to Acquisitions and Disposition of Real

1Legislation almost identical to N.C.G.S. §116-40.6(d) was enacted with regard to acquisitions and dispositions of real property by the University of North Carolina Health Care System. See, N.C.G.S. §116-37(i). In addition, pursuant to N.C.G.S. §116-37(a)(4) the Board of Directors of the University of North Carolina Health Care System is empowered to adopt policies that make the provisions of N.C.G.S. §116-37(i) applicable to the University of North Carolina Hospitals at Chapel Hill and the clinic patient care programs of the School of Medicine of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with regard to acquisitions and dispositions of interests in real property. Accordingly, the opinions expressed herein with regard to the interpretation of N.C.G.S. §116-40.6(d) are equally applicable to the provisions of N.C.G.S. §§116-37(a)(4) and 37(i).

Property by the State and Agencies

With the exception of acquisitions and dispositions of highway rights-of-way, most acquisitions and dispositions of interests in real property by the State or its agencies are governed by Chapter 146 of the General Statutes. Pursuant to that Chapter, the State Property Office, acting on behalf of the Department of Administration, serves as the "clearing house" for acquisitions and dispositions of interests in real property by the State and its agencies. An agency desiring to acquire or dispose of an interest in real property submits a request to the State Property Office. In the case of acquisitions, the State Property Office investigates the proposed acquisition and determines if the property is needed and the acquisition is in the best interest of the State. The State Property Office will generally have the property appraised, negotiate with the owners for acquisition, obtain surveys when necessary and request the Attorney General’s Office to have a title examination conducted with respect to the property. If negotiations for the purchase of the land are successful, the Department of Administration submits the proposed transaction to the Governor and Council of State for approval or disapproval. If the proposed acquisition is a purchase of land with an appraised value of at least $25,000.00, and for a purpose other than transportation, it may only be made after consultation with the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations.

N.C.G.S. §146-22. In the case of dispositions, if it is determined that the disposition is in the best interest of the State, the State Property Office will proceed to sell the property in accordance with its normal procedures for conveying interest in State property. Every sale, lease or rental of land owned by the State or any State agency must be approved by the Governor and Council of State, and, if the proposed disposition is a sale of land with an appraised value of at least $25,000.00, it may only be made after consultation with the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations. N.C.G.S. §146-27. The final authority to approve or disapprove acquisitions and dispositions under Chapter 146, except in those circumstances where the authority has been otherwise delegated, is vested in the Governor and Council of State.

II. N.C.G.S. § 116-40.6(d)

N.C.G.S. §116-40.6(d) reads as follows:

(d) Property. --Notwithstanding the provisions of Article 6 of Chapter 146 of the General Statutes to the contrary, the board of trustees shall establish rules and regulations to perform the functions otherwise prescribed for the Department of Administration in acquiring or disposing of any interest in real property for the use of the Medical Faculty Practice Plan. These rules and regulations shall include provisions for development of specifications, advertisement, and negotiations with owners for acquisition by purchase, gift, lease, or rental, but not by condemnation or exercise of eminent domain, on behalf of the Medical Faculty Practice Plan. The section does not authorize the board of trustees to encumber real property. Such rules and regulations shall be implemented by a property office maintained by East Carolina University. The board of trustees shall submit all initial rules and regulations adopted pursuant to this subsection to the State Property Office for review upon adoption. Any subsequent changes to these rules and regulations shall be submitted to the State Property Office for review. Any comments by the State Property Office shall be submitted to the Chancellor of East Carolina University and to the President of The University of North Carolina. After review by the Attorney General as to form and after the consummation of any such acquisition, East Carolina University shall promptly file, on behalf of the Medical Faculty Practice Plan, a report concerning the acquisition or disposition with the Governor and Council of State.

In light of the General Assembly’s enactment of this provision, various questions have been raised. Those questions and our responses follow:

Question: Should the "State of North Carolina" be named as the grantor/grantee in dispositions and acquisitions of real property on behalf of the Plan?

Answer: Yes

The Plan is not a corporate entity. It is a sub-agency within the East Carolina University System. N.C.G.S. § 116-40.6(d) does not authorize or empower the Plan to either acquire or dispose of title to real property in its own name. N.C.G.S. §146-24(b) provides that all conveyances of purchased real property shall be made to the "State of North Carolina". Every proposed conveyance in fee of State land must be executed in the name of the "State of North Carolina," and the deed must be signed by the Governor, attested by the Secretary of State and the great seal of the State of North Carolina must be affixed. N.C.G.S. § 146-75 and N.C.G.S. § 146-76.

Question: Under N.C.G.S. §116-40.6(d) is the Plan exempted from the requirements contained in N.C.G.S. §146-22 and N.C.G.S. §146-27 pertaining to consultation with the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations and approval by the Governor and Council of State with regard to acquisitions and dispositions of real property?

Answer: No.

The cardinal rule of statutory construction is that legislation must be construed to accomplish the General Assembly’s intent. Sutton v. Aetna Casualty and Surety Co.., 325 N.C. 259, 265, 280 S.E.2d 759 (1989). The best indicia of legislative intention are the language of the statute, its spirit and purpose. Savings and Loan League v. Credit Union Comm., 302 N.S. 458, 276 S.E.2d 404 (1981). Moreover, when interpreting statutes, the words in the statute are to be given their ordinary meaning unless the General Assembly has specifically defined them or they have an acquired technical meaning. Food Town Stores v. City of Salisbury, 300 N.C. 21, 265 S.E.2d 123 (1980). Finally, when trying to determine legislative intent, the courts do not consider statements or testimony by members of the General Assembly as to the statute’s purpose or its intended construction. E.g., Milk Commission v. National Food Store, 270 N.C. 323, 332-33, 154 S.E.2d 548 (1967).

N.C.G.S.
§116-40.6(d) authorizes the Plan to establish rules and regulations to perform the "functions" otherwise prescribed for the Department of Administration in acquiring or disposing of real property. The functions prescribed for the Department of Administration in acquiring or disposing of real property require consultation with the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations and obtaining Governor and Council of State approval of acquisitions and dispositions of real property as set forth in
N.C.G.S.
§146-22 and N.C.G.S. §146-27.

We find no language in N.C.G.S. §116-40.6(d) which specifically or impliedly exempts the Plan from these requirements. Although the last sentence in this section requires the Plan to file reports concerning acquisitions and dispositions with the Governor and Council of State following the consummation of the transactions, this provision cannot be interpreted as impliedly exempting the Plan from the requirements of N.C.G.S. §146-22 and N.C.G.S. §146-27.

Question: Under N.C.G.S. §116-40.6(d) is the Plan authorized to employ outside legal counsel to perform legal services in connection with the acquisition and dispositions of real property?

Answer: No.

The Attorney General is counsel for all departments, officer, agencies, institutions, commissions, bureaus or other organized activities of the State which receive support in whole or in part from the State. Private legal counsel may be employed only with the approval of the Governor after the Attorney General has indicated it is impractical for the Attorney General to render the legal service. N.C.G.S. §147-17(a) and (b).

Pursuant to existing arrangements between the Governor and the Attorney General, the Attorney General is responsible for hiring outside legal counsel to perform legal services in connection with the acquisition of real property on behalf of the State and its agencies. Normally the office of the Attorney General performs all legal services on behalf of the State or its agencies with regard to the disposition of an interest in real property. The purchaser of real property from the State is responsible for obtaining any legal services desired by him in connection with the proposed acquisition from the State.

N.C.G.S. §116-40.6(d) in no way changes the responsibility for employment of outside legal counsel by the State or State agencies as set forth in N.C.G.S. §147-17. Accordingly, the Office of the Attorney General will continue to be responsible for employment of outside legal counsel required in connection with acquisitions of real property pursuant to N.C.G.S. §116-40.6(d).

In conclusion, all acquisitions and dispositions pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 11640.6(d) must be made in the name of the State of North Carolina. Deeds conveying real property shall continue to be executed in the normal manner for execution of deeds by the State. All acquisitions and dispositions on behalf of the Plan must be approved by the Governor and Council of State, unless exempted by a previous rule adopted by the Council of State, and when the $25,000.00 benchmark is applicable, the Plan must consult with the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations prior to proceeding with the acquisition or disposition. Lastly, the responsibility of hiring outside legal counsel in connection with any acquisition on behalf of the Plan will continue to be performed by the Office of the Attorney General.

Very truly yours,

Grayson K. Kelley Senior Deputy Attorney General Special Litigation/Education Division

Roy A. Giles, Jr. Special Deputy Attorney General

Thomas J. Ziko Special Deputy Attorney General

RAGjr/TKZ:fpt

No. 3902
cc: Ben Irons, II Greg Hassler Susan Ehringhaus