North Carolina Supreme Court to examine Smithfield payments
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina’s highest court will weigh in on whether money paid by the world’s largest pork producer for environmental restoration projects should go to public schools instead.
The state Supreme Court announced Friday it would hear appeals in a lawsuit involving a 2000 agreement between Smithfield Foods and then-Attorney General Mike Easley. Smithfield has paid $2 million annually for 25 years. Easley’s successors enforce the agreement and distribute funds.
A conservative activist and later the New Hanover County school board sued, contending Smithfield’s payments are civil penalties for past environmental violations, so the state constitution requires they go to schools.
A trial judge dismissed the lawsuit, but the Court of Appeals resurrected it last September. Current Attorney General Josh Stein and other parties asked the justices to step in.