120C-102. Request for advice.

(a) At the request of any person, State agency, or governmental unit affected by this Chapter, the Commission shall render advice on specific questions involving the meaning and application of this Chapter and that person's, State agency's, or any governmental unit's compliance therewith. Requests for advice and advice rendered in response to those requests shall relate to real or reasonably anticipated fact settings or circumstances.

(b) A request for a formal opinion under subsection (a) of this section shall be in writing, electronic or otherwise. The Commission shall issue formal advisory opinions having prospective application only. An individual, State agency, or governmental unit who relies upon the advice provided to that individual, State agency, or governmental unit on a specific matter addressed by a requested formal advisory opinion shall be immune from all of the following:

(1) Investigation by the Commission.

(2) Any adverse action by the employing entity.

(3) Investigation by the Secretary of State.

(c) Staff to the Commission may issue advice, but not formal advisory opinions, under procedures adopted by the Commission.

(d) The Commission shall publish its formal advisory opinions within 30 days of issuance, edited as necessary to protect the identities of the individuals requesting opinions.

(e) Except as provided under subsections (c) and (e1) of this section, a request for advice, any advice provided by Commission staff, any formal advisory opinions, any supporting documents submitted or caused to be submitted to the Commission or Commission staff, and any documents prepared or collected by the State Board or the State Board staff in connection with a request for advice are confidential. The identity of the individual, State agency, or governmental unit making the request for advice, the existence of the request, and any information related to the request may not be revealed without the consent of the requestor. An individual, State agency, or governmental unit who requests advice or receives advice, including a formal advisory opinion, may authorize the release to any other person, the State, or any governmental unit of the request, the advice, or any supporting documents.

For purposes of this section, "document" is as defined in G.S. 120-129. Requests for advice, any advice, and any documents related to requests for advice are not "public records" as defined in G.S. 132-1.

(e1) Staff to the Commission may share all information and documents related to requests under subsection (a) and (a1) of this section with staff of the Office of the Secretary of State. The information and documents in the possession of the staff of the Office of the Secretary of State shall remain confidential and not public records. The Commission shall forward an unedited copy of each formal advisory opinion under this section to the Secretary of State at the time the formal advisory opinion is issued to the requestor, and the Secretary of State shall treat that unedited advisory opinion as confidential and not a public record.

(f) Requests for advisory opinions may be withdrawn by the requestor at any time prior to the issuance of a formal advisory opinion. (2006-201, s. 18; 2007-348, s. 10; 2008-213, s. 2(c); 2009-570, s. 14; 2016-125, 4th Ex. Sess., s. 4; 2017-6, ss. 2, 3, 6; 2018-146, s. 3.1(a), (b).)