Our city charter makes provisions for the removal of elected city officials as follows:
Any elected City official shall be subject to removal from office if that official:
Is convicted of any felony, or of a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude;
Violates the City Ethics Ordinance;
In the case of the Mayor or a Representative, fails to attend three consecutive regular meetings of the Council without being excused by the Council.
There are other provisions but the three ones above seem most likely to apply to members of our city council if they are found to be guilty of violating the Texas Open Meetings Act.
Our Texas first court of appeals has declared six definitions of moral turpitude:
- Crimes involving moral turpitude are those that involve dishonesty, fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, or deliberate violence.
- Offenses concerning matters of personal morality.
- Anything done knowingly contrary to justice, honesty, principle, or good morals.
- An act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private and social duties which a man owes to his fellow men or to society in general.
- Something immoral in itself, regardless of whether it is punishable by law. The doing of the act itself, and not its prohibition by statute, fixes the moral turpitude.
- Immoral conduct is that conduct which is willful, flagrant, or shameless, and which shows a moral indifference to the opinion of the good and respectable members of the community.
Not being a judge or jury our personal opinion is that the recent serial meetings of some of our council members would qualify as an offense of moral turpitude under numbers 1, 3, 5 and 6.
El Paso’s ordinance is numbered 017112. We don’t need to read very far into it to find in section 2.92.010 the following: “At the very least, being ethical includes being disposed to comply with all laws that apply to one’s position”.
If the members of council are found guilty of violating the Texas Open Meetings Act it seems that our ethics ordinance would find them to be un-ethical.
Failing to attend council meetings
City council now has a bi-weekly regular meeting schedule. If any of them end up in the county jail for more than six weeks they will probably miss three meetings.
There is a lot at stake here for both the public and the city council members being investigated.
We would have all been better off if they had respected our right to transparency.
We deserve better