Texas open meetings

March 11, 2019

The Times published an editorial the other day that I agreed with.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals evidently invalidated the portion of the Texas Open Meetings Act that specified criminal penalties for members of government boards that arrange meetings with less than a quorum in order to avoid the requirement to make the meeting open to the public.

The Times editorial told us that our Texas Governor has written a letter to state board appointees and state agency chiefs telling them to “continue to follow the spirit” of the Texas Open Meetings Act without regard to the appeals court ruling.

Unfortunately our local governments are now free to meet in private and discuss public business as long as they do not have a quorum present.

We hope that our Texas legislature will take action soon to shore up the Open Meetings Act.

We deserve better

Brutus


Setting us up for failure

May 24, 2018

According to news reports our Mayor has signed a separation agreement with our soon to be departed city attorney.

We don’t know what the final version of the agreement looks like.

KTSM has evidently requested a copy under the Texas Public Information Act.  The city has yet to produce it even though the act reads:

Sec. 552.221. APPLICATION FOR PUBLIC INFORMATION; PRODUCTION OF PUBLIC INFORMATION. (a) An officer for public information of a governmental body shall promptly produce public information for inspection, duplication, or both on application by any person to the officer. In this subsection, “promptly” means as soon as possible under the circumstances, that is, within a reasonable time, without delay.

As soon as possible does not mean waiting the maximum amount of time that they can.  What it means is that if they have the document they should copy it as soon a a copy machine is available and turn it over to the requester.   Unfortunately the Act does not make this kind of stalling illegal.  We have learned that many of our public officials are willing to do things that are wrong if they know that they are not illegal.

The version that KTSM has received might not be the final one, however the one they got has this in it:

The person signing this Agreement on behalf of the City certifies that the person has full authority and approval to bind the City to this Agreement.

The mayor cannot agree to contracts without prior city council approval.

We deserve better

Brutus


Guest posts welcomed

October 29, 2017

A valued commentator recently wrote that it would be of value to see some tips about how to write open records requests.

He also suggested that we might invite other people to write posts about how they are dealing with our local governments.

We welcome guest posts.  Please keep them clean, civil, and not personal.  Email them to brutusep@yahoo.com with an indication of whether you wish to remain anonymous or the post can be published with your name.

Relative to the open records requests, please see this post from January 11, 2015.

We deserve better

Brutus


Trying to hide?

February 26, 2017

One of our city representatives complied with the open records request requiring that he turn over text messages relating to the serial quorum that he seems to have been involved in.

Partially

Actually he failed to turn over a key one that proves that he and others intended to violate the law by manipulating the number of members of council in a secret meeting.

What does that tell us?

We deserve better

Brutus


Pretty simple to do a good job

June 6, 2016

Evidently many of our local board members do not share our thoughts about what their  jobs are and are not,  so let’s talk about it.

The number one job of your board is to see to it that your entity provides the public with cost effective services according to your charter.

You do that through deciding policy and then managing your director/executive/administrator/manager .  Lets call this person your director.  Your director works for you.  You do not work for your director.  Your should see to it that your director executes the board’s policies morally, legally, and efficiently.

You are not there to be a rubber stamp for your director.  Not all ideas are good ideas.  You should question each and every action that comes before you as a board.  Unfortunately we see many cases in El Paso where agency staff flat out lies to their board.  Read your agendas.  Ask questions.  Reach out to people who know about the issue that are not involved with the agency.

Stop the favoritism.  If you were once a board member do not later take a job with the agency.  Do not hire your director and then let your director hire you.

Do not take money from your agency.  If they need something and you can give them an advantageous deal, give it to them for free.  If it looks bad you should avoid it.

If you must travel for your entity, pay for it yourself.  If you cannot afford it, don’t go.  Junkets look bad.

Don’t take a board position to advance your resume.  Be active, work for us!

Stay tuned in the coming days as we write about some examples of poor behavior on the part of boards and their directors/staffs.

We deserve better

Brutus


New blogs

January 2, 2016

We are fortunate to have two more local blogs helping to point out the things that are occurring at our local governments:

elpasopolitically

elptaxguardians

We have added them to our “More Blogs” button at the top of the banner.

They both seem to have inside sources involved in local government.  They are both worth reading.

We should support them in the hard work it takes to dig into the facts.

This is better!

Brutus


No answers from the Doctor

July 18, 2014

Well I was wrong again.

In Thank you Dr. Noe! I closed with “This is better”.

It was not.

After posting this item “Discussion of recent contract changes that were completed prior to the departure of former City Manager Joyce Wilson” on the Thursday before this week’s city council meeting, the doctor publicly told us that he wanted to withdraw the item.  He indicated that after discussing the issue with various city officials he had the answers he wanted.

What about us?

After meeting in executive session for a rather lengthy session council came back into open session and announced that the agenda item would be deleted and that the city would be furnishing a copy of the amended contract relating to  the deputy city manager that has been sent home but that will still be paid through next year.

His original agenda item included other contracts that were changed in the last days and hours of our former city manager.

Nothing is being said about those contracts if there were any.

We don’t know.

But why would the agenda item have been deleted and one contract change produced with no comment about other changes?

What would the harm have been in continuing with the agenda item?  Some personnel actions are not subject to public disclosure but all contracts are.  Were contracts with vendors modified at the last minute?  If no other contracts were modified we could have learned that in open session.

Instead the city published a single contract and we are left to wonder if there were others.

We deserve better

Brutus


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