Snort, here. Rip Snort. Intrepid Reporter. Friend of the Truth.

Dear Dawg:  The High Muckety Mucks in charge of the Serenity Falls ISD seem to think they are not required to comply with the Texas Open Meetings Act. As you know, Dawg, the legislature now requires that every citizen who wishes to speak to the board at a board meeting must be allowed to do so. And they are allowed to address every single item on the agenda. 

Last week the board held a meeting with 15 items on the agenda.  There was a group of Involved and Intelligent Citizens who wanted to speak to each of those items. But the board would not allow it. First, the board informed its subjects that public comment would only take place at the start of the meeting.  Once that was over and the board started to take up its 15 agenda items, the Citizens would be muzzled. Furthermore, each of the Involved and Intelligent Citizens—there were eight of them--was restricted to three minutes. Three minutes TOTAL—not three minutes per agenda item. 

This is a violation of basic norms of Democracy, Dawg.  Please straighten these people out.  SNORT.

DEAR SNORT: Always good to hear from you, Snort.  But I’m not sure you have encountered the Attorney General’s Opinion about these issues. Mr. Paxton opined that it’s perfectly OK for the board to limit public comment to the beginning of the meeting.  His opinion addressed questions posed by a county, but the answer applies to all governmental entities.  Key Quote:

A county may satisfy subsection 551.007(b)’s requirements by having a single public comment period at the beginning of an open meeting to address all items on the agenda.

He also said the board could restrict each speaker to a timeframe as long as it was “reasonable.”  So you had eight people who each wanted to speak to each of 15 agenda items.  If you give each person two minutes, you would then have a public comment period that lasts 240 minutes (8x2x15). That’s four hours. Is that ”reasonable”?  Or would it be “reasonable” for the board to cap each speaker at maybe 3 minutes total?

The AG did not define “reasonable” declaring it to be a factual determination that involves multiple factors. Key Quote:

Pursuant to subsection 551.007(c), a governmental body may adopt a rule capping the total amount of time a member of the public has to address all items on the agenda if the rule is reasonable.

It’s KP-300, issued on April 22, 2020.  Keep coming back, Snort.


Tomorrow: English teacher blows the whistle on the history teacher.