The Average Joe Test for your Board Agenda

Average Joe is just that—an average guy who lives in your school district. When you prepare your board agenda, it might be a good idea to think of how Average Joe would read it.  Average Joe has average intelligence and keeps up with local news to an average degree.  He is neither an activist nor an apathetic slacker. Just an Average Joe.

If Joe were to read your board agenda, would he have a good idea of what the board might do at that meeting?  Consider the following agenda item:

Discussion and Possible Action Regarding Calling a Special Election for May 7, 2016 to fill Unexpired Trustee Terms for [two named individuals].

To view this through Average Joe’s eyes, you have to assume that he knows no background to this.  He may not have known that there were vacancies on the board.  He knows nothing about Texas election laws or procedures for filling a vacancy on the board.

Given all of that, I’m guessing that if Average Joe read that agenda item he would understand that 1) there are two vacancies on the school board; 2) the board is going to talk about this situation; and 3) the board might call for a special election on May 7th.

Imagine, then, that Average Joe finds out on the day after the board meeting that the board did not call a special election. Instead, it appointed two individuals to fill the vacancies.  The agenda said nothing about appointment of trustees. It only mentioned a special election.

According to the Court of Appeals in Corpus Christi-Edinburg, the board that did this violated the Texas Open Meetings Act. Key Quotes:

This agenda item specifically stated that the Board would discuss calling a special election for May 7, 2016 to fill the vacancies. The agenda did not provide notice to the public that the  Board would either discuss or actually appoint replacement trustees at the February 9, 2016 meeting.

As such, we agree with [the Plaintiff] that by appointing the replacement trustees without notifying the public of that potential action prior to the meeting, the Board violated TOMA.

In other words, this agenda did not put Average Joe on notice of what might happen.  So after you have drafted your action items for the board agenda, go back and read them like Average Joe might read them.  The case is Lugo v. Donna ISD, decided by the Court of Appeals for Corpus Christi-Edinburg on November 30, 2017. We found it at 2017 WL 5953096.