Q: We received the following statement from our school district’s communications director when we asked about the status of candidates for the board of trustees:
“To preserve the continuity of the election filing period, (the school district) will release the names of everyone who has completed the filing process when the filing period ends on Feb. 16th @ 4 p.m.”
After perusing Texas attorney general opinions I was unable to find one that addresses when candidates have to be named.
Do you have any information that might help me understand why they can do this or why they cannot?
A: The filing is public information the moment a candidate files.
Perhaps the school district is conflating Government Code 552.126, EXCEPTION: CONFIDENTIALITY OF NAME OF APPLICANT FOR SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT, which says finalists for the appointed position of school district superintendent can be kept confidential up to 21 days before the date of the meeting at which a final action or vote is to be taken on the employment of the person.
Here’s a valuable resource you can share with the school district’s communications director and superintendent: https://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/laws/candidacy.shtml
There, under number 7, you will find cited Election Code Sec. 141.035, titled APPLICATION AS PUBLIC INFORMATION. It says: “Application and any accompanying petition is public information as soon as it is filed. Therefore, any person may request a viewing or a copy.”
Q: My weekly newspaper produces and prints two double editions on the week before we take off a week at the end of the year, so we can have a much-needed respite.
A postal service auditor noticed that we missed two publications and said we are not allowed to do so and must publish weekly, and that now we will have to fill out a form specifying which two weeks we will not publish and submit it with an $80 fee. We can do that, but I’d like to know for certain what the rule is. We’ve been doing this for years without any problem. Why is this suddenly a problem?
A: Texas Press Association postal consultant Joel Allis answered your question.
“You are required to have a stated frequency and publish accordingly,” he said. “It was stated originally when the periodical authorization was given and is part of the information provided in the annual Statement of Ownership. I don’t have immediate access to your last Statement of Ownership so I am not sure what was listed. USPS does expect the frequency to be met.”
A newspaper’s frequency can be changed if you submit USPS Form 3510 and pay the fee, Allis said.
“You have flexibility. You can say weekly except this week or that week or you could say weekly except two issues the week before Christmas — whatever you want your frequency to be.”
Q: A school district in a county contiguous to ours that has no in-county newspaper normally has its public notices printed in our newspaper. This makes sense to us because we include the school district’s news in our routine coverage. But the school district decided to publish a public notice of depository contract in a newspaper located in another county, and that newspaper doesn’t cover the school district. What can you tell me about this?
A: Municipalities and counties, as stated in Local Government Code, are required to cause public notices relating to the selection of a bank or credit union depository to be published in a qualified newspaper.
The Education Code, however, contains no such requirement. So let’s go to the overarching statute that pertains to local governmental bodies, Government Code Chapter 2051, (http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/GV/htm/GV.2051.htm).
In that chapter is Sec. 2051.048, NOTICE OF OTHER POLITICAL SUBDIVISION, and it says:
(a) This section applies only to a political subdivision other than a county or a conservation and reclamation district under Section 2051.047.
(b) A notice of a political subdivision shall be published in a newspaper that is published in the political subdivision and that will publish the notice at or below the legal rate.
(c) If no newspaper published in the political subdivision will publish the notice at or below the legal rate, the political subdivision shall publish the notice in a newspaper that:
(1) Is published in the county in which the political subdivision is located; and
(2) Will charge the legal rate or a lower rate.
(d) If no newspaper published in the county in which the political subdivision is located will publish the notice at or below the legal rate, the political subdivision shall post the notice at the door of the county courthouse of the county in which the political subdivision is located.
Now, let’s zero-in on Sec. 2051.048, paragraph (b), which says notices should be published “in a newspaper that is published in the political subdivision.”
You could ask the school district why the notice was published in another county and how the decision to do so was made. If you do that, you might also bring up the following section.
Sec. 2051.049, SELECTION OF NEWSPAPER, says: “The governmental entity or representative required to publish a notice in a newspaper shall select, in accordance with this subchapter, one or more newspapers to publish the notice.”
That section could be construed to suggest that it would have been in the school district’s interest to cause the notice to be published in your newspaper. Citizens who reside within the boundaries of any given school district have a right to know what their school district is doing or plans to do.