Q: More than 100 qualified voters in our county signed a petition to create another emergency services district that includes their land.
Our county commissioners court approved the creation of the new district at a regular meeting and then a public hearing was conducted to get input from taxpayers.
In short, enough support was shown and county officials acted as required according to the process outlined in Health and Safety Code Chapter 775 (EMERGENCY SERVICES DISTRICTS) — until now.
What’s happening is that the county elections administrator plans only to post the notice of an election to create the district at polling places in the district and to skip having us — the newspaper of record — publish the election notice. Is that allowed?
A: Under Health and Safety Code Sec. 775.018, ELECTION, paragraph (a) says: “On the granting of a petition, the commissioners court shall order an election to confirm the district’s creation and authorize the imposition of a tax not to exceed the rate allowed by Section 48-e, Article III, Texas Constitution. Any conditions negotiated under Section 775.014(h) must be included on the ballot.”
Scroll down to paragraph (d) and you will find that “(s)ubject to Section 4.003, Election Code, the notice of the election shall be given in the same manner as the notice of the petition hearing.”
In Election Code Sec. 4.003, METHOD OF GIVING NOTICE, we find that: (a) Except as provided by Subsection (c), notice of an election must be given by any one or more of the following methods:
(1) By publishing the notice at least once, not earlier than the 30th day or later than the 10th day before election day:
(A) In a newspaper published in the territory that is covered by the election and is in the jurisdiction of the authority responsible for giving the notice; or
(B) In a newspaper of general circulation in the territory if none is published in the jurisdiction of the authority responsible for giving the notice;
(2) By posting, not later than the 21st day before election day, a copy of the notice at a public place in each election precinct that is in the jurisdiction of the authority responsible for giving the notice; or
(3) By mailing, not later than the 10th day before Election Day, a copy of the notice to each registered voter of the territory that is covered by the election and is in the jurisdiction of the authority responsible for giving the notice.
Next, and importantly, see paragraph (c), which says: “In addition to any other notice given, notice of an election ordered by a commissioners court or by an authority of a city or school district must be given by the method prescribed by Subsection (a)(1).
So, look back at (a)(1) and you will see that publication in your newspaper is required.
Q: I think I’m on solid ground, but is there a 551.094 section to the Texas Open Meetings Act that’s been added recently?
My county commissioners court cited Government Code Sec. 551.094 to discuss real estate but it looks to me like the citation should have been 551.072, the exception titled DELIBERATION REGARDING REAL PROPERTY.
A: You are right. There is no recently added Sec. 551.094. The county clerk or county judge must have meant Sec. 551.072.
Q: We received a list of legal notices from a law firm. We were going to run them individually as they appeared in the service papers, but once the law firm saw the price of publication, they asked us to run all of them as a single notice in column format. Is this O.K. to do?
A: The publication “Texas Rules of Court” does not contemplate the situation you describe. Absent any prohibition, you could handle it the way you want to handle it. Hairlines or white spaces separating notices might help readers differentiate between the subject matter of each.
Now, sticking with the topic, here is a PDF worth checking now and saving for future reference, because the publication of legal notices is very much a part of your newspaper’s regular business:
The PDF, thankfully, is searchable. If you use the word “newspaper” as your search term, you will find 22 references pertaining to the publication of a legal notice in a newspaper.
Rules containing those publication requirements include:
— RULE 116. SERVICE OF CITATION BY PUBLICATION;
— RULE 117a. CITATION IN SUITS FOR DELINQUENT AD VALOREM TAXES;
— RULE 202. DEPOSITIONS BEFORE SUIT OR TO INVESTIGATE CLAIMS; and
— RULE 647. NOTICE OF SALE OF REAL ESTATE.