New ‘gatekeeper’ releases less dispatch log information

Q: We have a new custodian of open records at the sheriff’s office and that person has reduced the information we get in dispatch logs to the bare minimum. We used to get so much more. What information should this new “gatekeeper” release to us?

A:  New personnel and their new ways of doing things . . . what can you do?
You know how readers tend not to welcome alterations in what they are used to finding in “their” newspaper.
Try showing the new custodian what his or her predecessor routinely gave you and ask for the same information. If the answer is no, ask why, and if the answer is not satisfying, appeal to a higher authority.
Call log entries that don’t pertain to an arrest can be rather minimal in content. In some locales, what you get are: date, time, street name, nearest cross street, type of incident and responding entity. To explore the many ways call logs, police/EMS/fire reports, etc., are handled by Texas newspapers, go to www.texaslegalnotices.com and try a few searches.

Q: Our city has an anti-graffiti ordinance. The city is required to publish a notice about the removal of graffiti from a private building: Correct?

A: Possibly. Did the city follow the steps listed in Local Government Code Chapter Sec. 250.006, titled, GRAFFITI REMOVAL? The section contains language that says if the city is unable to notify the property owner personally in writing or via certified mail, the city may give notice by publication at least once in a newspaper of general circulation in the county or municipality or by posting the notice on or near the front door of each building on the property to which the notice relates or by posting the notice on a placard attached to a stake driven into the ground on the property to which the notice relates.

Q: Historically, our city has held city council meetings on the second Monday of each month. I’d say we are in a new era in which the city keeps changing the dates so that there is no regularity. This is aggravating and I’d like to know if the city is allowed to play with the schedule like that. Do you have any input?

A: According to Government Code Chapter 551, the Texas Open Meetings Act, as long as public notice of a meeting of a governmental body is given 72 hours in advance of the meeting, the date and time of the meeting can be amended. The act also requires that the meeting notices of governmental bodies disclose the subject matter of each item under consideration.

Q: A local civic club wants to conduct a “drawing” and pay for an advertisement in our newspaper to promote it. This seems close to being a raffle and I know raffle advertising in a newspaper is strictly verboten. Some say that if you substitute the word “drawing” in place of the word “raffle” the problem is solved. Does a word substitution make the ad safe to run?

A: Online, please find: Occupations Code Chapter 2002, Charitable Raffle Enabling Act, and scroll to 2002.054, titled, RESTRICTIONS ON RAFFLE PROMOTIONS AND TICKET SALES.
Under paragraph (6) “raffle” is defined as “the award of one or more prizes by chance at a single occasion among a single pool or group of persons who have paid or promised a thing of value for a ticket that represents a chance to win a prize.”
The Office of the Texas Attorney General has said drawings and raffles are games of chance and are lotteries in fact.
Whether the “drawing” meets guidelines and is allowed by Texas law or not, we know — as you already said — the event can’t be advertised in a newspaper.  So I agree that caution is warranted before accepting an advertisement for anything that contains the three elements of a “lottery” in Texas, and those elements are: consideration, prize and chance. Looks like the prospective ad copy you forwarded includes all three.
Finally, as newspaper folks in the most recent previous century often said: “When in doubt, leave it out.”