Q: Our county sheriff caught and penned a few head of cattle that broke fence and then merely posted what he considered a “notice of estray” on his social media page. I told him those notices are supposed to be published in a newspaper of general circulation in the county, etc. He said he doesn’t have to. I am familiar with the publication law so what I am looking for is a Texas Attorney General opinion that backs up what I am telling the sheriff. Can you help?
A: I failed to find an AG opinion that addresses the method of giving a public notice of estray. The language in the law you’re referring to, Agriculture Code Chapter 142.009, EMPOUNDMENT OF ESTRAY, contains the pesky word “or” at the end of paragraph (d)(1) that gives the sheriff the option of web-posting the notice on the county’s website or causing the notice to be published in a newspaper like yours. But the law makes no mention of a social media as a way to achieve public notice.
If a farmer or rancher who has been unable to regain possession of lost cattle because of an inadequate public notice complains to the district attorney, maybe that would help the sheriff to see the light and return to causing notices of estray to be published in your newspaper. A formal complaint like that is something you could report on.
That being said, this settling for a social media posting in place of a real public notice is a classic example of the false Utopian view that digital postings are enough to achieve public notice of anything.
Q: The museum here is conducting a fundraising raffle with the grand prize being a rare bottle of bourbon. Are there any potential problems in publishing this?
A: In my view, your question is complicated. I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. The law says a raffle can’t legally be advertised in a newspaper. At least part of the idea behind that may be that someone must to pay to buy a copy of the newspaper. Also, even if you offer the organization a free ad, it’s not truly free because of pre-press and printing and mailing costs, to name a few expenses.
A prudent action for the museum to take, before conducting the event, is to contact the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission at email@example.com. There, the organization can find answers to many questions about laws regulating the marketing of alcoholic beverages, such as advertising, promotions and marketing relationships in the industry.
Here are three resources for you, and for any organization that is thinking about conducting a charitable raffle.
1. The Charitable Raffle Enabling Act:
2. Texas Attorney General:
3. Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission:
Q: Who is your main contact in the Office of the Texas Attorney General’s Open Records Division?
A: The division’s Open Records Chief is Justin Gordon, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: I’m working on a feature about the Free Flow of Information Act — the “shield law” that passed in Texas in 2009. Is there someone you could recommend to check it for accuracy?
A: How about the Austin media attorney who played the leading role in writing the law and who worked diligently to get it passed?
That attorney is Laura Lee Prather, partner and head of the Media Law Practice Group with Haynes Boone L.L.P. You can find her at www.haynesboone.com.
Q: Our mayor thinks she has the executive power to fire an employee. I am fairly sure that would be an overstep. What do you think?
A: See Local Government Code Chapter 22, Aldermanic Form of Government in Type-A General Law Municipality. There is language that points to the city council’s power to hire and fire.
There also is language in 22.012 giving the mayor power to accept the resignation of an appointee.
I think we would agree that to accept a resignation is not the same thing as to fire an employee.