TPA Hotline

Open Meetings Act requires citing of exception allowing closed session

Q: Our city clerk puts a boilerplate notice at the bottom of city council meeting agendas, notifying the public that the council may go into executive session under any of a number of exceptions allowing it under the Texas Open Meetings Act. The problem is, this council has a habit of going into executive session without stating exactly which TOMA exception they are using. I don’t think a reporter or anyone else should have to sit there for hours, wondering what council members are talking behind closed doors. Can you send something that fits a scenario like that?

Access to settlement agreements may be hard to obtain

Q: Our hospital district recently let a highly paid employee go. The employee got a sizable settlement and the local governmental body is refusing to release the terms. Aren’t local governmental bodies prohibited from entering into nondisclosure agreements?

A:  See the Texas Public Information Act, Government Code Sec. 552.022, titled Categories of Public Information, at: 

TPA Hotline September 2015

Documents are public from the moment they are fixed – in print or digital form

Q: My city is seeking a city manager. The city council narrowed the field from 30 to an unknown number. Interviews are starting next week. Do they have to tell me the names of the final three or four? I know school boards don’t.

Q&A: Sale of public land requires public notice

Q: Without advertising the availability of land for purchase, our county hospital district agreed to sell an adjacent strip of land to an individual. As far as we can tell at this point, it was the buyer who approached the district, not the other way around, and remarkably, a deal was made without public knowledge or consent.

TPA Hotline May 2015

Q&A: EEOC complaints, council nepotism and school board settlements 

Q:  I am hovering at the edges of a potential story that’s brewing at the county courthouse. It has to do with allegations of employment discrimination. Can I get my hands on written complaints that are rumored to exist?

TPA Hotline April 2015

UIL rule prohibits sale of championship event photos

Q:  I am just back from covering the UIL State Championship Basketball Tournament with a card full of photos. I noticed in the press packet that UIL prohibits sale of those photos. Is this a new rule?

A:  I forwarded your question to UIL and received a quick response from Kate Y. Hector, media coordinator, University Interscholastic League. Here is the text of it: 

Open meetings issues pop up again and again

Q: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Our superintendent approved a voluntary separation agreement with the school district. TASB was hired to do the search for a replacement with an interim to be appointed by the school board. At a special board meeting, the four controlling members blindsided everybody by naming the existing superintendent as her own interim.