Somervell County Judge Mike Ford violated the Open Meetings ActSomervell County Salon-Glen Rose, Rainbow, Nemo, Glass....Texas


 
Somervell County Judge Mike Ford breaking the law

Somervell County Judge Mike Ford violated the Open Meetings Act
 


7 November 2013 at 9:40:28 AM
pharper

Prior to the November 5, 2013 public meeting notice being posted I wanted to validate whether there would be a chance for public comments so I went to Somervell County Judge Mike Ford, who was working on the agenda, to ask

Hey Mike,

I wanted to check and validate that there will be a public comments section during the county/hospital board meeting on 11/5, can you confirm?

 

Thanks

Paul

Then I get a prompt reply back from Somervell County Judge Mike Ford acknowledging the fact that he is working on the agenda, meaning it is not posted yet, and he knows that there will be public comments involved (I went ahead and made this part bold to point it out) but he is not putting it on the agenda

Paul,  I am preparing the agenda for the county, probably to be posted tomorrow.  I am not including a public comments section (for comments about items not on the agenda).  As this is a meeting actually requested and scheduled by the Hospital District, I'm not sure what all will be discussed, or by whom (other than their attorney).  I talked with Larry Shaw and he is intent on allowing questions or comments by the public either during or after the briefing, as long as they are constrained to the actual subject(s) discussed.  In short - yes. There will be an opportunity for public comment.

 

Mike

Then I reply back, still before the notice was posted

Thanks for the quick response Mike! It would be the legal approach to have it actually on the agenda so it is official. See second part below in bold where it states “governmental body must give notice of a public comment session”.

 

On a side note, you can't control what people say during public comment time but you can control how long they have to speak but it has to be equal for everyone...whether it is on the agenda or not, or whether Larry only wants to hear stuff that is actually discussed. See first part in bold below.

 

On both the above items here is the pertinent section of The open meetings handbook (https://www.oag.state.tx.us/AG_Publications/pdfs/openmeeting_hb.pdf) that is put out by the OAG office on page 36-37 states:

 

C. Rights of the Public

A meeting that is “open to the public” under the Act is one that the public is permitted to attend. The Act does not entitle the public to choose the items to be discussed or to speak about items on the

agenda. A governmental body may, however, give members of the public an opportunity to speak at a public meeting. If it does so, it may set reasonable limits on the number, frequency and length

of presentations before it, but it may not unfairly discriminate among speakers for or against a particular point of view.

 Many governmental bodies conduct “public comment,” “public forum” or “open mike” sessions at which members of the public may address comments on any subject to the governmental body. A

public comment session is a meeting as defined by section 551.001(4)(B) of the Government Code, because the members of the governmental body “receive information from . . . or receive questions

from [a] third person.” Accordingly, the governmental body must give notice of a public comment session. See supra Part VII.A.

The Act permits a member of the public or a member of the governmental body to raise a subject that has not been included in the notice for the meeting, but any discussion of the subject must be limited to a proposal to place the subject on the agenda for a future meeting. Section 551.042 of the Act provides for this procedure:

(a) If, at a meeting of a governmental body, a member of the public or of the governmental body inquires about a subject for which notice has not been given as required by this subchapter, the notice provisions of this subchapter do not apply to:

(1) a statement of specific factual information given in response to the inquiry; or

(2) a recitation of existing policy in response to the inquiry.

(b) Any deliberation of or decision about the subject of the inquiry shall be limited to a proposal to place the subject on the agenda for a subsequent meeting. Another section of the Act permits members of the public to record open meetings with a recorder or a video camera:

(a) A person in attendance may record all or any part of an open meeting of a governmental body by means of a recorder, video camera, or other means of aural or visual reproduction.

(b) A governmental body may adopt reasonable rules to maintain order at a meeting, including rules relating to:

(1) the location of recording equipment; and

(2) the manner in which the recording is conducted.

(c) A rule adopted under Subsection (b) may not prevent or unreasonably impair a person from exercising a right granted under Subsection (a).

 

Thanks
Paul

 

And then no reply but the public notice does not say there will be public comments but there were public comments and he knew there would be before the notice was posted so Mike Ford knowingly violated the open meetings act. County Attorney Andy Lucas has been notified, let's see if he decides to do anything about it since he is in charge of enforcing the open meetings act.


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Comments!  
1 - antitaxbrigade   7 Nov 2013 @ 8:45:24 PM 

So we have local GOVERMENT types always not following open meetings rules here , so is there any recourse for them not following the rules ? Is there someone in chrage or do we just keep pointing out and wait for the our D.A. to finally do his job or our county attonry to wake up and do his .Hey maybe we can all ignore all the rules and have a free for all .



2 - salon   8 Nov 2013 @ 8:56:51 AM 

The Open Meetings act has a section on what to do with violations. Says to go to the county attorney or the district attorney. When that has been done, the county attorney has said to go to the sheriff. One of the deputies told me what has to be done is to file a writ of mandamus. That, of course, costs to file, in district court, but gets before the district judge. At that point, the judge would rule on whether it's okay for there to be open meetings with public comments sections where the judge says he won't allow people to speak, to see whether people can make any comment they want (free speech) or it has to be okayed by government first, whether it's okay for a judge to use the meetings as bully pulpits without allowing others to speak and telling them what they can talk about, and whether the judge can arbitraily decide, without such item being on the agenda, to allow people to speak or not where there is no public comment section and it's not a public hearing.


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