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
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
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).