Texas has long had some of the best transparency laws in the United States. In 1967, the Open Meetings Act was adopted and since that time has been revised twice while being amended many times. This Act protects the citizens of Texas from being shut out from government, district and political subdivision work and makes it mandatory that meetings are conducted in a fashion that is the same across the state. All boards, whether they are state, county, or municipal governments, school, water, hospital and other districts and political subdivisions are all required to follow The Act when it comes to conducting meetings.
The Open Meetings Act is referred to quite often when it is suspected that a board is operating outside of what is in its legal mode of operation and you may have wondered about what is contained in it. The Act is very specific as to what a quorum of board members consists of, how the entity should post the notices of its meetings, when these notices are required to be posted, what is placed on the agenda as open and closed and many, many other items that are important in order for Texans to have an open look into the boards that are governing the entities that levy taxes and pass rules that they live under.
Governor Greg Abbott has compiled an Open Meetings Act Handbook* which is available for free on the Internet at https://www.oag.state.tx.us/open/publications_og.shtml. This handout is intended to help public officials comply with the law and the citizens of Texas gain a better understanding of the Open Meetings Act.
It is very important that elected officials follow The Act as prescribed by law due to the fact that any actions taken while in a meeting that are in violation of the Act are null and void. Since violations of the Act are Class C or Class B Misdemeanors, citizens must expect strict adherence by elected public servants In order for them to be good stewards of the entities that they have been elected to oversee. Likewise, elected public servants must not abuse nor neglect the standards that are set forth in the Act while participating in entity meetings.
As I travel around the state, I hear of meetings taking place by elected officials in which not all members were invited or the everything on the agenda of a governing entity being held in executive session and even of meetings were the public has been removed from meetings for videoing the proceedings which is completely legal. As a citizen of Texas, know your rights. Educate yourself on how these boards should operate, and make sure that if you are serving on one of these boards, that it is following the Act as prescribed.
*The Open Meetings Act Handbook referenced above, contains the Open Meetings Act in its entirety at the back of the handbook.
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