Fact Checked – City Attorney’s opinion “No Illegal Meeting”

At last nights meeting of the Forney City council, a majority of them voted to release the city attorney’s report on the supposed “illegal meeting” held on June 6th, 2017. After a vote of 6 to 1, Rick Wilson being the only “NO” vote, to release the document, I received it in email form today. Here are the comments by City Attorney Jon Thatcher as related to the executive session held that night.

Question #3 – Were any members of the City Council in violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act as it relates to the executive sessions on December 6, 2016 and June 6, 2017?

There are various bases for a member of a governmental body to have violated the Act, especially when it comes to an executive session. For example, a member of the governmental body commits an offense if the member participates in a closed meeting of the governmental body knowing that a certified agenda of the closed meeting is not being kept or that a recording of the closed meeting is not being made. Currently, the City a certified agenda is maintained for every executive session held by the City.

Other violations of the Act include the following:

Section 551.146 of the Act – It is an offense for an individual, corporation, or partnership that without lawful authority knowingly discloses to a member of the public the certified agenda or recording of a meeting that was lawfully closed to the public under the Act.

Section 551.143 of the Act – A member or group of members of a governmental body commits an offense if the member or group of members knowingly conspires to circumvent the Act by meeting in numbers less than a quorum for the purpose of secret deliberations in violation of the Act.

Section 551.144 of the Act – A member of a governmental body commits an offense if a closed meeting is not permitted under the Act and the member knowingly calls or aids in calling or organizing the closed meeting, or participates in the closed meeting.

As previously stated, the basis for each executive session on December 6, 2016 and June 6, 2017 was in accordance with the Act. At various times, discussion in any executive session can start to deviate from the scope of the executive session agenda. It is during these times that the individual members of the governmental body, including the presiding member, and the attorney for the governmental body should be careful to keep any discussion within the scope of the agenda and the individual exceptions for the executive session.

It is my opinion that the discussion from the executive sessions on December 6, 2016 and June 6, 2017 were within the scope of the agenda and the underlying exceptions. Specifically, the legal consequences of terminating the Markout Agreement were discussed on June 6, 2017. The discussion, at times, wandered off into opinions on policy, however, the main crux of the discussion related to the legal consequences. As such, I do not believe that any members of the governmental body were in violation of Act as it relates specifically to the discussion in executive session on June 6, 2017.  (Emphasis added)

Many thanks to the council members that voted to release this information as a show of true “transparency”.

Attached is the complete memo. Jon Thatcher Illegal Meeting Memo