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Open Meetings Guide

Open Meetings Guide

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Published by avalanche50

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Published by: avalanche50 on Jan 19, 2011
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10/23/2012

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the 2008 openmeetings act
made easy 
Answers to the most frequently asked questions  about the Open Meetings Act 
ZINDIA 
 
THOMASCOUNTY 
 
 AFFAIRS
 
SECTIONOFFICE
 
OF
 
THE
 
 ATTORNEY 
 
GENERAL
(512)463-2060
 JULIAN
 
GRANTMUNICIPAL
 
 AFFAIRS
 
SECTIONOFFICE
 
OF
 
THE
 
 ATTORNEY 
 
GENERAL
(512)475-4683
 
1
This handbook has been written and revised subsequently by several present and former assistant attorney generals,including Julian Grant, Scott Joslove, Jeff Moore, and Zindia Thomas. The original handbook was created withassistance from the Municipal Advisory Committee of this office.
The Texas Open Meetings Act Made Easy
After each legislative session, the Attorney General’s Office has produced this publication thataddresses certain key issues local officials face in their day-to-day operations. In a question-and-answer format, this handbook covers the most frequently asked questions about the Texas OpenMeetings Act (“the Act”).
1
For example, the handbook addresses when the Act applies, whatconstitutes reasonable notice, the application of the Act to informal gatherings, and the limited rightof individual council members to place items on an agenda. Additionally, the handbook covers permissible subjects for executive sessions, who may attend an executive session, and theappropriate handling of a certified agenda. Finally, the handbook addresses the ability to “ratify”an action, civil enforcement of the Act, and criminal penalties for certain violations.The stakes are high for local public officials. Texas courts have ruled that in certain cases, a local public official can be convicted of participating in an illegal closed meeting even though the officialmay have believed at the time that the closed meeting was authorized. Local public officials mayalso face criminal penalties if they knowingly attempt to avoid open meetings requirements bymeeting in numbers less than a quorum for the purpose of secret deliberations about public business.This “made easy” handbook provides answers in easy-to-understand language to the most frequentlyasked questions regarding the Act. The Act does apply to a variety of governmental entities, soalthough this information is geared towards the Act’s application to local public bodies, it will beuseful to other officials and Texas citizens as well.
 
I.Application of the Open Meetings Act
When Does the Open Meetings Act Generally Apply............................1Staff Briefings..........................................................1Committees............................................................1Private or Non-Profit Entities That Receive Public Funding......................2Relationship Between the Act and the Public Information Act.....................3
II.Notice Provisions Under the Act
General Requirement for Posting Notice......................................3Publishing Meeting Notices on the Internet...................................3Publishing Meeting Notices in the Newspaper.................................4Posted Wording for Agenda Items...........................................4Agenda Notice Indicating Public Comment...................................5Agenda Notice Indicating Employee Briefing Session...........................5Agenda Notice Indicating Executive Session..................................5Authority to Address Items Not on the Agenda................................5Changing Date of a Meeting Without Reposting................................6Changing Time of a Meeting Without Reposting...............................6Changing Location of a Meeting Without Reposting............................7Continue a Meeting to a Later Date..........................................7Procedure to Cancel a Posted Meeting.......................................7
III.Effect of Quorum on Act IssuesGeneral Quorum Provisions
What Constitutes a Quorum................................................8Open Meeting Without a Quorum...........................................8
Application of the Act if Quorum of Governing Body is Present
Informal Meetings Where There is a Quorum..................................8Quorum of a Governing Body Serving on a Board or Commission.................8Authority of a Quorum of a Governing Body to Sign Correspondence..............9Authority of a Quorum to Attend Committee Meetings..........................9Authority of a Quorum to Attend State Legislative Committee Meetings............9Current Officials and Elected but not Sworn-in Officials Constitute a Quorum ......10
Application of the Act to Gatherings of Less Than a Quorum
Gathering of Less Than a Quorum of the Governing Body.......................10Authority to Meet with Third Parties........................................10Authority to Visit by Phone...............................................10Authority to Sign Correspondence.........................................11

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