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FILED

DALLAS COUNTY
7/6/2018 12:14 PM
FELICIA PITRE
DISTRICT CLERK
8-CIT ES
DC-18-08783 Marissa Pittman
CAUSE NO. _________________

DAVID TYSON, JR., § IN THE DISTRICT COURT
§
Plaintiff, §
§
193RD
v. § ______ JUDICIAL DISTRICT
§
RICHARDSON INDEPENDENT §
SCHOOL DISTRICT, and JEAN BONO, §
KIM CASTON, KAREN CLARDY, §
KATIE PATTERSON, ERON LINN, §
JUSTIN BONO, and KRISTIN KUHNE, in §
their official capacities, §
§
Defendants. § DALLAS COUNTY, TEXAS

PLAINTIFF’S ORIGINAL PETITION, REQUEST FOR DISCLOSURE, AND JURY
DEMAND

Plaintiff David Tyson, Jr. files this Original Petition, Request For Disclosure, And Jury

Demand (“Petition”) Against Defendants Richardson Independent School District (“RISD”), and

Jean Bono, Kim Caston, Karen Clardy, Katie Patterson, Eron Linn, Justin Bono, and Kristin

Kuhne in their official capacities as members of the RISD Board of Trustees (each individually,

a “Trustee” and collectively, the “Board”), upon personal knowledge of his own actions, and

upon information and belief as to all other matters, as follows:

I.

PRELIMINARY STATEMENT

1. Plaintiff brings this action to redress Defendants’ continuous and systematic

violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act (“TOMA”), Tex. Gov. Code §§ 551.001, et seq., over

a period of more than a decade. The purpose of TOMA is to protect the public’s right to know

the workings of governmental agencies and entities. In general, TOMA demands openness at

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every stage of the government’s deliberative process, to ensure that citizens know what their

elected officials decide and how each decision is reached. The importance of openness and

transparency in government was early expressed by Patrick Henry as follows: “The liberties of a

people never were, nor ever will be, secure when the transactions of their rulers may be

concealed from them.”

2. Henry’s words ring true today, and are embodied by TOMA’s open-government

mandate. Unfortunately, the RISD Board flouts its transparency obligations. The Board has

engaged in a longstanding pattern and practice of violating TOMA. Over the past seven years

alone, the Board has acted by unanimous consensus on almost every issue presented (more than

500 votes, total)—but not a consensus forged through proper, public deliberations. Instead,

cursory meeting records depict votes that appear swift and uncontested, but in truth have been

choreographed behind the scenes. By concealing their substantive deliberations from the

community and treating public meetings as a mere, rubber-stamp formality, the Board members

defy the letter and spirit of TOMA, as well as their basic duties to their constituents.

3. For example, Defendants systematically convene serial meetings or “walking”

quorums with the specific intent to evade the requirements of TOMA. In many instances, two or

more members of the Board (but always fewer members than would constitute a quorum)

intentionally meet or correspond in private in an attempt to reach a consensus on an issue. One

of the participating members would then send emails, texts, or voicemails to the Board members

not present at the initial session, in an effort to reach unanimity. Importantly, and in brazen

defiance of multiple statutes, the Board members intentionally delete and purge the electronic

communications which document their real deliberations. Thus, records accessible to the public

as a matter of right are purposefully concealed, and forever lost.

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4. After coordinating a backroom consensus and destroying documents to cover their

tracks, the Board in each instance convenes a perfunctory public meeting and casts unanimous

votes.

5. Plaintiff brings this action in order to rectify these abuses and prevent future

violations. To that end, Plaintiff requests that the Court: (1) declare that Defendants have

violated TOMA; (2) declare that all actions taken in violation of TOMA are void; and (3) enjoin

Defendants from taking any further actions that violate TOMA.

II.

DISCOVERY CONTROL PLAN

6. Plaintiff intends to conduct discovery under Level 3 of Rule 190.3 of the Texas

Rules of Civil Procedure.

III.

REQUESTS FOR DISCLOSURES

7. Plaintiff requests that Defendants make all disclosures required by Texas Rule of

Civil Procedure 194 within 50 days of the service of this Original Petition and Request for

Disclosures.

IV.

PARTIES

A. Plaintiff

8. Mr. Tyson has resided within the boundaries of RISD since 1981. In 2004, Mr.

Tyson became a member of the RISD Board. Mr. Tyson held that position for two terms,

retiring in 2010.

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B. Defendants

9. RISD is an Independent School District created under Texas law and located in

Dallas County. RISD may be served with process through its Superintendent, Dr. Jeannie Stone,

at 400 South Greenville Avenue, Richardson, Texas 75081.

10. Jean Krone Bono is a Trustee elected to Place 1 of the Board and resides within

RISD. She may be served with process at 9222 Arbor Branch Drive, Dallas, Texas 75243.

11. Kim Caston is a Trustee elected to Place 2 of the Board and resides within RISD.

She may be served with process at 7618 Carta Valley Court, Dallas, Texas 75243.

12. Karen Clardy is a Trustee elected to Place 3 of the Board and resides within

RISD. She may be served with process at 9314 Bill Browne Lane, Dallas, Texas 75243.

13. Katie Patterson is a Trustee elected to Place 4 of the Board, is the Secretary of the

Board, and resides within RISD. She may be served with process at 6428 Barkwood Lane,

Dallas, Texas 75248.

14. Eron Linn is a Trustee elected to Place 5 of the Board and resides within RISD. He may

be served with process at 1801 Longmont Place, Richardson, Texas 75081.

15. Justin Bono is a Trustee elected to Place 6 of the Board, is the President of the

Board, and resides within RISD. He may be served with process at 9219 Arbor Trail Drive,

Dallas, Texas 75243.

16. Kristin Kuhne is a Trustee elected to Place 7 of the Board, is the Vice President of

the Board, and resides within RISD. She may be served with process at 1114 Grassmere Drive,

Richardson, Texas 75080.

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V.

JURISDICTION AND VENUE

17. Based on Article 5, section 8 of the Texas Constitution, jurisdiction is proper in

this Court.

18. Based on sections 15.002(a) and 65.023 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies

Code, venue is proper because Defendants are domiciled in Dallas County, Texas.

19. The Court has personal jurisdiction over the RISD because it is a governmental

entity in Texas and the other defendants because they are residents of Texas.

VI.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

A. Overview Of TOMA

1. The Texas Open Meetings Act

20. The fundamental tenet of TOMA is that except for certain narrowly construed

exceptions, all meetings of a governmental body must be open to the public. TOMA is

predicated on the belief that: “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the

most efficient policemen.” Louis D. Brandeis, Other People’s Money And The Banks That Use

It, 92 (1914 ed.). As such, the Texas Supreme Court has held that TOMA ensures the right of

citizens “not only to know what government decides but to observe how and why every decision

is reached.” Acker v. Texas Water Comm’n, 790 S.W.2d 299, 300 (Tex. 1990) (internal citations

omitted).

21. Under TOMA, the public must be given written notice of the time, place, and

subject matter of all meetings of the governmental agency or entity. Section 551.043 of the

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Texas Government Code requires that notice of a meeting be posted at least 72 hours in advance

in a place readily accessible to the general public.

22. TOMA applies to all meetings in which a quorum of a governmental body

participates. Where, as here, a “member or group of members knowingly conspires to

circumvent [TOMA] by meeting in numbers less than a quorum for the purpose of secret

deliberations,”1 a TOMA violation occurs—and government actions that derive from the secret

meeting are voidable. This has been a matter of practice at Richardson ISD for years.

23. Similarly, where an open meeting is preceded by a communication among a

number of officials, but not enough to constitute a quorum, TOMA requires that the

communication be made public. This requirement guards against the rubber-stamp public

enactment of backroom-consensus policies. Rather than publish their pre-meeting

communications as TOMA requires, the RISD Board often destroys them.

24. Under TOMA, closed meetings are allowed only in limited circumstances that are

construed narrowly to effectuate the overarching principle that governmental meetings are to be

open to the people. Even if an exception applies, pursuant to section 551.101 of the Texas

Government Code, a governmental body may not conduct a closed meeting unless it first

convenes a properly noticed open meeting during which the presiding officer announces that a

closed meeting will be held and identifies the section of TOMA authorizing the closed meeting.

25. Further, section 551.102 of the Texas Government Code requires that any final

action, decision, or vote on a matter deliberated in a closed meeting may only be made in a

properly noticed open meeting. In addition, a record must be made of the date, hour, place, and

1
See Tex. Gov’t Code § 551.143.

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subject of each meeting held by the governmental body. Moreover, sections 551.021, 551.022,

551.103, and 551.104 of the Texas Government Code require that minutes or tape recordings be

kept of meetings.

26. Violations of TOMA have significant consequences. Indeed, pursuant to section

551.141 of the Texas Government Code, actions taken in violation of TOMA are voidable.

Further, section 551.142 of the Texas Government Code authorizes mandamus and injunctive

relief. In addition, pursuant to sections 551.143, 551.144, and 551.145 of the Texas Government

Code, it is a crime (misdemeanor) to knowingly attempt to circumvent TOMA, participate in an

unauthorized closed meeting, or participate in a closed meeting knowing that a certified agenda

or tape recording is not being made.

B. The Board Has Flouted The Requirements Of TOMA For Years.

27. The Board has the executive power to and duty to govern and oversee the

management of RISD. The Board sets the direction for the school district. The Board’s

responsibilities include: (1) setting district policies and supporting administrators and teachers in

the execution of those policies; (2) employing and evaluating the superintendent; (3) adopting

the annual budget; (4) levying/collecting taxes and issuing bonds; and (5) performing specific

duties imposed by the state. Although the Board decides matters of public concern—and, often,

controversy—its meeting records are cursory and devoid of debate.

28. This was by design, a violation of TOMA.

29. Years ago, the Board devised an unlawful plan to circumvent the requirements of

TOMA. In particular, two or more but less than a quorum of the Board would meet and discuss

a particular issue. The members of the Board adopted a practice of deleting emails, text

messages, and voicemails documenting those secret pre-meeting communications, specifically to

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avoid detection and conceal their deliberations from the public. This process would continue

until consensus was reached. The Board would then vote on the issue in question at the open

meeting knowing that a unanimous decision had already been reached.

30. In particular, the Board President schedules and arranges private “mini sessions.”

The mini sessions involve three Board members, the superintendent, and often legal counsel. To

evade TOMA, the participants in these meetings are careful not to create a quorum. At the mini

sessions, three Board members discuss and deliberate regarding pressing issues facing the Board.

Later, those discussions, deliberations, and decisions are relayed to the absent Board members,

including via digital communications that are deliberately destroyed. The Board members are

fully aware that these mini sessions are improper and undergo great lengths to conceal their

existence. In fact, when a request is issued for certain Board members to disclose their emails,

Board members erase any record of their improper activity.

31. The Board President instructs Board members to “clean up” their communications

processes, meaning that the Board members should not communicate about the mini sessions via

email. Instead, the Board members receive phone calls inviting them to secretive sessions or

receive voicemail messages advising of the time and place for the mini sessions to occur. Board

members are instructed to immediately delete the voicemails after they are played.

32. Astoundingly, over the last seven years, the Board has voted unanimously on

more than 500 occasions. Almost none of these unanimous actions are substantiated by any

meaningful, documented discussion or deliberation. Instead, deliberations occurred behind

closed doors, with the intent to subvert TOMA and deceive the public.

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C. The Damage Done.

33. The Board’s flagrant and persistent violations of TOMA have denied the public

the opportunity to participate in the democratic process.

34. Throughout the years, the Board has exhibited nothing but contempt for the

requirements of TOMA. Instead of being a government of the people, by the people, and for the

people, the Board has violated its duties under TOMA and its duties to the citizens and parents

residing within the Richardson Independent School District boundaries.

35. Through its unlawful practices of serial meetings and walking quorums, the Board

deprived the citizens of the protections of TOMA and their right to know how the Board reaches

its decisions.

36. The public can no longer trust that these elected officials are open and honest, let

alone trust that they will operate in the best interests of the citizens of Richardson.

37. At this point, Plaintiff can only speculate why the members of the Board have

such disrespect for the citizens of Richardson Independent School District, the requirements of

TOMA, and the needs for accountability and transparency. Through discovery in this action,

Plaintiff intends to uncover the reasons for Defendants’ cavalier approach to their duties and

obligations to the citizens and their contempt for their duties and obligations under TOMA.

38. Accordingly, Mr. Tyson now brings this suit seeking declaratory relief and

injunctive relief against Defendants for their violations of TOMA.

VII.

CLAIM

Declaratory And Injunctive Relief: Violations Of TOMA

39. Plaintiff realleges and incorporates by reference the preceding paragraphs.

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40. Defendants, as described above, have repeatedly violated TOMA.

41. As detailed above, Defendants have persistently, systematically, and intentionally

violated TOMA, for more than 15 years. At every turn, the public has been shut out of the

process.

42. Plaintiff requests that the Court declare that Defendants have violated TOMA.

43. Plaintiff also requests that Defendants be required to produce to Plaintiff all

minutes and/or recordings of the Board.

44. Moreover, Plaintiffs request that Defendants be enjoined from taking any further

actions in violation of TOMA.

45. In addition, Plaintiff requests that Defendants be ordered to comply with TOMA.

46. As a result of Defendants’ wrongful conduct, Plaintiff was forced to retain the

undersigned counsel to pursue this action. Plaintiff is, therefore, entitled to recover attorneys’

fees and costs pursuant to Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 37.001 et seq.

VIII.

DEMAND FOR JURY TRIAL

47. Plaintiff demands a jury trial on all issues.

IX.

REQUEST FOR RELIEF

WHEREFORE Plaintiff respectfully requests that the Court enter judgment for Plaintiffs

and against Defendants awarding Plaintiff the following relief:

(a) a declaration that Defendants have violated the Texas Open Meetings Act;

(b) a declaration that the Board’s actions in violation of Texas Open Meetings Act are
void ab initio;

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(c) an injunction requiring Defendants to produce to Plaintiffs all minutes and/or
recordings of meetings of the Board;

(d) an injunction preventing Defendant from taking any further actions in violation of
Texas Open Meetings Act;

(e) reimbursement of the attorneys’ fees and costs Plaintiff has incurred in connection
with this suit; and

(f) all other appropriate relief.

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DATED: July 6, 2018 Respectfully submitted,

BREWER STOREFRONT, PLLC

By: __/s/_William A. Brewer_III_______
William A. Brewer III
State Bar Number: 02967035
1717 Main Street
Suite 5900
Dallas, Texas 75201
Telephone: (214) 653-4000
Facsimile: ( 214) 653-1015
wab@brewerattorneys.com

ATTORNEYS FOR PLAINTIFF

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