KEY QUESTION: Are Commissioners Court meetings required to be conducted under formal parliamentary procedure or specific rules of Commissioners Court decorum?
MAIN REFERENCE POINTS:
- Attorney General Opinion DM-228
- Texas Local Government Code Sections 81.005 and 81.006
- Texas Government Code Section 551.007
- No legal requirement obligates Commissioners Court meetings to be conducted under a formal parliamentary procedure.
- According to Attorney General Opinion DM-228, “A Commissioners Court may adopt reasonable rules that are consistent with relevant provisions of law to govern the conduct of its meetings. If the court wishes to use Robert’s Rules of Order or some other formal rules, the method chosen must be consistent with law, adopted by a majority vote of the court, and applied to all court members.”
- The Opinion refers to Sections 81.005 and 81.006 of the Local Government Code, which address the time, location, and quorum requirements of Commissioners Court meetings.
- In addition, the Opinion states: “The court is also subject to the Open Meetings Act, but we have found no statute setting out comprehensive procedures for the conduct of Commissioners Court meetings.”
- House Bill 2840 passed by the 86th Texas Legislature amended the law relating to the right of a member of the public to address the governing body of a political subdivision at an open meeting of the body. The law states:
- Members of the public will be entitled to address all open meetings, not just public hearings.
- The Commissioners Court may continue to limit the amount of time allotted to the public and may continue to punish disruption of the meeting.
- Many counties have decided that it is in their best interest to formally adopt rules of procedure, conduct, and Commissioners Court decorum for meetings of the Commissioners Court.
- Jim Allison, senior general counsel, County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas, has developed a sample set of rules. (See opposite page.)
“Rules of procedure and decorum are very important for an efficient, productive Commissioners Court meeting,” Allison shared. “The rules provide a framework for the transaction of business and inform the public on the proper procedure for presenting comments at the meeting.”