What are the general statutory requirements regulating Executive Sessions of Commissioners Court?
Texas Government Code Chapter 551, Open Meetings
- Sec. 551.002 of the Texas Government Code states, “Every regular, special, or called meeting of a governmental body shall be open to the public, except as provided by this chapter.”
- This chapter of law defines a closed meeting as “a meeting to which the public does not have access.”
- Sec. 551.071 allows a Commissioners Court to convene in a closed meeting, or “executive session,” to seek the advice of its attorney about the following:
• pending or contemplated litigation;
• a settlement offer; or
• “a matter in which the duty of the attorney to the governmental body under the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct of the State Bar of Texas clearly conflicts with this chapter.”
- Sec. 551.072 states, “A governmental body may conduct a closed meeting to deliberate the purchase, exchange, lease, or value of real property if deliberation in an open meeting would have a detrimental effect on the position of the governmental body in negotiations with a third person.”
- Sec. 551.0725 says that a Commissioners Court “may conduct a closed meeting to deliberate business and financial issues relating to a contract being negotiated if, before conducting the closed meeting:
• the Commissioners Court votes unanimously that deliberation in an open meeting would have a detrimental effect on the position of the Commissioners Court in negotiations with a third person; and
• the attorney advising the Commissioners Court issues a written determination that deliberation in an open meeting would have a detrimental effect on the position of the Commissioners Court in negotiations with a third person.”
- Per Section 551.103, the Commissioners Court is required to either keep a certified agenda or make a tape recording of the proceedings of each closed meeting, except for a private consultation permitted under Section 551.071 (discussed in No. 3 above).
- The certified agenda must include:
• a statement of the subject matter of each deliberation;
• a record of any further action taken; and
• an announcement by the presiding officer at the beginning and the end of the meeting indicating the date and time.
- A tape recording must include announcements by the presiding officer at the beginning and the end of the meeting indicating the date and time.
- Texas Government Code Sec. 551.104 discusses rules regarding the preservation and disclosure of the certified agenda or tape recording.
- According to Sec. 551.144, a member of Commissioners Court commits an offense if a closed meeting is not permitted under Chapter 551 and the member knowingly:
• calls or aids in calling or organizing the closed meeting, whether it is a special or called closed meeting;
• closes or aids in closing the meeting to the public, if it is a regular meeting; or
• participates in the closed meeting, whether it is a regular, special, or called meeting.
- An offense is a misdemeanor punishable by:
• a fine of not less than $100 or more than $500;
• confinement in the county jail for not less than one month or more than six months; or
• both the fine and confinement.