KEY QUESTION: Who is allowed to post agenda items on the Commissioners Court meeting agenda?
MAIN REFERENCE POINTS:
- Attorney General Opinion JM-63
- Texas Constitution, Article 5, Section 18-b
- Local Government Code Section 81.022
- Texas Open Meetings Act
- Attorney General Opinion DM-228
- According to AG Opinion JM-63, “Neither the County Judge nor the county clerk controls the preparation of the agenda for the Commissioners Court. The Commissioners Court as a whole has the authority to determine and amend its own agenda.” This opinion cites the Texas Constitution, the Local Government Code, and the Texas Open Meetings Act.
- Texas Constitution, Article 5, Section 18-b spells out the establishment of the Commissioners Court as follows, “Each county shall, in the manner provided for justice of the peace and constable precincts, be divided into four Commissioners precincts in each of which there shall be elected by the qualified voters thereof one County Commissioner, who shall hold his office for four years and until his successor shall be elected and qualified. The County Commissioners so chosen, with the County Judge as presiding officer, shall compose the County Commissioners Court, which shall exercise such powers and jurisdiction over all county business, as is conferred by this Constitution and the laws of the State, or as may be hereafter prescribed.”
- Local Government Code Section 81.022 details the following process: “… (a) The Commissioners Court shall issue the notices, citations, writs, and process necessary for the proper execution of its powers and duties and the enforcement of its jurisdiction.” The equivalent to this code is found in Article 2351 of Vernon’s Texas Civil Statutes (V.T.C.S.), which provides in part that each Commissioners Court shall “issue all such notices, citations, writs, and process as may be necessary for the proper execution of the powers and duties imposed by such court and to enforce its jurisdiction.”
- Then-Attorney General Jim Mattox stated in Opinion 63, “We believe that the Commissioners Court agenda is a ‘notice’ under this provision which is ‘necessary’ by virtue of the Texas Open Meetings Act for the proper execution of the official duties of the court. We find no authority for the County Judge alone to control the contents, preparation, and posting of the agenda required by the Texas Open Meetings Act…”
- The Opinion goes on to say, “We do not believe that the County Judge’s authority and duties to ‘preside’ over meetings of the County Commissioners Court grants him authority to prepare and limit, in his sole discretion, the items to be considered by the Commissioners Court.”
- CJCAT Senior General Counsel Jim Allison confirmed that AG Opinion JM-63 held that “the Commissioners Court controls the preparation of the agenda.”
- Then-Attorney General Dan Morales stated in AG 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 rules referred to in AG Opinion DM-228 may affirm the ability of each member to include items on the agenda, Allison said.
Regarding deadlines for submitting agenda items for consideration, Allison offered the following: “Although each member must be allowed to place items on the agenda, the Commissioners Court controls the procedure and likely may establish a deadline for submission of items.”