Key Question: What is the proper procedure for rescheduling Commissioners Court as necessitated by an emergency, including inclement weather?
Reference Point: Texas Government Code Chapter 551, The Open Meetings Act, Sections 551.0411 and 551.045
- Commissioners Court is required by law to give written notice of the date, hour, place, and subject of each meeting.
- According to Section 551.0411, if Commissioners Court recesses an open meeting to the following regular business day, the law does not require Commissioners Court to post notice of the continued meeting if the action is taken in good faith and not to circumvent open meetings laws. If an open meeting is continued to the following regular business day and, on that following day, the governmental body continues the meeting to another day, the governmental body must give written notice as required of the meeting continued to that other day.
- When Commissioners Court is prevented from convening an open meeting that was otherwise properly posted due to a “catastrophe,” then Commissioners Court may convene the meeting in a convenient location within 72 hours pursuant to Section 551.045 explained in #6 below (see two-hour posting requirement) “if the action is taken in good faith and not to circumvent this chapter.”
- If Commissioners Court cannot convene the open meeting within those 72 hours, the governmental body may subsequently convene the meeting “only if the Court gives written notice of the meeting as required by this subchapter,” or in other words repost the meeting for 72 hours as another meeting.
- According to this statute, “catastrophe” means a condition or occurrence that interferes physically with the ability of a governmental body to conduct a meeting, including:
– fire, flood, earthquake, hurricane, tornado, or wind, rain, or snow storm;
– power failure, transportation failure, or interruption of communication facilities;
– epidemic; or
– riot, civil disturbance, enemy attack, or other actual or threatened act of lawlessness or violence.
- According to Section 551.045 (referenced in #3 above), in an emergency or when there is an urgent public necessity, the notice of an emergency meeting or the addition of an emergency agenda item for a meeting for which notice has already been posted “is sufficient if the notice is posted for at least two hours before the meeting is convened.”
- An emergency or an urgent public necessity exists only if immediate action is required of a governmental body because of:
– an imminent threat to public health and safety; or
– a reasonably unforeseeable situation.
- The governmental body shall clearly identify the emergency or urgent public necessity in the notice or supplemental notice under this section.