The rules concerning meetings of the commissioners court are often confusing. The overlapping statutes found in the Local Government Code and the Open Meetings Act in the Government Code create potential traps for unsuspecting commissioners court members. Violations of these statutes carry heavy penalties, both civil and criminal. Seek legal advice on any question concerning these requirements.
A recent Attorney General Opinion (GA-0277) has provided answers for several questions concerning executive sessions of the commissioners court. First, the opinion addressed the issue of whether the county clerk is entitled to attend the executive session. The opinion concluded that “While Section 81.003 of the Local Government Code requires the county clerk or deputy clerk to act as the commissioners court’s clerk for its open sessions, the court may exclude the county clerk from attending and acting as its clerk in executive sessions.” Therefore, the commissioners court has the discretion to allow or deny the county clerk admission to executive sessions of the court.
Second, the opinion discussed the proper custodian of the tape or certified agenda of an executive session. The attorney general concluded that the commissioners court as a governmental body is the proper custodian of a tape or certified agenda of an executive session, but it may delegate that duty to the county clerk. The court, by majority vote of its membership, is the body duly authorized to adopt or change this policy.
Finally, the opinion addressed whether relinquishing the tape or certified agenda to the clerk would make it available for public inspection. The attorney general affirmed that a certified agenda or tape of an executive session is confidential and may only be released to the public by a court order. A.G. Opinion GA-0277 should resolve some lingering questions about executive sessions.
Legislative Note: Watch for legislative updates on the State Association Web site: www.cjcat.org. Send your e-mail address to email@example.com for more frequent updates.
For more information, please call me at 1-800-733-0699.
Jim Allison, General Counsel CJCAT