The Texas Attorney General issued an opinion today regarding the notice requirements of the Texas Open Meetings Act. More specifically, the Attorney General was asked whether agenda items such as “City Manager’s Report,” “Mayor’s Update,” and “Council and other Reports” satisfy the notice requirements of the Texas Open Meetings Act. The Attorney General held that these agenda items are inadequate as a matter of law.
The Attorney General reasons that these agenda items do not notify a member of the public of the subjects of the update and reports to be discussed. Moreover, the topics of the reports can be ascertained by the governmental body in advance. The fact that a governmental body does not deliberate or take any action is not relevant because a governmental body is subject to the Texas Open Meetings Act when it receives information from a third party, including an employee.
What does this mean for your district? This means that if your district is one of the many that list “Principal’s Report” or “Superintendent Report” on your agenda, you should specify the topics of the reports. For example, an agenda item could state Superintendent’s report on construction middle school project.” How specific the agenda item needs to be is still an open question. Under most circumstances, it is better to be more specific than general. If a Board member asks a question arising from the report or update that is not specifically listed on the agenda, Section 551.042 authorizes a statement of factual information or a recitation of existing policy in response to the inquiry. Accordingly, it is better for agenda to specifically identify the topics in order to allow the Board to deliberate the issue. If you deliberate about an item that is not specifically on the agenda, Board members and participants can be subject to criminal penalties.
A copy of the Attorney General’s opinion is attached to this letter and is also available on our website. Please feel free to give our firm a call if you have any questions or need any additional information.