Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Did Dallas ISD violate Texas Open Meetings Act on Saturday, July 21, 2012?

Probably so.

Lawsuit says Beamont ISD violated Open Meetings Act - June 7, 2012

Beamont ISD was recently accused of violating the Texas Open Meetings Act for not properly posting the 'subject matter' of a closed session. The lawsuit was about the 'lack of detail' of the notices.  An attorney who was also a city council member filed suit on behalf of a Beaumont citizen.

A restraining order was obtained that prevented the Beaumont ISD from going into 'executive session/closed session' without a proper notice of the closed session that meets the notice requirement of the Texas Open Meetings Act.

It appears the Beamont ISD listed an item as "consideration of personnel matters" at a meeting held on Thursday May 31, 2012.

Judge Donald Floyd of the 172nd District Court concluded:

"There is no way you could gather from the item noticed for executive session that the subject matter  was to consider the promotion of three assistant principals at various BISD schools."

More Here - Lawsuit says Beamont ISD violated Open Meetings Act - June 7, 2012

The Dallas ISD notice does not list a 'subject matter' at all. It is vague and general. 

The notice used on the Saturday, July 21, 2012 Board - Superintendent retreat at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing Arts has no 'subject matter.' The same notice was used on Tuesday, August 7 and the same vague notice is listed for the Thursday, August 9 Board Briefing.

Based on the recent Beamont ISD lawsuit, it appears that Dallas ISD is also violating the Texas Open Meetings Act by not posting the 'subject matter' of closed sessions.

If so, it would mean that all such meetings that use such a vague notice are violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act.

Also, three items were listed on the July 21, 2012 posted agenda for the open session. Yet, the Board President closed the open session, and Trustees discussed the three items first in the closed session outside the hearing of the public.
Consider and Take Possible Action to Approve the First Amendment to the Employment Contract of the Superintendent of Schools.
Consider and Take Possible Action to Approve the Application for a Waiver of Superintendent Certification.
Consider and Take Possible Action to Approve a Memorandum of Understanding Between Dallas Independent School District and Southern Methodist University, on Behalf of its Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development.
CLOSED SESSION - The Board will retire to closed session pursuant to Texas Government Code Section 551 concerning the following section:
551.074 To deliberate the appointment, employment, evaluation, reassignment, duties, discipline, or dismissal of a public officer or employee, or to hear a complaint or charge against an officer or employee.
(This section deals with 'personnel matters.' Trustees are not personnel.) 

Houston Attorney Charles Daughtry is quoted in the article on the Beaumont lawsuit. The article states:
"Daughtry is well-versed in the Open Meetings Act and said based on what he knows about the way BISD has prepared its agendas and maintained a tight lip on matters discussed in the executive sessions, it looks pretty clear BISD has been in violation.
“This complaint about posting an executive session with no explanation isn’t even close to complying with the law, and if so, I guess, I applaud them for finally complying, but I hate that it took somebody filing a lawsuit for them to finally do it,”  
"According to the Texas Open Meetings Act, “A governmental body must give the public advance notice of the subjects it will consider in an open meeting or a closed executive session,” meaning that even though a discussion is to take place in closed executive session, the public has the right to know what the subject of that discussion will be."