I posted this under a different headline, questioning the Texas Open Meetings act, and got it all wrong.
Had lunch today at the new Zaxby’s and ran into Mayor Pat McGrail. He told me there was an article coming out in the Citizen tomorrow detailing how three City Council Members showed up for the 2:00 pm Town Center Vision Meeting on October 16th.
The meeting did not have a posted agenda, therefore it is not allowed to have a quorum show up and discuss items that may come before them at a later point. I know Councilman Mitch Holmes stated on this blog they were asked who wanted to show up for what meeting at their City Council Meeting on October 7th. I know P&Z Members were asked the same question at our meeting.
To be fair, I haven’t read the article nor did I want to interrupt the Mayor’s lunch to discuss this in more detail, so I don’t even know who is in violation. I do know the Mayor told me he stayed away from both meetings to make sure there wasn’t a hint of a violation (two council members and the Mayor do not technically make a quorum, but the law is so widely interpreted by the courts, you go out of your way to make sure you don’t violate it). I am interested to hear the excuse given by the offending council members, and why one didn’t get up and leave when three showed up?
UPDATE: The Mayor called and wanted to clarify things, said that Ray Brown did leave after he realized there were three council members there and that his concern was more on how it would read in the paper rather than the three members being there. He read the blog and wanted to make sure I reported it right. As I said, I didn’t want to interrupt his meal any more than I did, so maybe I jumped the gun. My apologies. We will see the reaction after the paper comes out tomorrow.
UPDATE #2: Councilman Mitch Holmes responds in a comment on this post basically summing up what the Mayor said to me in his voicemail, but with more detail. I’ll repost it here so it will be read by those that just scan the site and don’t read the comments (the juciest part of KCL)
The mayor told me Tuesday night he likes to stick to two council members max at any unposted event to avoid the appearance of a quorum, that appearance being drawn from the fact that three votes can make a majority vote in session. Personally, I disagree… if a quorum is legally defined in the Charter as four, and three appears less than four, then three doesn’t appear to be quorum.
Regardless, respecting the mayor’s preference for the more conservative approach, not to mention Doug’s litany of AG questions, we had a mix-up when three showed up. To keep the mayor’s wishes, Councilman Brown left within just a few minutes… five by my estimate. I sat next to him in the back, and didn’t even know Councilman Baker was in the front of the room until he stood up and walked back to Ray to discuss which of them would leave. Then Ray got up, whispered to me he was leaving, and left.
To explain the mixup, Ray told me Tuesday night that two weeks earlier, when the mayor was confirming attendances, both he and John heard the mayor and me agree that I’d attend the evening session. I don’t doubt they understood that, but I agreed to attend the afternoon session, and put the 2:00 time in my BlackBerry as we spoke. Plus, their understanding would have destined the evening session to the same dilemma, so my case is almost made. The only question, then, is how five of us thought we were attending two events, with no more than two attending either one.
I can’t answer that. But between the letter and intent of the Charter, copied above by Jim… which allows three to attend… and Ray’s leaving within the first few minutes of the 2:00 session… reducing council attendance from three to two… I think there’s only enough substance left in this story for the most conspiring of theorists. In fact I think it’s a non-story and will be interested to read what the Keller Citizen makes of it.
I absolutely agree with Jim that the Texas Open Meeting’s Act hurts cities, particularly when there is a town hall meeting that several elected officials might want to attend out of interest for their community. But I also don’t see why we don’t just post them, and let them come. I feel I missed too much of what was said at the 7:00 session by trying to watch it in a 2 1/2 inch box. And the mike never gets passed around very well during the spirited exchanges, so the viewing audience misses that entirely. Then there’s the absolutely vulgar sound the podium mike makes to the viewing audience when it gets gnarled around.
Update #3: I went to the Keller Citizen office to get an advance copy of the paper. The story mentioned that three council members attended the 2:00 meeting, but said nothing at all about quorums or the Texas Open Meetings Act.
Update #4: I renamed the post and apologize to the readers for getting this all wrong. – Doug