Matchless Commitment to Public Service!
“Under the fundamental philosophy of the American constitutional form of representative government that adheres to the principle that government is the servant and not the master of the people, it is the policy of this state that each person is entitled, unless otherwise expressly provided by law, at all times to complete information about the affairs of government and the official acts of public officials and employees. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created. The provisions of this chapter shall be liberally construed to implement this policy.”
– Section 552.001(a), Texas Gov’t Code
Every city and virtually all political subdivisions in Texas are obligated to comply with the Texas Open Meetings Act. Oftentimes, actions taken by a governing body can be invalidated because of a failure to comply with the Act. In some circumstances, violations can result in criminal prosecution, a sobering fact to most newly elected city councilmembers. More significantly, recent amendments to the Public Information Act regard public officials as “temporary custodians” of records, which invoke criminal penalties for failing to preserve public information. In an era of electronic conversations and social media, the simple and common practice of deleting an e-mail or a text message can be a crime.
The firm’s first responsibility is providing guidance and training to avoid inadvertent violations of criminal prohibitions. Any attorney not well versed in the processes of conducting open meetings cannot provide effective guidance to a city council while a meeting is in progress. However, an experienced firm can quickly answer open government questions accurately, on the fly, and off-the-cuff without the need to conduct legal research. The firm’s members have that needed experience, earned through attending hundreds of meetings each year. The firm also provides annual (or as-needed) training to councils and staff.