Monday, February 2, 2009

HERE ARE THE FACTS RELATED TO WHAT A COMMISSIONER CAN AND CANNOT SAY TO A CITIZEN DURING THE PUBLIC COMMENTS PERIOD

It is sad the Commission is unwilling to listen. The law is the law - regardless of who is urging the point and regardless of whether I or anyone else likes it.

In the statute the key word is "inquiry." I understand people will ignore the word to get to the result they want - but in the end the key word is "inquiry.

Sec. 551.042. INQUIRY MADE AT MEETING

(a) If, at a meeting of a governmental body, a member of the public or of the governmental body inquires about a subject for which notice has not been given as required by this subchapter, the notice provisions of this subchapter do not apply to:

(1) a statement of specific factual information given in response to the inquiry; or
(2) a recitation of existing policy in response to the inquiry.

(b) Any deliberation of or decision about the subject of the inquiry shall be limited to a proposal to place the subject on the agenda for a subsequent meeting.

Added by Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 268, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1993.

Here is the Attorney General opinion on the issue. It is long, but just do a word search for 551.042 and it will take you right to the discussion.

http://www.oag.state.tx.us/opinions/opinions/49cornyn/op/2000/pdf/JC0169.pdf

The way I read inquiry is, "a search for knowledge." This is actually an online definition. For me this means the citizen must ask a question - "how much did the sports park cost?" A commissioner would then be allowed to respond with a factual answer without engaging the citizen. It is not to be used to correct misstatements of fact made by the citizen.

Another example would be, "what is the city’s policy concerning the sale of spirits near schools?" A commissioner could then simply state the factual policy - nothing more - nothing less.

Sorry Charlie Atkinson’s desire to take it beyond this is outside the law. Now, I do believe it hurts the interests of the people if the Commissioners cannot correct misstatements of fact or policy presented by citizen speakers. For now the solution is to put on the city agenda a time for correction of misstatements of fact or policy by citizen speakers.

The City Commission might consider asking our state representatives to amend §551.042 to allow for not only providing factual information to a speaker upon inquiry, but to allow a City Commissioner to call on a city staff person at the meeting to immediately correct any misstatements of fact or policies made by citizen speakers.

5 comments:

The Merovingian said...

The City Commission might consider asking our state representatives to amend §551.042 to allow for not only providing factual information to a speaker upon inquiry, but to allow a City Commissioner to call on a city staff person at the meeting to immediately correct any misstatements of fact of policies made by citizen speakers.

TOMA does allow the commission to direct the questioner to the correct city department and/or government employee that can resolve the situation.

I do agree that a "counter blast" that is one-way presented two weeks or more after the fact is abusive.

This "we are not allowed to respond" is garbage. TOMA allows it, as does a specific resolution passed by the same nursery school we presently are saddled with. I cannot believe that Chosy maintained otherwise.

M.

BobbyWC said...

I do not disagree with this:

"TOMA does allow the commission to direct the questioner to the correct city department and/or government employee that can resolve the situation."

But this is not the problem - what does the city commission do when a citizen speaker gives a lecture with false information?

A lecture is not an inquiry - with the citizen speaker not specifically asking a question then the city commission is at a disadvantage -

This is why it needs to be amended so that the commissioners can ask that a city employee come forward immediately to give factual corrections - not discussion - just factual corrections.

This does not mean that a commissioner cannot say to a speaker - so and so in the city can help you with your factual research.

TOMA does not provide for any remedy to citizen speakers using the public comments period to put out false or misleading information. A lecture is not an inquiry.

TOMA needs to be fixed.

Now if there is an AG opinion out there or a definition out there that says a lecture is an iquiry then I will stand corrected.

My view of many of the opinions we hear during the public comment period indicate to me the speakers have no interest in facts or knowledge - the essence of an inquiry.

Look I am no fan of Chosey - but Sorry Charlie was not trying to respond to an inquiry he was trying to lecture the speaker - this is not allowed - had the situation been more focused on an inquiry and Chosey shut Sorry Charlie down then I would have been pissed.

I was willing to look this information up because Roman went to the meeting prepared - it took me less than a minute to find the opinion and the subject statute -

I guess all we can do at this point is argue as to the meaning of an inquiry - is it a question, or a lecture, or both?

Bobby WC

Anonymous said...

Without the benefit of having read the statutes, I only ask what personal liabilty is incurred for violations and is the city liable due to a Commissioners actions? Suppose counsel advised to take a particular course of action, the elected fails to heed the advice and the city takes no corrective action?

The Merovingian said...

Didn't you get a kick out of Commissioner Atkinson claiming. "But Roman said we can do it! But Roman said we can do it!"

It was one of the funniest things I ever saw.

M.

BobbyWC said...

But like I said, roman did his homework - hopefully now the commission will consider their options -

they can have Chosey request an AG Opinion as to whether a citizen speaker making a mistatement of fact or policy constitutes an inquiry

Bobby WC