This report is necessary because Guidry News Service must explain why we did not report two emergency meetings of Jamaica Beach City Council this week.
On Sunday, the day after fire damaged Jamaica Beach City Hall, Mayor Vic Pierson called us to advise that a workshop that had been scheduled on Monday had been cancelled and that a special meeting may be called to deal with emergency issues related to the fire. Listen: MP3 RealPlayer
“We may have an emergency meeting just to deal with this situation and, you know, once we finish up all the assessment and figure out how to get back into operation,” Pierson said.
“You’ll let us know?” I asked.
“Absolutely,” he answered.
However, it was Thursday before we realized that two emergency meetings had been held.
“Did you have a special meeting this week?” Managing Editor Garrett Bryce asked in an email to City Administrator John Brick. “We did not receive notice of it.”
“Yes, we had a meeting on May 3rd and May 4th to discuss emergency issues after the fire,” Brick responded.
Emergency meetings are permitted by the Texas Government Code (Section 551.047)
(a) The presiding officer of a governmental body, or the member of a governmental body who calls an emergency meeting of the governmental body or adds an emergency item to the agenda of a meeting of the governmental body, shall notify the news media of the emergency meeting or emergency item as required by this section.
(b) The presiding officer or member is required to notify only those members of the news media that have previously:
(1) filed at the headquarters of the governmental body a request containing all pertinent information for the special notice; and
(2) agreed to reimburse the governmental body for the cost of providing the special notice.
(3) The presiding officer or member shall give the notice by telephone or telegraph. (Editor’s note: I am told that email or fax has been added to the act)
Regarding item (b), our initial request for agenda information from Jamaica Beach goes back to 1996 when we began covering posted meetings on Galveston Island for Galveston Fax. In addition, I had requested notice in my interview with Mayor Pierson on Sunday.
Thus, we asked Brick for clarification on the notification requirements.
“We had a meeting on Monday at 5 p.m. and one on Tuesday at 5 p.m.,” Brick responded. “The meeting was posted at the Jamaica Beach City Hall two hours before the time of the meetings. In both cases, Galveston Daily News was advised of the meeting.”
Mayor Pierson was copied on these emails and offered this response, “Jim, I want to express my sincere apology for the slight on the media notice of our emergency meetings. We very much appreciate your past coverage of Jamaica Beach and pledge to alert you in the future, Vic.”
Well, I appreciate the apology. I really do. I fully understand how emergency events are clouded in confusion and mistakes do happen. The issue is not that Guidry News Service was slighted. I know it was not intentional. Pierson actually gave us a heads up on Sunday, so I know that the lack of notification was not intentional.
However, Gulf Coast E-news subscribers and others who get their news of government meetings from GuidryNews.com, depend on us for information on the public meetings we cover. This includes engineers, contractors, suppliers and others who do business with cities; and may have wanted to know what services might be required in the wake of the fire. In addition, we have subscribers who own property in Jamaica Beach and live elsewhere, who depend on us to report on the city council.
Another problem is that any action taken by the city council in the emergency meetings may not be legal because of the failure to notify the media properly. I suggested to Pierson that the city’s attorney be asked whether another special meeting should be scheduled to ratify whatever was done at the emergency meetings.
Pierson responded, “Thanks Jim as we are o.k. legally but should have been more inclusive; however, this is our first time dealing with a fire, Vic.”
This report is not to suggest that anything sinister happened in Jamaica Beach, but to explain to our audience why we failed to report on two emergency meetings.