About two dozen concerned homeowners attended the Clear Lake City Water Authority Board meeting on Thursday. This is a press release from that group.
CLCWA BOARD ATTORNEY DEFIES ATTORNEY GENERAL
Group informs board members the meeting violates Texas Open Meetings Act
Clear Lake (Houston), TX- A contingent of local homeowners attending the monthly board meeting of the Clear Lake City Water Authority informed the board attorney they believed the meeting was being held in violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act. The group advised the board to adjourn before taking any action on the agenda items and to reschedule the meeting once they gave proper notice and fully complied with the code. (See Texas Government Code below)
A spokesperson for the group, Dennis Terry said, “Board attorney Bill Schweinle, acknowledged to me that the board had never notified the County Clerk of Houston County of any of their official meetings as is required by Texas Law”. The CLCWA had annexed land in the city of Latexo, Texas outside of Crockett in 1980 to avoid being annexed by the City of Houston. “Even though I informed them the Texas Attorney General’s office agreed that without that required notification per the code, their meetings were in violation any actions they took would likely be overturned and they could each be individually fined. Schweinle replied, “Well, that’s their opinion”. Terry says he asked if his notification regarding the violation to the board would be on the record and Schweinle replied, “You can put it on the record, or I can, I don’t care”
Asked about the exchange, Terry wasn’t surprised at the arrogance. “This is a group of people that has been in power for so long, they play by their own rules and don’t think they are accountable to anyone...certainly not the taxpayers, and now not even the Attorney General of Texas. It was just this week they publicly admonished the Texas Supreme Court Justices for their unanimous opinion and judgment against the board members, and now they want to arrogantly challenge the authority of the Texas Attorney General. I was only amazed they did it in front of so many potential witnesses”.
Terry believes that the board is now committed to challenging the violations. “They know if it is determined they were not in compliance with the Open Meetings Act, then every decision, policy, vote, rate hike; each and every action this board has taken over the last 31 years can be reviewed and potentially overturned or investigated...and that would be damaging”.
The twenty or so homeowners who attended the meeting just wanted the board members to understand their frustration with the board’s recent 45% increase and to get some explanation why there was no notification to the taxpayers of the decision until mid January, when they read about it in the local paper and found out that the increase had taken effect a month earlier. Terry had inquired about the timing and was told the board had voted on the increase back in their October board meeting, a full three months before the public notification.
As the board continued with their illegal meeting, Terry and the rest of the homeowners discussed their options in the lobby of the CLCWA offices. “We plan to immediately file a complaint with the Office of the Attorney General and ask for them to void all actions considered at tonight’s meeting”, he announced. “Additionally, we will ask for an official ruling on the validity of all previous meetings and since the board and their attorney seem defiant on following Texas law, we will request the Attorney General to consider immediately removing all board members and appointing new members to the board while they carry out a thorough review of specific questionable decisions and conduct of the board members”.
TEXAS GOVERNMENT CODE:
CHAPTER 551. OPEN MEETINGS
Subchapter C. Notice of Meetings
§ 551.054. District or Political Subdivision Extending Into Fewer Than Four Counties: Notice to Public and County Clerks; Place of Posting Notice
.(a) The governing body of a water district or other district or political subdivision that extends into fewer than four counties shall:
(1) post notice of each meeting at a place convenient to the public in the administrative office of the district or political subdivision; and
(2) provide notice of each meeting to the county clerk of each county in which the district or political subdivision is located.
.(b) A county clerk shall post the notice provided under Subsection (a)(2) on a bulletin board at a place convenient to the public in the county courthouse.
Subchapter G. Enforcement and Remedies; Criminal Violations
§ 551.141. Action Voidable: An action taken by a governmental body in violation of this chapter is voidable.
§ 551.142. Mandamus; Injunction
.(a) An interested person, including a member of the news media, may bring an action by mandamus or injunction to stop, prevent, or reverse a violation or threatened violation of this chapter by members of a governmental body.
.(b) The court may assess costs of litigation and reasonable attorney fees incurred by a plaintiff or defendant who substantially prevails in an action under Subsection (a). In exercising its discretion, the court shall consider whether the action was brought in good faith and whether the conduct of the governmental body had a reasonable basis in law.