I just finished reading the Standard Times story about the last SAISD school board workshop. Makes you wonder what the board members were thinking. It seems they need to take a look at the Texas Attorney General's site on open government, and look at the section called Open Meeting Laws Made Easy. They might want to get the publications available for free as well. Here are some highlights that the board needs to look at.
First, any time a quorum of a governmental body is present and discusses public business, the open meetings laws apply. According to information on the OAG site, the authority to hold off the record staff briefings and similar workshops was repealed by a change in the law in 1999. That law limits which meetings can be closed, and lays out the requirements for notification and recording.
Next there is the question of recording the meeting. According to the state law, all meetings subject to the open meetings law must either have minutes or a tape recording. No exceptions, even for closed or executive sessions. The only time that the minutes or recording stop is when the body is consulting with an attorney, and attorney client privilege is involved. There are limits on how the record of a closed session can be distributed, but there must be an official record.
Last, there is the question of notification of meetings. The law is simple. The notice must be posted in a place readily accessible to the general public at all times for at least 72 hours before the scheduled time of the meeting, with a few exceptions for emergencies and state legislature activities. I am not sure if the door of the school board building meets this criteria but will check it out when I get a chance. The Boards posting on the internet might also suffice, but the notice and content organization leave something to be desired.
After this quick review, you have to wonder why the School Board ended up in this situation. I am sure they weren't trying to pull a fast one. Still, this is something that shouldn't happen again. Additionally, this is a wake up call to watch the organizations that should be having open meetings. The "Government Body" referenced in the law also includes certain non-profits that can receive federal funds or that deal with water. Good government requires open government. Citizens do have a right to know what's going on.
Keep checking comments for updates.