Texas takes transparency seriously. The state’s Open Meetings Act, the roots of which date back more than a half-century, is meant to provide members of the public a window into the actions of their government.
Among the key aspects of this act are notice requirements. While these rules may, at times, may seem convoluted, running afoul of them comes with consequences.
Sufficient notice to the public
The Texas Open Meetings Act requires governmental bodies large and small to provide notice of meetings to the public. For every non-closed meeting, this notice generally must include:
- The date
- The time
- The location
- The subject that will be discussed
This notice must be sufficient – a term left somewhat open to interpretation, though one that has been clarified through court rulings. It must be specific enough to “apprise the general public of the subjects to be considered.”
Notice must also be posted for at least 72 hours prior to the meeting, though with some possible exceptions. And different bodies face varying requirements. For example, a school district must post a notice on a bulletin board in the district’s central administrative office. A state governmental body, meanwhile, goes through the secretary of state to get it posted online.
Violations could mean voided actions
Governmental bodies that violate these notice rules can face consequences.
According to the act, any governmental action taken in violation of these requirements is voidable. For example, if a body did not place a notice for the required period of time, or provided an insufficient description, certain decisions and votes finalized during that open meeting may be undone.
Any member of the public can start a legal action under the Open Meetings Act, and doing so is relatively simple. This can mean what should have been a straightforward meeting suddenly turns into an ongoing legal dispute – all because of an incorrectly posted notice.