A RESOLUTION RELATING TO PENALTIES UNDER THE OPEN MEETINGS ACT
WHEREAS, Texas cities support the foundation of the Open Meetings Act as an important and critical measure to ensure that their appointed and elected officials exchange governmental information, deliberate public business, and take official action in an open and transparent manner; and
WHEREAS, many cities are leaders among governmental entities in providing access to meetings and information relating to councils, boards, and commissions through the use of multiple communications media, including SLtv 16, live streaming video, archived videos on-demand, and meeting notices posted on city Web sites; and
WHEREAS, although cities support enforcement mechanisms to curb officials from intentionally circumventing open meetings to conduct the publicís business, the criminal prosecution provisions of the Open Meetings Act create an unreasonable and possibly unconstitutional constraint on the ability of officials to communicate with their colleagues regarding public matters outside of governmental meetings; and
WHEREAS, such threats of prosecution for any discussion of a public matter outside of a posted meeting effectively prohibit officials from communicating even the most benign information that is not intended to circumvent public deliberation or action; and
WHEREAS, the employment of less restrictive penalties would not only continue to preserve the integrity of the Texas Open Meetings Act but would also recognize the fundamental right of city officials to free speech; and
WHEREAS, an amendment to the Open Meetings Act to provide for less restrictive penalties would continue to impose greater restrictions on city officials than those imposed on Texas legislators who exempt themselves from the Open Meetings Act; and
WHEREAS, the Texas Municipal League has the ability to represent the best interests of Texas municipalities before the Texas Legislature;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the delegates assembled at this 2009 Annual Conference of the Texas Municipal League that the League actively facilitate and support the introduction and passage of legislation during the 82nd Legislature to amend the Open Meetings Act by replacing the criminal enforcement provisions with less restrictive penalties that balance the First Amendment right of governmental officials.
PASSED AND APPROVED by the membership of the Texas Municipal League this 23rd day of October, 2009, at Fort Worth, Texas.