What is the Texas Open Meetings Act?
The Texas Open Meetings Act (herein referred to as TOMA), which was originally enacted by the Legislature in 1967 and has been amended many times since, exists to ensure that Texas State and Local Governments conduct public business publicly and transparently.Open Meetings
Under Texas Government Code 551.001, an Open Meeting is defined as any meeting called by the Government at which a quorum of members is present, and information regarding public business will be discussed. Examples of an Open Meeting would be a City Council Meeting, a School Board Meeting, or a County Commissioners meeting. Under Texas Government Code 551.041, the Governmental Body is required to give notice and an agenda to the public of a scheduled meeting no later than 72 hours before the meeting.Information Required to Be Presented Regarding the Open Meeting
Under Texas Government Code 551.043, the notice of the meeting must be published in a place easily accessible by the public no later than 72 hours before the meeting. Under Texas Government Code 551.048 states that for a State Governmental Body, the Secretary of State must place the notice of the meeting on the internet and a computer must be available during regular business hours for the public to be able to view the notice. Under Texas Government Code 551.049, County Governmental Bodies are required to post notice of the meeting on a bulletin board in the County Courthouse. Under Texas Government Code 551.050 states that a Municipal Government can place the notice on an “electronic bulletin board” such as the internet, as well as in City Hall on a bulletin board. Under Texas Government Code 551.051 states that school districts can place the notice on bulletin board inside the administration building. It is important to note that most entities now place the notice online. All agendas must have the items to be discussed as well as all the language and images to be used. Electronic versions can have links to these items embedded in the agenda.Minutes or Recording of Public Meeting
Under Texas Government Code sections 551.021 and 551.022 the Governmental Body must take minutes and/or have a recording of the meeting. These minutes must include the subject of each item deliberated; and must indicate each vote or decision made, as well as the order and other items of note. These minutes or recording must be available for public inspection upon request. It is important to note that most governmental bodies now have a recording posted of their meetings online for public viewing, as well as the agendas and/or packets with all the information available.Closed Meetings
Under Texas Government Code 551 Subchapter D, there are special exceptions for Closed Meetings. Governmental Bodies may go into a Closed Meeting for 1.) Consultation with Attorney, 2.) to discuss Real Property, 3.) Contract Negotiation, 4.) Personnel Matters, 5.) Security audits, 6.) or any other matter under Texas Government Code 551 that is deemed to be confidential or private.
Have questions about the Texas Open Meetings Act? Guest and Gray would be happy to answer your questions.