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Her Honor

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Open Meetings Versus Free Speech

Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010

When individuals appear in court complaining about "open meeting laws" they are usually constituents or members of the  press protesting the loopholes that allow back-room deals. In a bizarre twist, more than a dozen councilmembers in Texas are alleging the laws are too restrictive -- and don't allow them to have private conversations.

I have to admit I read this story twice, thinking I somehow misunderstood the complaint. But, in fact, these public officials feel their constitutional rights to free speech are being violated by the Texas Open Meetings Act. They fear their exchanges might lead to fines or jail time if they violate the Act.

Unbelievable! The public has a right to know what goes into the deliberations leading to a council vote, and the elected officials have an obligation to be transparent.

Fortunately the judge didn't agree, but he didn't disagree either. He's asking for more information and will announce his decision next month.

In taking this to district court these councilmembers have shown either a complete lack of understanding of democracy or incredible hubris. It makes me wonder what else they are up to.


Tags: first amendment, public trust, Texas, transparency

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