The Texas Attorney General’s Office has ruled that posted notices of DCTA committee meetings have been sufficient to comply with the state’s open meetings laws.
The ruling came Friday, a month earlier than expected.
In a Feb. 27 letter to the attorney general, Rep. Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton, requested the extra scrutiny of agenda postings for Denton County Transportation Authority committee meetings.
State law allows only certain elected and appointed officials to ask for such opinions. The attorney general’s office has issued fewer than 100 opinions each year for the past several years.
The matters are considered by an opinion committee, which can include briefings from other parties interested in the case during its deliberations. DCTA provided a briefing after Solomons sent the request, according to DCTA President Jim Cline.
“[DCTA attorney] Pete [Smith] sent information over on the whys and the wherefores,” Cline said.
No one from either Solomons’ district or capitol office returned a call for comment.
For years, DCTA has had standing committees working on issues relating to the start of its rail line.
The standing committees discussed issues before the full board deliberated and voted on them.
DCTA also has had ad hoc committees address issues such as agency bylaws, legislative needs and new-member policies as they arose.
The agency’s financial partners — Denton, Highland Village and Lewisville collect sales tax to help fund the agency — broached the open meetings issues several months before asking Solomons to request the opinion.
Lewisville officials had said the matter became more sharply drawn after the DCTA board changed the bylaws allowing the 14-member board to appoint an executive committee of four to five members.
Five board members constitute a quorum by state law, triggering other posting requirements under the open meetings laws.
However, the attorney general’s office ruled that a court would likely find DCTA’s posting practices sufficient under the law.
Even though other governmental entities have similar committee structures, DCTA changed the way committee work was done in advance of the attorney general’s opinion and in response to the concerns expressed by those member cities, Cline said.
Violations of state open meetings laws can come not only with civil challenges but also with criminal penalties.
For now, DCTA has no plans to return to the former meeting structure.
“But now there’s an opportunity to change it if the board saw fit,” Cline said.
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881. Her email address is email@example.com .