Concerns Over Possible Open Meetings Act Issues and Council Attendance at Candidate’s Forum – Updated

Filed under: Chamber,City |

Reports are that there is concern about council members attendance at tonight’s Candidate’s Forum sponsored by the Duncanville Chamber of Commerce and Duncanville Rotary Club.

The concern is over the Texas Open Meetings Act and how it applies to the council in such situations, and a quorum of the council being present. The Texas Open Meetings Act states that the Act applies to a governmental body, which engages in a “regular, special, or called meeting. Informal meetings of a quorum of members of a governmental body are also subject to the Act.”

A quorum of the council would be four members. Given that there are three members that are on the ballot for general elections, and could be in attendance to represent themselves, any additional council members that might be in attendance could constitute a quorum being present.

One of the key points is how deliberation is defined in the Act. Deliberation is defined as a verbal exchange during a meeting between a quorum of a governmental body, or between a quorum of a governmental body and another person, concerning an issue within the jurisdiction of the governmental body or any public business.” For the purposes of the Act, deliberation and discussion are synonymous.

The Open Meetings Act requires that if a quorum of council members are in attendance, then a meeting notice/agenda must be posted at least 72 hours prior to the meeting.

There are exceptions within the Act for Informal and Social Meetings, but examples listed within the Act include conventions, ceremonial events, and press conferences.There is no “meeting” under the Act if formal action is not taken and any discussion of “public business is incidental to the social function, convention, workshop, ceremonial event, or press conference.”

According to the Texas Municipal League, attendance by incumbents at the forum could create legal pitfalls. The Texas Municipal League website has an article that outlines some of the hazards of a quorum being present.

“The Act is intended to allow the public to view the business of the city council. But does the Act distinguish between official meetings and campaign gatherings of the city council? Absolutely not. If a gathering of a quorum of incumbents takes place anywhere, a “meeting” of the city council may have occurred, and all the Act’s requirements (e.g., a properly posted agenda, public access, and a specific listing of subject matter) may apply.”

Another section of the article directly addresses candidate forums. “The Act is intended to allow the public to view the business of the city council. But does the Act distinguish between official meetings and campaign gatherings of the city council? Absolutely not. If a gathering of a quorum of incumbents takes place anywhere, a “meeting” of the city council may have occurred, and all the Act’s requirements (e.g., a properly posted agenda, public access, and a specific listing of subject matter) may apply.”

An Internet search showed that on April 28, 2012 the Town of Flower Mound posted a “Notice of Possible Quorum” for the Flower Mound Candidate Forum to be held April 28. The City of Duncanville has posted no such notice.

Interim City Manager Jeanne Fralicks-Heard was contacted regarding this issue, and asked if city staff or the city council has received any advice from the City Attorney regarding this matter and if MyDuncanville.com can receive copies of that correspondence. Fralicks-Heard advised that the City Attorney has been contacted about our request for the information and they are awaiting a ruling from the attorney. If the information is received, we will be publishing an updated.

The Duncanville Chamber of Commerce and Duncanville Rotary Club 2012 Candidates Forum is set for tonight at 7PM at the Shine Performance Hall on the Duncanville High School Campus.


The city attorney ruled that the majority of the correspondence was protected by attorney/client privilege and not subject to an open records request. The city did forward a copy of the Texas Municipal League article that was already listed.