Tag Archives: open meetings

A bus ride spurred this call for transparency

I have told you on this blog about how Farmersville, a small city in Collin County, works to avoid the appearance of secret meetings among its City Council. It posts a “notice of potential quorum” when council members plan to gather in the same room … even for a social event!

The notice seeks to forestall any question among residents whether the council is acting in the public interest, or talking about public matters in, um, “secret.”

I happen to think it’s a capital idea that perhaps ought to be written into the Texas Open Meetings Act.

I haven’t told you, until now, how City Attorney Alan Lathrom came up with the idea.

It was in 1995. Lathrom served on the legal staff in Arlington, Texas, in Tarrant County. The Arlington City Council planned to attend the inaugural of newly elected Gov. George W. Bush. So, the council rented a bus, on which all the members would ride from Arlington to Austin to attend Gov. Bush’s inauguration.

Lathrom then had this notion: What if someone questions whether the council is conducting public business on the lengthy bus ride from here to there, and then back again? He told me recently there had been some rumbling and grumbling in Arlington about the council being in the same vehicle for such a lengthy period of time.

He came up with the idea of posting the bus ride as a notice of a “potential quorum” by the City Council. He decided to post it in accordance with the statute that requires a 72-hour notice prior to the “quorum” forming inside the bus.

The trip occurred. The council went to Austin to clap for the new governor. They shook many hands, slapped many backs, had a great time and returned home to Arlington. My guess is that it didn’t pass any ordinances either while traveling to Austin and back.

With that, an idea was born and it lives on today in little ol’ Farmersville, Texas.

Well played, Mr. City Attorney.

County official won't sue after all

Kirby Delauter says he’s sorry. He erred in threatening to sue a local newspaper for using his name without “authorization.”

He’s a Frederick County, Md., county councilor who got upset with a local newspaper’s account of things he had said in public. So he threatened to sue the paper and any reporter who used his name without first getting permission — from Delauter himself.

That’s a very bad call, councilor.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/01/07/kirby-delauter-apologizes/

Today he says he’s sorry. He won’t sue. Delauter understands what the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides, which among other freedoms is a free press.

Delauter said in part: “Of course, as I am an elected official, the Frederick News-Post has the right to use my name in any article related to the running of the county — that comes with the job. So yes, my statement to the Frederick News-Post regarding the use of my name was wrong and inappropriate. I’m not afraid to admit when I’m wrong.”

The threat drew a loud chorus of criticism from around the country.

http://highplainsblogger.com/2015/01/07/a-lesson-on-public-service-101-mr-councilor/

So, with that, he has apologized.

Apology accepted, Mr. Delauter.

 

A lesson on Public Service 101, Mr. Councilor

Kirby Delauter needs to be taught a lesson.

I will try to teach him one right here.

Delauter serves on the Frederick County, Md. County Council. He’s an elected public official, whose statements made in a public forum become grist for the media at any time. He makes statements on the record, for the record. They become part of the public domain.

And yet …

This individual is threatening to sue the Frederick News-Post if it uses his name in any fashion “without permission.”

Without permission? That means, if I’ve read the news story correctly about this tidbit, that the News-Post must get his permission to quote him by name even if he says something in the course of performing his duties as an elected public official. You know, such as saying something during a public meeting.

According to a News-Post account: “In a Facebook status posted Saturday, Delauter said he was upset with reporter Bethany Rodgers for ‘an unauthorized use of my name and my reference in her article’ published Jan. 3 about his and Councilman Billy Shreve’s concerns over County Council parking spaces.”

Therefore, the councilor says, he’s going to sue if a reporter uses his name without his authorization.

Um, Kirby, that’s how it works.

http://m.fredericknewspost.com/news/politics_and_government/delauter-to-the-news-post-don-t-use-my-name/article_e965025f-6c48-5a02-b162-600dfd2b5495.html?mode=jqm

I’m pretty sure no one in Frederick County elected this guy King of the World, or Commissar of Information, or Guru of Gab.

He’s elected to represent his constituents. The News-Post’s role is to report on what he says in public. The newspaper doesn’t need his permission to use his name.

I don’t know Maryland open meetings law, but it probably looks something similar to what Texas has on its books, or what other states allow to be kept from public scrutiny. The issues usually involving pending litigation, real estate transactions or personnel discussions. That’s it. The rest of it is fair game.

Here’s a bit of advice to the young man: Ask your county’s legal counsel if you have any standing to sue anyone who uses your name without “authorization.” My hunch is that your counsel will laugh in your face.

The paper’s managing editor, Terry Headlee, said it best: “Kirby Delauter can certainly decline to comment on any story. But to threaten to sue a reporter for publishing his name is so ridiculously stupid that I’m speechless. It’s just a pointless, misguided attempt to intimidate and bully the press and shows an astonishing lack of understanding of the role of a public servant.”