Tag Archives: Farmersville City Council

SCOTUS needs ethics rules

Leadership by example is the best kind of leadership I can find among those in position to assume positions that enable them to call the cadence for others to follow.

Why, then, doesn’t the nation’s highest court have a code of ethics and a strong enforcement policy in case the men and women who serve on that court mess up?

The U.S. Supreme Court is being drawn into the proverbial crosshairs of those who believe the highest court in the nation is failing itself and the judicial system by not leading by example.

Justices on the court have engaged in some mighty nasty side hustles of late. My favorite, of course, is Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife, Ginni, being involved in the MAGA movement to overturn the 2020 presidential election. It coincides with Justice Thomas being the only member of the nine-justice court to demand that Donald Trump turn over his White House records to the Justice Department during its probe into the 1/6 insurrection.

Coincidence? I think not!

However, there is nothing on the books at the Supreme Court building that enables anyone to take any action against Justice Thomas. There must be some law enacted that compels the court to establish a code of ethics and then ensures that the court punishes its members when they violate that code.

I recently interviewed a candidate for the Farmersville City Council here in Collin County. I asked him to describe his leadership ability. He said he leads “by example,” that he “wouldn’t ask someone to do something I wouldn’t do myself.”

That kind of creed ought to apply to the Supreme Court. It decides on others’ ethics issues all the time. If they break the rules and their case ends up in front of the nine justices, then the court has the power to decide whether a defendant broke the ethics rules.

Furthermore, lower federal and state courts have ethics rules they demand that judges follow. When is it ever OK for the court that oversees those lower courts’ adherence to the rules to be free of following rules of its own?


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.

Farmersville council improves outreach to residents

Blogger’s Note: This item was posted initially on KETR-FM’s website. I want to share it with High Plains Blogger readers.

Farmersville City Council gets an earful on occasion from residents who contend they don’t always know all there is to know about what the council is doing on residents’ behalf.

The council, though, has taken measures to repair that alleged shortcoming in its transparency.

It is now “streaming” its proceedings online, live, in real time on its website.

The city usually has a resident who’s been streaming council proceedings to her Facebook page. Her name is Donna Williams. She owns an antique shop on the downtown square. She believes the council needs to do a better job of letting residents know what is going on. She records the meetings and then streams them onto her Facebook page.

Williams has been streaming council meetings for a couple of years. She believes she is performing a valuable public service for her fellow Farmersville residents.

I covered many city councils and other governing bodies over nearly four decades as a print journalist. I don’t yet know precisely how the Farmersville City Council’s transparency matches up to other jurisdictions I’ve covered. Thus, I will reserve some judgment on the particulars of the community’s relationship with its council.

My experience has taught me over time that cities often never do enough to please every resident they serve. Amarillo was my last stop on my full-time journalism career, and I found the complaints there about city government almost laughable. The city council there meets in “work sessions” prior to the formal council meetings. The work sessions are as open to the public as the formal meetings. Yet some residents would complain that the council was meeting in secret, that it sought to hide public business from the public.

The only serious concern I have noted about the Amarillo council work sessions is that the room where the council meets have few seats available for the public to attend.

Farmersville’s website home page has a tab that readers can click to open the live streaming as it is occurring. You click on the tab beginning at 6 p.m. while the City Council is meeting and you can watch the council conduct business that is open to the public.

Donna Williams told me that many Farmersville residents work in other communities. They cannot always be at home in time for 6 p.m. council meetings when they get off work at, say, 5 p.m. Which brings up an interesting question: How does live streaming solve that concern for those who might be en route from work to home by the time the council has convened its regular meeting at City Hall?

I want to give the council credit, though, for listening to the concerns expressed by some residents, such as Williams. The city has gone through its share of community controversy that has spawned concern among residents that they weren’t kept adequately informed of council deliberations and decisions.

The city approved, for example, a Muslim cemetery that caused a good bit of community concern. What those concerns centered on make me scratch my head, given the fact that the individuals buried in that cemetery are, shall we say, already dead and they are certain to remain that way forever.

But the city has moved on from that debate. It is now offering a live streaming service to Internet-connected residents who want to stay abreast of City Council business.

From where I sit, I consider that progress. The city’s effort at live streaming council meetings likely won’t end the gripes from a few soreheads … but it’s a start.