Brown County Commissioners may have once again found themselves outside of government standards, this time at the state level, following a report by Brown County Court Coordinator Amy Briley.
Briley reported county commissioners may have violated state requirements often referred to as a walking quorum after multiple commissioners attended a meeting organized by the Federal Emergency Management Agency earlier this month,” Briley said.
Last earlier this year, Brown County was among 33 counties selected by President Donald Trump to receive FEMA reimbursements for roads and bridges damaged by the floods in the fall of 2017. Greg Goddich, district coordinator for FEMA, hosted more than a dozen representatives from municipalities throughout central Texas inside the Brown County Courthouse to discuss the reimbursement program. With four commissioners attending the meeting, Briley believed it may have constituted a walking quorum and been an illegal meeting.
“When three or more commissioners get together, most counties go ahead and post that whether any action is going to be taken or not. The FEMA briefing you just attended, when Archer County did that that is how they posted everything," said Briley, referring to a public notice posted by Archer County officials. “There are different counties and different ways to do it. Travis County will post work sessions and they do minutes of those work sessions. Bell County will just keep a running list of anything where three commissioners are expected to attend. They are not considered full meetings, because no action will be taken and that is usually mentioned in the posting … The opinion from the attorney general’s office is these are meetings that need to be posted.”
According to the Texas Attorney General’s Office website, knowingly violating the Texas Open Meetings Act is a misdemeanor and punishable with a fine between $100 to $500 or confinement in the county jail with a minimum sentence of 1 month and a maximum of 6 months. Precinct 1 County Commissioner Gary Worley defended the commissioners actions, referencing a previous FEMA meeting four commissioners attended, and seemed confused by an accusation of violating law.
“There were four of us that attended a conference in Bryan a few weeks ago. It specifically says in the open meetings act that we can attend conferences and any other legislative functions or social-type of meetings without having to post a meeting,” Worley said. “What you’re talking about is what we did with the FEMA meeting the other day. There were three commissioners in there, but there was no action. I would be glad to have that posted. That’s fine.”
County Commissioners also:
Approved paying the months bills and approved department head reports. Took no action on implementing a burn ban. Reviewed a $123,280 bid for remodeling the kitchen inside the Brown County Jail.