Multiple Brown County commissioners, as well as County Attorney Shane Britton, refuted claims made by Court Coordinator Amy Briley that commissioners may have accidentally violated the Texas Open Meetings Act.
Citing a legal interpretation by the Texas Association of Counties, commissioners Joel Kelton, Gary Worley, County Judge Paul Lilly and Britton refuted claims made by Briley their attendance of a March 12 Federal Emergency Management Agency meeting regarding reimbursements for county roads and bridges damaged by recent floods may have violated the Texas Open Meetings Act.
“I’ve done this a long time. There is not a county in the state of Texas that is posting an official county meeting because of an informational session from FEMA. I can promise you that,” Britton said.
Britton’s comments came a week after Briley stood before the commission. With a voting majority of commissioners attending the March 12 meeting, she questioned what she believed was a walking quorum and commissioners inadvertently violated the open meeting act.
“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. 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.”
Britton, who was not at the March 25 meeting, said Briley made a comment she was not qualified to make. He added, had he attended Monday’s meeting, he would have corrected her. During the previous legislative session Texas lawmakers approved Senate Bill 1440, which amended the open meetings act to not consider a walking quorum in the case of elected officials attending a state, regional or national meeting. With officials from multiple counties represented at the March 12 meeting, Britton said Briley simply misinterpreted sections of the open meeting act.
“If she was sitting here I would say the same thing. She misinterpreted (it),” Britton said. “She has worked for the county for two and a half months. I have worked for the county for 22 years. She goes to one workshop, hears something, then comes back and repeats it. She doesn’t know what she hears or the law behind it, the facts behind it. She hears something and comes back and repeats it.”