This week transparency in government won a major victory when a judge ruled Grapevine’s City Council violated the Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA) by hiring Fred Hill in a secret meeting.
The Star-Telegram filed the lawsuit after they were denied a copy of the meeting minutes that resulted in Hill’s being hired. Grapevine Mayor William Tate has been shameless in defending the secret meeting, refusing to release meeting minutes and the creation of the office of city Lobbyist to hide future dealings with Hill.
This ruling forces a Grapevine choice: supply the minutes or appeal the ruling? An appeal will cost taxpayers dearly. Appealing the ruling would be a continuation of the calloused attitude that the city has taken towards taxpayers.
Tax funded lobbying, a corrupt practice largely hidden from public view, is supplemented in Grapevine’s case by a blatant assault on TOMA. Cities creating offices to hide what should be public contract discussions and lawsuits to gut TOMA, efforts endorsed by the Texas Municipal League (TML), are against the interest of taxpayers’ but are paid for with tax dollars.
Grapevine City Council, Mayor Tate and TML have firmly positioned themselves between taxpayers and government transparency. Not surprising as transparency limits the ability of local officials to use public office for personal gain. Grapevine is a microcosm of what’s going on in municipalities all over Texas. These practices need to be exposed and ended.
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