The existence of tax-funded lobbyists is bad enough. Such people are paid with our tax dollars to lobby for higher taxes and bigger government. It’s nothing short of government-imposed taxpayer self-abuse. Remember holding your little brother down and smacking him in the face with his own hand? It’s like that, only big-government adds a wedgie for good measure.
As if this weren’t bad enough, a tax-funded lobbyist named Fred Hill was recently hired by the City of Grapevine following a secret meeting on the matter – a screaming violation of the Open Meetings Act.
As reported by the Fort Worth Star Telegram, Grapevine City Manager Bruno Rumbelow hid behind City Attorney Matthew Boyle’s judgment that the secret meeting fell comfortably in the “personnel matters” exception to the Open Meetings Act.
The problem is that the “personnel matters” exception in the Open Meetings Act only applies to public employees, not private contractors hired by the state. Check for yourself: personnel matters exception – scroll to 551.074
In fact, according to attorney Donald Ray Burger, the Open Meetings Act exceptions are so narrow that many city charters prohibit closed meetings altogether for fear the exceptions are too narrow to navigate without getting sued. Put differently, these aren’t the kinds of laws you can fudge and stay safe from law suits.
The entire Open Meetings Act is a protection against government power; it forces them to let us watch what they do. The “personnel matters” exception exists to protect individual employees from having their dirty laundry aired publicly in meetings about their performance, disciplinary actions, their firing, etc. If they’re being railroaded, individual employees can even waive the “personnel matters” exception to bring the otherwise secret meeting into the light of day, ensuring the government can’t use this exception to abuse the very people it exists to protect.
In this case the Grapevine city government used the “personnel matters” exception to justify meeting secretly to discuss hiring tax-funded lobbyist Fred Hill, which they did. Remember, he’s a private contractor paid with the people’s tax money to lobby for higher taxes and bigger government.
The spirit behind the Open Meetings Act and the “personnel matters” exception is taxpayer protection against government power. You decide whether the Grapevine city government used the “personnel matters” exception in the spirit of the law or directly in the face of it.
To learn more about the Texas Open Meetings Act visit https://www.burger.com/omindex.htm .