An Austin American-Statesman story documented an interesting lawsuit being filed by Texas local government officials against Attorney General Greg Abbott and the state. The suit will allege that the state open meetings law violates elected officials’ free speech rights by prohibiting them from having discussions when they are not in session.
Two notable points aren’t mentioned in the otherwise informative article. First, the open meetings law only bans elected officials from discussing official business while not in a session open to the public. Elected officials can gather to simply shoot the breeze without fearing that they will go to jail. On that note, the suit makes a valid policy, if not legal, point as to why a violation of the act should be a criminal offense punishable by up to six months in jail. It is not clear if any official has gone to jail for this.
The other point of interest is whether public funds will be used to pay the lawyers bringing the suit, which include high profile, and surely high-dollar, attorney Dick DeGuerin. The article does not answer this question.
We will follow who prevails in this case of the government suing the government. There is a history of such paradoxical cases in Texas. In the school finance litigation, school districts sued the state for more money and years earlier counties sued the state for not promptly accepting inmates from county jails.
The Statesman article is at: