TPA Hotline April 2015

UIL rule prohibits sale of championship event photos

Q:  I am just back from covering the UIL State Championship Basketball Tournament with a card full of photos. I noticed in the press packet that UIL prohibits sale of those photos. Is this a new rule?

A:  I forwarded your question to UIL and received a quick response from Kate Y. Hector, media coordinator, University Interscholastic League. Here is the text of it: 

“The rule prohibiting the sale of photos taken at UIL events is not a rule in the UIL Constitution and Contest rules, it is part of the media policy that those granted media credentials to UIL State Championship events agree to abide by. The media policy is determined by UIL staff, so it wasn’t proposed by anyone and has been in effect for at least 10 years.”

“The complete UIL media policy can be found here: https://www.uiltexas.org/media/general-media-policy.  If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact me.”

Q: At the end of a meeting of one of our local governmental bodies, the board voted to go into executive session. This executive session was not on the agenda, nor was the reason for the meeting stated. I found out the meeting was called by one of the board members, not the CEO or the board president. This is all wrong — right?

A: Executive sessions are limited to items that are listed on the meeting notice that is posted 72 hours in advance of the meeting. Something that qualifies as an emergency item can be placed on the agenda 24 hours in advance. If a tornado strikes, a train derails, or a fertilizer storage explodes, of course there would be no way to notify your newspaper until after the fact. 

What you have described may not be in line with notice requirements set forth in the Texas Open Meetings Act. Was a quorum of members present at the meeting, or not? If not enough members were present to constitute a quorum, no business could have been transacted, according to the Texas Attorney General’s Open Meetings Handbook. Furthermore, if a governmental body announces it is going into executive session to discuss an item on the agenda, the governmental body must cite the exception in the Act that allows the item to be discussed behind closed doors.

Q: Are local governments required to provide email notifications of posted meetings, if such notification is requested? I receive email notifications of all county commissioners court meetings, both regular and special gatherings, but such is not the case with the city. Where the city is concerned, I have to be on my toes because they post special meetings only on the city’s website and by the front door of city hall. One particularly important meeting was posted on the city’s website “calendar” where it could be easily overlooked. The meeting involved a controversial committee that was recently formed by a seemingly reluctant city council at the forceful urging of one council member. There are issues with this city council that call for a newspaper reporter to truly be a watchdog, and the city’s methods of posting meetings do not seem conducive to transparency.

A: Your city is required to post its meeting notices on its website, if it has a website, and notices must be posted at least 72 hours in advance of a regular meeting. Local governmental bodies generally must notify the newspaper or media of an emergency meeting to address an imminent threat to public safety.

Your city must obey this, re public posting of notice:

www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/GV/htm/GV.551.htm#551.050.

And, your city must obey this, re internet posting of notice:

www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/GV/htm/GV.551.htm#551.056.

Last but not least, school districts are the only kind of local governmental body required by law to notify the media of routine meetings, per this section of the Open Meetings Act:

www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/GV/htm/GV.551.htm#551.052.

Q:  What’s the rule about disclaimers on political advertising? The ad in question has to do with the proposed dissolution of our hospital district. I have an advertiser who is standing here representing himself and a group of like-minded people, but they want to remain anonymous. How much does a disclaimer have to reveal?

A:  According to the Texas Ethics Commission pamphlet, Political Advertising: What You Need to Know, political advertising includes communications supporting or opposing an officeholder, a political party, or a measure (a ballot proposition).

Texas Ethics Commission, the state agency whose statutory duties include the administration and enforcement of laws regulating political advertising, says a disclosure statement must include the following: 

1. The words “political advertising” or a recognizable abbreviation such as “pol. adv.”; and 

2. The full name of one of the following: 

(a) the person who paid for the political advertising; 

(b) the political committee authorizing the political advertising; or 

(c) the candidate or specific-purpose committee supporting the candidate, if the political advertising is authorized by the candidate. 

The disclosure statement must appear on the face of the political advertising. The advertising should not be attributed to entities such as “Committee to Elect John Doe” unless a specific-purpose committee named “Committee to Elect John Doe” has filed a campaign treasurer appointment with the Ethics Commission or a local filing authority. 

Here’s a link to that publication, where you will find more answers related to political advertising: 

www.ethics.state.tx.us/guides/Gpolad.pdf

And here’s another publication that people who are with the hospital district probably already know about, but it’s good for you to review it, too:

www.ethics.state.tx.us/pamphlet/B09pad_pol.html.