TPA Hotline

Final audit reports are public information; audit working papers are not

Q: Our hospital district board of trustees went into closed session with an outside independent auditor, the board’s attorney, the district attorney and local law enforcement to discuss a forensic audit of district’s finances under its former president. Afterward, the board reconvened in open session and did not discuss the audit results, but voted to send the audit report to law enforcement. Didn’t the board have a duty to discuss the audit report and say why they are sending it to law enforcement before calling a vote?

E-mail generated by a public official is public information

Q: The superintendent of a school district I cover sends out a weekly e-mail to school board members. First, do you know where I could find, either in statute or in an attorney general’s decision, whether that e-mail is considered public record? Second, I would like to be included on the list for receiving those e-mails. Do you know of any statute or AG decision that would require the superintendent to include me on the list?

Several sources offer information on tobacco, alcohol advertising

Q: I am new to Texas and want to check on laws regarding the advertising of alcohol and tobacco products in print and online that are specific to tobacco barns and liquor stores. 

A: First, here is a link to a list of laws affecting advertising in the Texas Alcoholic Beverage code:

http://texaspress.com/legal-notice-laws

(Click “Alcoholic Beverage” to view the short list of laws.)

Second, another good resource is the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission marketing practices link:

Open Meetings Act requires citing of exception allowing closed session

Q: Our city clerk puts a boilerplate notice at the bottom of city council meeting agendas, notifying the public that the council may go into executive session under any of a number of exceptions allowing it under the Texas Open Meetings Act. The problem is, this council has a habit of going into executive session without stating exactly which TOMA exception they are using. I don’t think a reporter or anyone else should have to sit there for hours, wondering what council members are talking behind closed doors. Can you send something that fits a scenario like that?

Access to settlement agreements may be hard to obtain

Q: Our hospital district recently let a highly paid employee go. The employee got a sizable settlement and the local governmental body is refusing to release the terms. Aren’t local governmental bodies prohibited from entering into nondisclosure agreements?

A:  See the Texas Public Information Act, Government Code Sec. 552.022, titled Categories of Public Information, at: www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/GV/htm/GV.552.htm#552.022. 

TPA Hotline September 2015

Documents are public from the moment they are fixed – in print or digital form

Q: My city is seeking a city manager. The city council narrowed the field from 30 to an unknown number. Interviews are starting next week. Do they have to tell me the names of the final three or four? I know school boards don’t.

Q&A: Sale of public land requires public notice

Q: Without advertising the availability of land for purchase, our county hospital district agreed to sell an adjacent strip of land to an individual. As far as we can tell at this point, it was the buyer who approached the district, not the other way around, and remarkably, a deal was made without public knowledge or consent.