in Houston, Texas
Fort Worth ISD trustee seeks closed meeting, says public forum to interview board applicants would 'jam up' process
Friday, Feb 03, 2012, 02:56PM CST
By Steve Miller

In Fort Worth, the school district has decided that rather than let voters decide who will fill a vacant trustee seat, the sitting board is better qualified.

The board claimed an election would be expensive, therefore it would do the selecting for the people. It will meet Feb. 21 to discuss who will join its ranks.

At least one board member, though, believes that the process should be closed to the public.

Fort Worth ISD Trustee Ann Sutherland feels that holding a public forum with the applicants would create a scenario where some could "jam up" the process.

"It's going to be huge and ugly if we do," Sutherland said, according to an article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Sutherland also wanted to keep the names of the applicants private, but the district’s counsel advised that would be illegal.

But the school district attorney, Bertha Whatley, believes the board can interview applicants and discuss its choice behind closed doors. Whatley said the Texas Open Meetings Act allows such, citing Texas Government Code Section 551.074.
Ann SutherlandAnn Sutherland

Today, the Star-Telegram weighs in with an op-ed on the situation, predictably – and reliably – coming down on the side of transparency.

Sutherland has been at times a foe of transparency. She was loud in her protest last fall of the public availability of e-mails sent by elected officials and public employees.

And an account last summer, also in the Star-Telegram, noted that Sutherland was texting with the representative of a potential vendor during a meeting on whether to hire the vendor to handle the district's collections from delinquent taxpayers. The representative's firm won the contract.

Of course Sutherland may have texted him in he past; he and his firm, Linebarger, Goggan, Blair & Sampson, had helped her campaign in the past.

And she’s not afraid to defend her stance.
Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or

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