in Houston, Texas
Levelland board blocks reporter from discussion, says meeting not required to be open
Thursday, Jun 07, 2012, 10:19AM CST
By Steve Miller
No Entry

“This was some matters that we just wanted to be able to discuss informally," the city attorney said to the reporter as he denied him access to an impromptu meeting.

We’ve heard of some excuses for closing a gathering of a city board to the public – none of them valid – but that of Richard Husen, city attorney in Levelland, is at least honest and may well fall within the law.

As the ABC affiliate in Lubbock reports, the Levelland Construction Advisory Board huddled behind closed doors to discuss an incident in which the mayor allegedly assaulted the town’s building inspector. The matter is for the police to sort out.

On the other hand, the closed door meeting is one for the local district attorney’s office to check into.

The board gathered without notice as the TV crew attempted to attend the meeting. After being turned back by City Manager Rick Osburn, the crew stood outside the door of the meeting and attempted to listen.

Osburn came out of the room and asked them to leave, according to the account from the crew. They refused, and he went back into the closed door meeting.

Husen told the reporters that the meeting was that of an advisory board – a body that is fairly well defined by the Texas Government Code as not subject to the open meetings law. An exception: If the board sets policy and its decisions are routinely rubber-stamped by another board like a City Council, it may fall under open meetings requirements.

The city of Levelland has a good appearance of transparency, which is something we look at when there are allegations of impropriety.  Among its postings of public meetings, the Construction Advisory Board is not included, as it is purely an advisory body.

Still, the assault accusation, the strident response of the city attorney and the city manager to the media’s attempt to access the meeting and the appearance of an open meetings violation created an unnecessary stir.

Good work by the persistent television crew. But it looks like the city may have the law on its side.

***
Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or stevemiller@texaswatchdog.org.

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