- Paris Flash
- Real Estate
QUESTION 1: What is your vision for Paris for the short term and for the long term?
Dr. AJ Hashmi: My vision for Paris is that of a community with the charm of a small city but the bustling of a progressive industrial town that supports our residents and their families to provide a good safe environment with jobs for our graduates and quality of life for our seniors and children. The short-term goal is to provide all the assistance to the new city manager to develop and cultivate a relationship with our residents. The long-term goal is to assist him in developing a future development plan for our city.
QUESTION 2: Point out three top priorities for the city and local government.
Dr. AJ Hashmi: A friendlier current to develop business in town. 2) A cooperative and enthusiastic permitting process in town. 3) A council that supports each other in development of new ideas and following them through.
QUESTION 3: Give some innovative/creative ideas for infrastructure improvement/replacement.
Dr. AJ Hashmi: However innovative one may want to be, the bottom line is the availability of funds to improve infrastructure. Options: 1) Committed funds out of our general funds every year for gradual replacement. 2) If one has to go to a bond issue, we should go with small bonds rather than one big bond. Take smaller bonds out for smaller sections of town, and when we pay those off, we take out another small bond for another area.
QUESTION 4: Identify four challenges or deficiencies of your district and your plans to meet those challenges.
Dr. AJ Hashmi: 1) General cleanup. 2) Street repair. 3) Infrastructure repair. 4) Demolition of dilapidated structures. Have a community meeting on general cleanup. Develop a district-wide fund allocation for street repair. Replace the oldest and most dilapidated part of our infrastructure. Consider the sale of properties the city has taken a lien on, and develop from the disposal of those properties the funds to bring down dilapidated structures. We need to create a friendlier environment to develop business. We need a cooperative and enthusiastic permitting process. We need a council that supports each other in development of new ideas and following them through.
QUESTION 5: What changes do you suggest for economic growth of the city?
Dr. AJ Hashmi: A) Develop and nominate people to the PEDC who have a proven record in economic growth. B) Make the city government user-friendly to business investments, and give tax rebates. C) General improvement and cleanup of the city, which will attract people to the town.
QUESTION 6: What suggestions do you have to improve the net revenue picture for the city?
Dr. AJ Hashmi: Try to increase the tax base by making the city more attractive as a retirement community. Emphasize good health care and cheap real estate, and market that. That will increase the tax base (population) and thus increase the revenue. Importance should be placed on safety and security, general cleanup, and quality of life issues.
QUESTION 7: If elected, how will you encourage participation of your district in city matters?
Dr. AJ Hashmi: Encourage people in my district to participate in the decision-making of the city by attending the Sunday afternoon meetings I have at the district council office before each council meeting.
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By CHARLES RICHARDS
In a meeting last month of the Paris Economic Development Corporation, a member of the PEDC went opposite the intent of the Texas Open Meetings Act, suggesting that his colleagues were in violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act for making public what was said in executive session.
In the opening paragraph of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s introduction to the “Open Meetings Handbook,” Abbott says:
“The Texas Open Meetings Act honors the principle that government at all levels in this state should operate in a way that is open and accessible to the people. As Attorney General, I am committed to that vision as well, and I am working to ensure that Texas government is as transparent as possible.”
The minutes of the PEDC’s March 6 meeting — which the Paris City Council on Monday night will “receive and deliberate on” — has this fourth paragraph:
“Doug Wehrman addressed those present to keep in mind that discussions in Executive Session need to be kept in strictest confidence. To violate the Texas Open Meetings Act is considered a Class B misdemeanor.”
Nothing in the Open Meetings Act prohibits a member of a governing body from making public what is said in executive session.
It may be true that what happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas, but the people of Paris and Lamar County are entitled to know what happens in the PEDC, the city council, the county commissioners court, the PJC board of regents, and their public schools.
An attorney general’s opinion addresses the issue of what members of a governing board may share about what is said in executive session.
In Attorney General’s Opinion JM-1071, written on July 11, 1989, Attorney General Jim Mattox responded to a letter from State Sen. Kent Caperton of Bryan, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, who was concerned about “some local authorities” who were interpreting the Open Meetings Act “to mean that persons present in an executive session cannot make any statements regarding the subject matter of the session, even to voice their own opinion about that subject.”
Caperton suggested that such an interpretation “raises a serious question of interference with the freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.”
Mattox ruled that what a governing body may not release is the certified agenda or tape recording of an executive session.
“We interpret subsection 2A(h) as applying only to the records of executive sessions which governmental bodies are required to keep pursuant to section 2A of the act,” Mattox declared. “It does not prohibit persons who are present at the executive session from afterwards talking about the subject matter of the session.”
At the end of his two-page opinion, Mattox summarized his findings:
“Subsection 2A(h) of article 6252-17, V.T.C.S., the Texas Open Meetings Act, applies to the certified agenda or tape recording kept as a record of an executive session. It does not prohibit members of a governmental body or other persons in attendance at an executive session from making public statements about the subject matter of that session.”
An attorney general’s opinion has the force of law until the courts or Texas Legislature say otherwise, (See the full opinion at the end of this article.)
According to the minutes, no members of the news media were at the meeting.
City attorney Kent McIlyar, who is the legal counsel for the PEDC as well as the city council, was at the meeting. The minutes don’t indicate that McIlyar corrected Wehrman.
There was no indication in the minutes of what provoked Wehrman’s admonition to fellow board members Kenny Dority, Bruce Carr, Rick Poston and board chairman Pike Burkhart.
Office of the Attorney General
State of Texas
July 11, 1989
|Honorable Kent A. Caperton
Texas State Senate
P.O. Box 12068
Austin, Texas 78711
|Opinion No. JM-1071|
Re: Whether the “certified agenda” provision of the Open Meetings Act, article 6252-17, V.T.C.S., unduly restricts speech rights of members of governmental bodies (RQ-1681)
Dear Senator Caperton:
You request an opinion interpreting a provision of section 2A of the Texas Open Meetings Act, article 6252-17, V.T.C.S. Section 2A was added to the Open Meetings Act in 1987. Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 549, s 3, at 2212. It requires governmental bodies to maintain a certified agenda or tape recording of executive sessions. See Attorney General Opinion JM-840 (1988). Subsection 2A(h) of the act provides in part:
No individual, corporation, or partnership shall, without lawful authority, knowingly make public the certified agenda or tape recording of a meeting or that portion of a meeting that was closed under authority of this Act. (Emphasis added)
V.T.C.S. art. 6252-17, s 2A(h).
You state that some local authorities have interpreted the quoted language to mean that persons present in an executive session cannot make any statements regarding the subject matter of the session, even to voice their own opinion about that subject. You point out that this interpretation raises a serious question of interference with the freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. U.S. Const. amend. I. See Attorney General Opinion MW-563 (1982) at 5, 6.
We interpret subsection 2A(h) as applying only to the records of executive sessions which governmental bodies are required to keep pursuant to section 2A of the act. It does not prohibit persons who are present at the executive session from afterwards talking about the subject matter of the session. Accordingly, we need not reach the first amendment issue.
The meaning of the language in subsection 2A(h) can be determined by looking at section 2A as a whole. Subsection 2A(c) describes a certified agenda:
The certified agenda shall state the subject matter of each deliberation and shall include a record of any further action taken. The certified agenda of closed or executive sessions shall be made available for public inspection and copying only upon court order in an action brought under this Act. (Emphasis added.)
Id. s 2A(c).
The language on inspection and copying in the above provision shows that the certified agenda is a record. A tape recording of the executive session, like a certified agenda, is a record. See generally V.T.C.S. art. 6252-17a, s 2(2) (definition of “public records” under Open Records Act).
Section 2A of the Open Meetings Act repeatedly uses the terms “certified agenda” and “tape recording” to refer to the tangible documents that record the executive session. For example, the certified agenda or tape is available for in camera inspection by the judge in a lawsuit involving an alleged violation of the act. Id. s 2A(e). The certified agenda or tape must be preserved for a least two years after the date of the meeting. Id. s 2A(f). Members of a governmental body may not participate in a closed meeting knowing that a certified agenda is not being kept or a tape recording is not being made. Id. s 2A(g). These requirements cannot be rationally applied to speech occurring after the meeting.
The “certified agenda” and “tape recording” mentioned in the provisions we have cited record the proceedings of the executive session. The legislature presumably used these two terms consistently throughout section 2A. See Paddock v. Siemoneit, 218 S.W.2d 428, 435 (Tex.1949). In our opinion, subsection 2A(h) bars the release of such records, and does not prevent members of the governmental body from talking about their recollections of the subject matter of the executive session.
The purpose of enacting section 2A was to ensure that a record of executive sessions would be available in the event of a lawsuit alleging an Open Meetings Act violation. Subsection 2A(h) ensures that the record will be used only for that intended purpose. The prohibition is thus corollary to, and no broader than, the new record keeping requirement. Persons who attended an executive session are not prohibited by section 2A(h) from discussing its subject matter. [FN1]
Subsection 2A(h) of article 6252-17, V.T.C.S., the Texas Open Meetings Act, applies to the certified agenda or tape recording kept as a record of an executive session. It does not prohibit members of a governmental body or other persons in attendance at an executive session from making public statements about the subject matter of that session.
Very truly yours,
Attorney General of Texas
First Assistant Attorney General
Executive Assistant Attorney General
Judge Zollie Steakley
Special Assistant Attorney General
Chairman, Opinion Committee
Jennifer S. Riggs
Open Government Section Opinion Committee
Susan L. Garrison
Assistant Attorney General
FN1. Nothing in the Open Meetings Act requires members of a governmental body to make statements about an executive session.
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