Image via WikipediaThe Texas Open Meetings Act ("TOMA") [Tex. Govt. Code Sec. 551.001(3)] unconstitutionally deprives public officials of their First Amendment right to free speech.
So claim 15 elected officials and four Texas towns who filed suit in U.S. District Court in Pecos this week, seeking to overturn the statute they claim prevents them from discussing public issues in public or private.
TOMA forbids a quorum of a governmental body from deliberating in secret and punishes violators with a $500 fine and up to six months in jail. The statute sets forth seven exceptions that permit officials to meet in executive session, including to discuss: lease or sale of real estate, security measures, receipt of gifts, attorney consultation, personnel matters, economic development, and certain homeland security issues.
Joining the 15 elected officials as plaintiffs in the suit are the Lone Star State cities of Big Lake, Alpine, Pflugerville and Rockport. Plaintiffs argue that a quorum of a governmental body ought to be able to use Email, Facebook and Twitter to communicate with each other outside of a posted meeting.
Looks as if some pols want to conduct the people's business a little too deep in the heart of Texas.