Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Committees and Commissions

According to The Dallas Morning News, Richardson resident David Chenoweth "has filed a complaint with the Texas Attorney General's office over the Charter Review Commission not providing time for public comment at all meetings." He is hanging his case on Section 3.10 of the Richardson City Charter.
Section 3.10. - Open meetings.
All meetings of the city council and all committees thereof shall be open to the public except as otherwise permitted by state law, and the rules of the city council shall provide that citizens of the city shall have a reasonable opportunity to be heard at any such meetings, in regard to any matter there considered.

After the jump, why he is mistaken.

He is mistaken because the Charter Review Commission is not the city council, nor is it a committee thereof. It is a commission. Believe it or not, like it or not, there's a difference. That's why the Richardson City Charter has an entirely different section (Section 9) dealing with commissions than the section above dealing with the city council (Section 3).

Section 9.04 lists the requirements of commission meetings. Note that there's no requirement for the public to be heard at such meetings.
Section 9.04. - Meetings.
All meetings shall be open to the public unless otherwise provided by law. Minutes shall be kept and attendance, subject matter and voting shall be recorded.

By the way, there are at least three committees of the city council: Audit Committee, Education Committee, and Retail Committee. Membership, as you would expect, is made up of city council members. Hence, these are "committees thereof." If and when these committees meet, the agenda has to allow time for public input. That's specified in Section 3.

There are many more commissions and boards: Arts Commission, Environmental Commission, Parks Commission, City Plan Commission, etc. Membership, as you would expect, is made up of people appointed by the city council, not city council members themselves. If and when these commissions meet, the agenda does not have to allow time for public input. That's specified in Section 9.

It might be good to allow for public input at commission meetings whether or not the city charter requires it. It also might be a good time to consider amending the city charter to require time for public input at commission meetings. I'd like to see the city charter made so plain and simple that no one can misread it. Sadly, I doubt that's possible. This complaint is evidence.

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