Sunday, March 20, 2011

Comments about public employee contracts ignored at meetings

When it comes to contracts and employment issues, the public will never know what actually took place in their local government's deliberations

The Texas Education Agency recently announced that parents of Moody Independent School District students will be compensated for their childrens' tuition and transportation costs if they choose to send them elsewhere. The District has been blacklisted as substandard in its performance while other nearby local districts such as Crawford and Brucevill-Eddy are rated as excellent. - The Legendary

By R.S. Gates

Moody - When it comes to the employment contracts of public employes such as school administrators and teachers, the issue of public comments are given short shrift. They have a neat way of side stepping the issues.

They use the law – or, that is, an interpretation of the law – that governs discussion and inquiries at public meetings of the boards who run school districts, local governments and legislative bodies.

Though almost all government boards provide for public comments at their meetings, most elected officials take the opportunity to pretend they are busy doing something else while citizens deliver their invective.

They ignore the citizen making the comment.

Texas Government Code, Chapter 551
§ 551.042. Inquiry Made at Meeting

(a) If, at a meeting of a governmental body, a member of the public or of the governmental body inquires about a subject for which notice has not been given as required by this subchapter, the notice provisions of this subchapter do not apply to:

(1) a statement of specific factual information given in response to the inquiry; or

(2) a recitation of existing policy in response to the inquiry.
(b) Any deliberation of or decision about the subject of the inquiry shall be limited to a proposal to place the subject on the agenda for a subsequent meeting.

What does that mean?

If the presiding officer is not knowledgeable enough to relate a specific factual information or recite existing policy, a person exercising their rights will get only dumb looks or ignored.

There are three reasons elected officials are so distant.

1. They really don't care what you think
2. They are terrified someone might realize they are idiots
3. Some really stupid stuff comes up in public comments

There is not much you can do about elected officials who are indifferent to your petition. I could be the poster child for that scenario.

The ones who are scared just lack confidence. In a very small percentage, they are crooks who are afraid their corruption will be exposed and hide behind a globally misunderstood law. The remainder just really don't know what action they make take or what is and is not legal.

So if § 551.042 covers items not on the agenda, what about items on the agenda?

The crooked elected officials will deny a request to address the governing body during the agenda item.

If the item is on the agenda, 551.042 does not apply. There is no prohibition restricting discussion of an agenda item by the public. While I have on multiple occasions made a request during public comments to address a governmental body at the time of discussion of the agenda item, to date no one has honored the request.

As a result of my request to to address the school board on the subject of an agenda item – in this case, employee contracts - I received a revelation.

Having known the presiding officer for more than 30 years, I may have been a little overly optimistic. He addressed my concerns by saying the agenda item would be addressed in executive session.

I was allowed to make the countering argument that the law did not require employment matters to be undertaken in executive session, as is commonly believed.

I am going to give the presiding officer the benefit of the doubt on this one.

My request was unreasonable.

The School Board worked until after 11 p.m. on the employee contracts. They worked well after I gave up and left. Had the presiding officer honored my request, it would have only provided further complication to an arduous task.

I don't agree with the outcome, but don't fault the president in this request. There will certainly be plenty of opportunity for further scrutiny of his position in the future.

1 comment:

  1. Employment contracts should definitely contain the following factors.

    Exact nature of work expected from the employee.

    The details of the payment of wages.

    The work timings and the list of holidays granted.

    The detailed contact information of the employee for reference.

    sample contracts