Commissioners clarify stance on quorums

By Kristen Tribe | Published Saturday, March 16, 2019

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Wise County commissioners Monday emphasized their commitment to transparency by making a change to their Rules of Procedure, Decorum and Conduct, declaring “all business requiring a vote of the commissioners court will be deliberated and decided in a posted meeting with a quorum present.”

County Judge J.D. Clark suggested this change following the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals’ February decision that the provision in the Open Meetings Act requiring a quorum for secret meetings was “unconstitutionally vague.”

“They struck that part down and that concerns me a bit because I think that’s a bad way to do business …,” Clark said. “I thought [clarifying our rule] would be a good show of how we do business because we don’t do walking quorums, and we’re very careful when we’re all together. I think that’s a good way for us to conduct business.”

Clark also told commissioners that Gov. Greg Abbott sent letters to state departments instructing them to comply with the spirit of the Texas Open Meetings Act.

Commissioners unanimously approved the change and a few others including:

  • citizens who wish to speak should do so during community forum. They are no longer required to fill out a participation form as outlined in the 1994 version of the Rules of Procedure, Decorum and Conduct.
  • commissioners will meet on the second and fourth Mondays of the month; and
  • media personnel should consult with the county judge’s office about placement of equipment, including lights, cameras or microphones so it does not impede with the proceedings of the meeting.

This replaced a rule saying media should not set up within 5 feet of the commissioners court bench.

Clark also replaced a reference to the “sheriff’s department” with “sheriff’s office” because, he noted, use of the word “office” is the preference of Sheriff Lane Akin.

Although certain aspects of commissioners meetings have been modified through the years, the document outlining the Rules of Procedure, Decorum and Conduct had not been updated in 25 years.

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