Citizen complaints have been filed with the District Attorney’s (DA) office after the city of Wimberley failed to post a notice of possible quorum prior to a Feb. 25 Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) meeting that four city council members attended.
At the meeting, the TWDB voted to postpone approval of Wimberley’s proposed change of scope for its wastewater plant, along with a crucial $5.5 million to fund connection to Aqua Texas, a third-party wastewater entity.
Per Texas Open Meeting Act laws, a notice must be posted at least 72 hours prior to a meeting or event where a possible quorum could be present. In Wimberley, a quorum consists of four or more city council members at the same location at the same time.
Laura Calcote, Wimberley city secretary, confirmed that a possible quorum notice was not posted by the city before the Feb. 25 TWDB meeting.
Counci members present at the TWDB meeting were Mayor Susan Jaggers, Mayor Pro Tem Gary Barchfeld, as well as council members Craig Fore and Mike McCullough. Council members Allison Davis and Erik Wollam were not present at the meeting.
Hays County District Attorney Wes Mau did not confirm if his office is investigating TOMA violation allegations against Wimberley. Sources in contact with the News-Dispatch sent the newspaper complaints that were filed at the DA’s office.
The quorum came two days before the Texas Supreme Court struck down a provision in the Texas Open Meetings Act relating to “walking quorums,” citing the law infringed on elected officials’ First Amendment rights.
On Feb. 27, the Texas Supreme Court called the provision to “knowingly conspire to circumvent this chapter by meeting in numbers less than a quorum for the purpose of secret deliberations” as unconstitutionally vague.
Although the decision does not affect the outcome of the TWDB meeting, the 7-2 decision from the court could mark the beginning of a discussion about the constitutionality of the Texas Open Meetings Act.
“On its face, that case applies to meetings in less than a quorum for the purpose of circumventing the Open Meetings Act, so it would not necessarily impact the application of the act in cases involving violations by a quorum of the governmental body, such as the situation you describe,” Mau said in an emailed response.
However, Mau said the case does offer conclusions that could be applied to other sections of the act, so whether the court’s opinion will be given broader effect than its immediate holding remains to be seen.
“I cannot comment at this stage as to whether or not the ruling would have any application with regard to the TWDB meeting you refer to in your email,” Mau said.