VON ORMY—In a unusual action last week, Councilwoman Carmina Aguilar posted a city council agenda, an act usually performed by the City Clerk. On Tuesday the 14th, City Attorney Woody Wilson advised the Council by letter that “Based upon the information received, as of today I would advise that any meeting held on October 15th would be in violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA).” Despite the warning, the meeting was attended by three Council members, Jacqueline Goede, Verna Hernandez and Carmina Aguilar. City Attorney Wilson attended the meeting and again advised the three Council members present that holding the meeting would be in violation of the TOMA and any actions taken could be void by law. Stating their disagreement with the City Attorney, the council members present conducted a meeting.
The following day, Mayor Art Martinez de Vara filed an action in the 225th District Court asking the court to declare the meeting void due to violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act. Judge Michael Mery granted the Mayor’s request for a Temporary Restraining Order preventing all actions taken at the meeting from going into effect, stating in the order “Defendants have taken action in violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act and all ordinances passed or actions taken at that meeting are void” The Mayor told the Star, “the three council members believe their meeting was valid. I agree with the City Attorney that a meeting should not have been conducted. Myself and the other members of the Council did not attend based upon the advice of the City Attorney that it would be unlawful. Several significant actions were taken at this meeting and the city needs clarity to move forward. Filing a declaratory judgment action in the district court was the only method we had to determine if the meeting is void or valid. On first hearing he ruled that it was void. It is in the judge’s hands now.”
An October 29th hearing is set if any of the council members wish to challenge Judge Mery’s preliminary findings and Order.