Big Spring Lawsuit for Alleged TOMA Violation

February 18, 2010

The Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas is pleased to assist the Concerned Citizens Council of Big Spring – Howard County in the filing of a lawsuit against the City of Big Spring, challenging a decision made during an illegal meeting under the Texas Open Meetings Act and asking for a tax rollback election as a remedy.

“We are in Big Spring today not to tell local citizens or their elected officials what to do,” said Keith Elkins, Executive Director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, “but to ensure that government bodies comply with Texas laws on open meetings, and to ensure that taxpayers are granted every legitimate right to make important decisions for themselves allowed under Texas law.”

That apparently did not happen with a recent citizens led effort to force a tax-rollback election. According to the lawsuit filed in the 118th District Court today, “…the City did not comply with TOMA (Texas Open Meetings Act).”

“The facts of this case will show that the City of Big Spring failed to act until the very last minute, to either certify or reject a citizens’ rollback petition,” said Elkins. “Then they scrambled to take action providing concerned citizens with only six hours notice claiming an emergency exception to the Open Meetings Act. This is a clear violation of the legal requirements of the Texas Open Meetings Act which call for 72 hours notice and Big Spring City officials must be held accountable.”

The Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas has been awarded one of the first grants under the new Knight FOI Fund, provided by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to the National Freedom of Information Coalition, to help pay for up-front costs such as court costs, filing fees, depositions and initial consultation fees.

“We are pleased to assist the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas and citizens of Big Spring, Texas with this financial grant,” said Charles Davis, Executive Director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition. “This is the very purpose this new fund was created.”

FOIFT Hotline ((800) 580-6651) Attorney and Board Member Jim Hemphill, a shareholder with the Austin law firm Graves Dougherty Hearon & Moody, P.C., is also assisting with this litigation as lead counsel.

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The Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation dedicated to enhancing the public’s right to know about their government and other public entities. The organization is supported by tax-deductible donations, as well as grants from foundations and private citizens. Membership information is available at www.foift.org. The Freedom of Information Foundation’s main offices are at 3001 North Lamar, Suite 302 in Austin, Texas 78705.