By Alex Hinojosa
El Paso Times
Originally published Oct. 18, 2013
Trustees of the Ysleta Independent School District are questioning whether the board president’s recent actions to recess during a heated argument at a district board meeting violated the Texas Open Meetings Act.
Earlier this week, Trustees Shane Haggerty, Ana Dueñez and Connie Woodruff each sent a letter to board President Patricia McLean, requesting a special meeting so that the district could address her motion for a recess during a heated argument at a board meeting Oct. 9.
After McLean called for a recess, Trustee Marty Reyes seconded the motion, and the board went behind closed doors with their attorney, an action that could be a violation of the Open Meetings Act.
According to the Texas Open Meetings Act, trustees are allowed to call for a closed executive session but must cite a reason for doing so.
“I am concerned because I think we need to talk about the procedures we are using,” Woodruff said. “It seems pretty bad that we don’t know what’s going on as far as the rules are concerned.”
According to the law, if trustees commit an offense that violates openness requirements, it could result in a fine of $100 to $500 or confinement in the county jail for up to six months.
“A member of a governmental body must be found to have acted ‘knowingly’ to be found guilty,” according to the Texas Opens Meetings Act.
McLean could not be reached for comment Thursday, and district officials said a special meeting is scheduled for Tuesday but did not disclose whether the trustees’ concerns would be addressed.
“I feel we need to get together and discuss it and figure out and see what the procedures should be and how it should be handled,” Woodruff said. “I think we all need to be reacquainted with the rules. We all want to do what’s right and what’s legal. We don’t want to be in jeopardy of jail or fines.”
Having a special meeting to address McLean’s actions would allow the board to remain transparent with the community, Dueñez said.
“As a Board of Trustees, we are supposed to work together and be informed,” Dueñez said. “And this is something that our constituents need to know — we are trying to be proactive and transparent to make this district a better district.”