More On The OMA Complaint Filed Against The Williamon County Commissioners

Posted in Commissioners Court, Bad Government Republicans, Williamson County at 4:45 pm by wcnews

So far the only traditional media to report on the complaint filed against the Williamson County Commissioners Court is KLBJ AM, Open Meetings Violation Complaint Filed Against Williamson County. The complaint was filed on September 21st.

A complaint has been filed against the Williamson County Commissioners Court for open meetings violations. The complaint on file with the District Attorney’s office centers around the public comment section of the commissioners meetings. The allegations are from former Georgetown Mayor MaryEllen Kersch, who has frequently spoken during the public comment section about the T Don Hutto Residential Center.

Kersch alleges the court treats the public comment period haphazardly, and is inconsistent with providing a sign up sheet, allowing County Judge Dan Gattis Senior to pick and chose who speaks. Since June, residents have frequently come to voice their opinions on T Don Hutto, the county landfill and the regional animal shelter.

EOW’s has obtained a letter [.DOC] (text of letter in “rest of entry”) from the complainant, MaryEllen Kersch, that she sent to Williamson County DA John Bradley on October 1st. It seeks to clear up any ambiguity regarding whether this is indeed a complaint and not just “informational”. In the letter Kersch also addresses the lack of action thus far and a possible conflict of interest which may lead to the Texas Ranges investigating the complaint.

(More regarding problems with this past weeks’ agenda posting and Kersch’s letter to Bradley in the Rest of the entry..)

Kersch had also contacted the Williamson County Webmaster regarding the October 2nd agenda not being posted in time, therefore making the meeting illegal as stated in the OMA. Here’s the Webmaster’s response:

This would be my fault as I had published it to http://www.wilcogov.org/agenda/agenda.pdf and had forgot to migrate the date stamped file 10-02-2007.pdf to the respective directory therefore listing it at the following address: http://wilcogov.org/commissioners/agenda_tab/archive/2007/files.aspx.

Here’s Kersch’s statement to the court on Tuesday regarding OMA requirements. The court addressed her concerns while she was not present and here’s her response to the County Judge and Commissioners:

I understand that you gave an explanation re. the posting issue after I left the courtroom; my understanding is that you believe that the posting Thursday was adequate. It was not.

The only way the public could have accessed the Thursday posting would have required keying in the exact address, as below. Any citizen wishing information on the agenda would go to the website, click “commissioners”, then click “agenda”. OR-they might have typed in “agenda” in the search box. As of 1:30 yesterday [Monday Oct. 9, 2007], that would have produced no posted agenda.

The law requires the posting to be on the website; the posting was not accessible from the website, but was a site specific address. Your posting does not meet the legal requirements.

This is serious stuff and the commission is not acting in compliance with the law, which is there for a good reason. Open government is part of representative government.

The AG’s office does excellent training programs on Open Government; they will do one for your organization for the asking. Your legal team seems not to have an adequate understanding of the requirements to protect you, and to give you a level of comfort in acting in accordance with the law. Bickerstaff has excellent expertise in this area. Somehow, from someone, you all really must become compliant with these requirements. It’ll be easier for you than resisting it.


Below is full text of letter sent to the DA:

To: District Attorney John Bradley

Re: Complaint of TOMA violation/ Williamson County Commissioners Court

From: MaryEllen Kersch

I want to be certain that it is understood that this previous communication was intended as a formal complaint. I am concerned that there has been a lapse in communications, given that the individual I spoke with was a temporary replacement for the regular investigator.

I spoke with your investigator after the County Attorney’s assistant informed me that her office did not handle these matters; she actually said that it was a matter for law enforcement and that I would have to file with the sheriff or police chief. However, I called both the sheriff’s office and your office and left messages asking who actually should receive the complaint. Mr. Leihardt returned my call, saying that you had asked him to do so.

I discussed the facts with Mr. Leihardt, relating that I had spoken with an attorney with the A.G.’s Open Government division, and had been told that there was cause for believing the OMA was being violated. The A.G. attorney further told me that either the County Attorney or your office was the proper venue for investigation of the matter. Mr. Leihardt confirmed that your office was the correct agency to deal with this complaint, and instructed me to fax the details of the violations to him. It was my understanding that this was sufficient to initiate the process and that there is no “form” for this, and that the faxed statement was the proper format.

When I discussed with Mr. Leihardt the difficulty of your office handling this, since (as I understand it) there is a potential for conflict of interest, Mr. Leihardt said it would be assigned it to an independent investigator, possibly even the Rangers.

To restate: please understand that my letter was not “informational;” it was sent to your office as an official complaint.

I am happy to provide any further information; fill out any forms, etc. Please let me know if that is required.

MaryEllen Kersch

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