New Rule, The WCCC Gets Rules

Posted in Commentary, Commissioners Court, Williamson County at 11:28 am by wcnews

AAS has an article up today on the Williamson County Commissioners Court’s (WCCC) new Rules of Conduct, Procedure & Decorum [.PDF], County commissioners set new rules on public comments. In it Melissa Mixon gives the false impression that the reason the rules were drawn up and put into place, is because of the crowded meetings they’ve been having over the last year.

In the past year or so, Williamson County Commissioners Court meetings have sometimes become standing-room only as people line up to weigh in on controversial subjects like the county landfill or the T. Don Hutto Residential Center for immigrant detainees.

In response, commissioners recently approved rules limiting how many people can speak during the public comment section of their meetings. Only 10 people will be allowed to speak.

Well that’s simply not the case. The only reason this became an issue was because of the Open Meetings Act complaint that was filed against the WCCC by Mary Ellen Kersch.

Last month, former Georgetown Mayor Mary Ellen Kersch filed a complaint with District Attorney John Bradley’s office charging that Gattis would “allow speakers on one topic and not another” and that he “limits the number of speakers on a given topic, sometimes not.”

Kersch was referring to a meeting earlier this year. She said Gattis moved discussion on the county landfill to the bottom of the agenda and then removed the agenda item when it was time for public comments.

Her complaint was investigated, but Bradley said there was no evidence to support it.

That last line is incorrect. Kersch stated to EOW, “I was never told that Bradley found ‘no evidence.’ I was told that it wasn’t worthy of criminal charges”. There is a difference, and with these new rules coming directly on the heels of Kersch’s complaint, and Bradley’s ruling, it’s safe to assume that the DA told the WCCC to get some rules in place ASAP. Because if they were to continue without rules next time they might not be so lucky.

Here’s what Kersch had to say about problems with the new rules at this past Tuesday’s court meeting:

The Texas Open Meetings Act warns against procedural rules that are “…inconsistent with the state or federal constitution,” and specifically warns against “[r]estrictions on the subject matter that citizens may discuss or the manner in which they may discuss them,” citing First Amendment protections. Your IV, F is in violation of that requirement.

The institution of a dress code (and a vague one, at that) is a restriction on the public’s right to attend the open meetings—a right guaranteed by the OMA, and probably violates the First Amendment, as well. So IV, D also needs to go.

These are very subjective rules regarding dress and decorum. Who decides what is appropriate, demeaning, or insulting?


  1. tweety said,

    November 8, 2007 at 11:42 am

    I have just figured out who it is that runs the county. I did not know that was in the DA’s job discription. Your way underpaid for all your job duties JB!

  2. Eye on Williamson » New Rules, Here We Go Again said,

    November 13, 2007 at 10:13 am

    […] week EOW posted about the way that the AAS framed it’s article about the WCCC adopting rules for their meetings. They left out the fact that this issue would have […]

  3. Eye on Williamson » Commissioner’s Will Continue With Vaque Dress Code said,

    November 24, 2007 at 1:39 pm

    […] insanity of the WCCC. They obviously put in a dress code when they instituted their new rules. It was vague, and probably not legal, but they did it anyway. And Judge Gattis admits they […]

  4. Eye on Williamson » ACLU Shames WCCC - Free Speech Under Attack said,

    January 16, 2008 at 11:47 am

    […] Foundation of Texas spoke at the Williamson County Commissioners Court (WCCC) meeting regarding the Rules of Conduct, Procedure & Decorum they adopted in October 2007. I received an email yesterday regarding what she said. Really […]

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