PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Local News

March 3, 2014

PA city manager closed session discussion questioned

PORT ARTHUR — A month after Port Arthur severed ties with City Manager Floyd Johnson, City Council is moving toward finding a replacement, but the process posted on Tuesday’s regular meeting agenda does not appear to be in compliance with the Texas Open Meetings laws.

The Texas Open Meetings Act legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted, both in open and closed session.

In this case, City Council’s March 4 agenda states Council will meet in closed, or executive, session to discuss the selection process of potential candidates for the position of city manager.

According to the act, a governing body may discuss nine subjects in closed session. Among those allowed is personnel — a subject that City Attorney Val Tizeno said allows the city to consider the  manager position behind closed doors.

Though the Texas Open Meetings Act allows the discussion of personnel in closed session, the act specifies discussion should be limited to a particular person, or persons.

The act does not allow the discussion of a process to select those individuals,

The purpose of allowing discussions in priviate is to protect particular individual employees, Joel White, a first amendment attorney from Austin volunteering with the Texas Freedom of Information Foundation.

“It seems to me they are not trying to protect the privacy of any individual,” White said. “In this case, they should not be meeting in private.”

Tizeno said the city was acting in accord with the Act.

They (the Council) could be reviewing candidates, particular people. You can talk about the selection of candidates,” Tizeno said.

When discussing a particular candidate, it is non uncommon to discuss the process in which they will be hired, Tizeno said.

Port Arthur Mayor Deloris “Bobbie” Prince said she was not aware the closed session item had been placed on the agenda. Nor, is she aware that the city council has any candidates to consider.

The city does intend to hire a search firm, but has not yet done so.

“We have not hired the search firm, but have instructed human resources to solicit proposals from firms interested in doing a search,” Bob Williamson, District 6 city councilman, said.

Williamson said he is not aware of any candidates for the job.

“I have not heard of any candidate, would not have a clue at this point who our candidates are going to be,” Williamson said.

E-mail: skoonce@panews.com

Twitter: skooncePANews

 

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