|Director McMullan requested an agenda item to discuss whether to change the Township’s current policy to publicize the additional materials that are provided to Directors, but are not currently listed on the website.
The Board does not have a written policy regarding these matters at this time.
Township staff makes every effort to ensure that meeting materials are available to the Board and the public at the time the agenda is posted. In accordance with the Texas Open Meetings Act, Board agendas are required to be posted at least 72 hours in advance of the meeting. While meeting materials are generally subject to release to the public through the Texas Open Records Act, there is no legal requirement to post meeting materials for the public in either the Open Meetings Act or the Open Records Act. However, in the interest of openness and an informed public, the Township regularly posts the vast majority of its meeting materials on the Township website at the same time the meeting agenda is posted.
From time to time, the materials are not provided to the Board or to the public in advance of the meeting due to timing, pending information or the draft nature of the materials at the time of agenda posting. To avoid confusion, if information in the materials may be subject to change or is not in a finalized format, it may be withheld at the time of the agenda posting, but would be available to the Board or any member of the public once it is in final form.
When materials are not available at the time of posting, the online posting typically includes a notation that materials were not available at the time of the agenda posting and will be presented or provided at the meeting.
Most often, this situation occurs when agenda items are requested just prior to agenda posting, which does not allow staff appropriate time to compile and finalize Board materials prior to posting. Typically, these items are time-sensitive or are perceived to be time sensitive. Delays could be based on the amount of research required, pending feedback required from legal or third parties, pending information from a Director, or the need to interpret vague requests.
If the information is not available at the time of the meeting, staff simply recommends that the Board table or defer the matter until such information becomes available. If the information is available in time for the meeting, the memos are provided to the Board in hard copy as “additional materials”.
Following the Board meetings, these “additional materials” are available to the public through an open records request, but have not typically been posted to the Township’s agenda site after the fact. As such, the Township website remains an archive of the materials provided to the Board at the time of agenda posting.
If a change in practice is requested, it is recommended that all additional items be added to the site within a defined timeframe, such as by noon the following day. This would allow staff to ensure that the materials are appropriately added to their respective agenda items and set a clear expectation for the public for the posting schedule. While it may be desirable to post all materials prior to the meeting, this is not always feasible. There are times when the “additional materials” are still under development or subject to change up until the start of the meeting, particularly when they involve late requests (such as the tax abatement discussion item at the January 16 meeting). Additionally, the Township cannot “unpublish” the agenda between the time of the agenda posting and the time of the meeting due to Open Meetings Act requirements. If an agenda is taken down in our online system in order to adjust background materials, the “clock” restarts on the 72-hour posting requirements.