A proposed change to meeting times for the Amarillo City Council could conflict with the Texas Open Meetings Act.
This week, the Amarillo City Council discussed changing its regular meeting time from 5pm to 7am. The change, which was spearheaded by Mayor Ginger Nelson and city manager Jared Miller, was allegedly proposed to assist working parents and employees at City Hall. Councilmembers agreed to change the meeting's time for 90 days, with a start date that has not yet been set.
While the change has drawn both criticism and praise, it appears that the time change could conflict with the Texas Open Meetings Act.
According to information available from Amarillo.gov, the doors of City Hall do not open to the public until 8am. However, Councilmembers are proposing holding meetings beginning at 7am on Tuesdays.
Information from the Texas Attorney General's Open Meetings Act Handbook for 2018 appears to show that while some variances exist, the City Council would have to host the meeting at a time when the public would have free access to attend.
"The Act requires a meeting of a governmental body to be held in a location accessible to the public," the handbook reads. "It thus precludes a governmental body from meeting in an inaccessible location."
Steven Denny, a local attorney familiar with the Texas Open Meetings Act, also cast doubt on the legality of a government entity holding a public meeting in an area that is not accessible to the general public.
"I'm not aware of any provision that allows a governmental entity to hold an otherwise open meeting in an area that prevents public access," Denny said. "That would completely circumvent the purpose of the open meetings act."
A spokesperson for the City of Amarillo was unavailable for comment at the time of this story's publication.