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George Boehme: One city council-member needs to clean up his act

February 17, 2016 By:George Boehme

Local News

InstantNewsWestU.com Publisher George Boehme

InstantNewsWestU.com Publisher George Boehme

Publisher’s note: This is an email written to the city attorney. I attempted to gather information under the rights guaranteed to all of us under the Texas Public Information Act. A central quality of our form of government is openness and transparency. My opinion is that both openness and transparency were missing so I made this request to the West University Place city attorney.

City Attorney Alan Petrov:

I apologize for the casual tone and likely typos but I am writing this extemporaneously and as a result of my frustration.

You know about the open records request I made on February 2 requesting a copy of a document a West University Place city council member had written at a West U public meeting and was used as a closing presentation before a West U-city board. Basically, the city council member was a speechwriter. And I wanted a copy of the speech. I requested this document pursuant to my rights under the Texas Open Government Act.

Instead, the requested document disappeared.

Here is the council member’s reasoning for not producing the document. This is an excerpt of an email from the city council member written to the city secretary and forwarded to me:
“I have discussed this matter with Alan Petrov. I did not create any written records in my capacity as a City Council member. I attended the ZBA meeting as a private citizen. I was not introduced as a City Council member and did not speak as a City Council member. The City Council has no official role in the ZBA hearing or in reviewing the ZBA’s decision. Because I did not create any records as a City Council member, I did not keep any written records in electronic or other form, and do not have any documents or records responsive to your request.”

The council member’s cloudy explanation troubles me on a jillion levels.

His second sentence is an acknowledgement that he created written records but, in his determination, did not create them in his capacity as a city council member.

I questioned the council member immediately after the meeting and asked him about the document I saw him write during the course of the meeting. He first denied he had written a document, then he said he would not answer my questions. Documents don’t erase themselves. If the council member knowingly erased the document in expectation I was going to ask for under my rights derived from the Texas Open Government Act, he would be guilty of a crime.

But his reasoning for his personal exemption from the law is offensively torturous – The council member says he was not a council member when he attended a meeting at city hall (really?). He was at city hall not as an elected official, but as a private citizen – appearing as an obvious, if not registered, advocate on an issue before a city board whose board members he had recently appointed to their positions?

In summary – In this city council member’s determination, he was not at city hall acting in his capacity as a city council member so he was not subject to the provisions of the Texas Open Government Act that require the retention of, and the release of, documents discussing matters about West University Place by a West University Place elected official.

Wow.

Councilmember Brennan Reilly’s interpretation of the Texas Open Government Act defies logic and runs contrary to statute and case-law. Uncle Logic asks this question: How can a city council member be at city hall and not be a city council member?

Alan, I don’t care about going backwards on this – my worry is about tomorrow, or next month. I will not be so gracious if next month Reilly destroys a document he is legally required to produce.

The law is clear – If a West University Place city council member writes a letter to their pen-pal in New Zealand and says that they went to a meeting of the West University Place Recycling Board (and nothing more) – that is absolutely an open record under the Texas Open Government Act. There is no discussion or correspondence a West U elected city council member can have during their term of office that discusses a matter involving the operation and the administration of West U government that is not an open record under the Texas Open Government Act.

The city council needs clear legal direction that Reilly’s conduct violated the law and will not be repeated down the road.

Do you agree? We should clear this up now. If we need to ask the Texas Attorney General – OK. But I think we both know what his answer will be.

10 Responses to “George Boehme: One city council-member needs to clean up his act”

  1. Karl Decker Says:

    The hard-on this rag has for Brennan Reilly is ridiculous.

  2. Robert Grossman Says:

    Response to “Anonymous: I attended the board meeting”. I was an official party in support of the Formal Opinion of the Zoning Official and against AT&T efforts to expand its uses of the Ruskin lots beyond the allowed use of “parking vehicles”.

    Mr. Reilly never sat at the table with ZBA board members. Additionally, I have the official recording of the meeting and Mr. Reilly did not speak.

    I believe that Mr. Reilly is concerned, as should any West U citizen be, that AT&T has flouted our City’s ordinances and illegally used the Residential Lots on Ruskin. This is well described in the “Formal Opinion of the Zoning Official”, Debbie Scarcella.

    AT&T has unlimited resources. They are using one of the top land-use experts in Texas to argue their case. In 1970 and 1975 they had similar experts when they convinced the City to allow their use of the residential lots on Ruskin for the parking of vehicles owned by AT&T or its employees. They swore in public session that they would use the properties solely to park commuter vehicles.

    Based on the official record of the AT&T’s testimony, it is fair to conclude that no city commissioner (the former title for City Council Members) thought the Commission (the Council) was approving a truck depot.

    I greatly appreciate the support of Mr. Reilly and all the citizens that came to the ZBA hearing in support of the Formal Opinion of the Zoning Official.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    George, you are brave to speak out. WUP has a history of punishing anyone who speaks out. The constitution may exist somewhere, but not in WUP! This is a city where if you speak against leadership, as an employee, you are fired. If you speak out when the Senior bus is on fire, and you simply ask for someone to look into it, you loose your rights to go to the Senior Center. Then about a year later, the Parks director decides to look into it. Really?!!! It was even suggested that WUP NOT use County buses for Seniors! If this doesn’t prove that we need new leadership who would show a drop of compassion, I don’t know what will. Monday is our city council meeting. I expect for George to be reprimanded or scolded. They might even take away his Bingo rights as they do to Seniors who dare to speak up. I believe Brennan is not the real problem. The real problem is when leadership targets citizens, as we heard when Bob demanded to know who dared to report them for Open Meetings violation! No Bob, citizens know better than to publically say anything after what leadership has done to select taxpayers. New leadership is needed!

  4. GoldBacon Says:

    In my experience, Mr. Reilly is very aware of open meeting laws and has made sure to comply with them. I’ve emailed him a couple of times at his law firm, and each time he’s replied and copied his West U (official) address so that it would be in the public record. Anyway…thought I would present an opposing viewpoint that is othersie unlikely to be presented on this web site.

    • Anonymous Says:

      As long as this mayor and city council members withhold tax paid services from citizens who have not been tried or convicted of any crime, I cannot support ANY member of this leadership! I encourage everyone to vote for new leadership next election. This leadership holds grudges. Citizens are punished without a day in court. Citizens are refused services such as trash pick up when someone is injured. This leadership makes promises that are NOT kept! I was told prior to the election that Michael Ross was to be gone! This leadership does not comply with the will of the people. For years, the people have requested “open green space” in parks. This is documented in surveys. What is being done to advance this goal? Nothing. Citizens continue to speak before city council and WUP Boards asking for park land with in walking distance on the East side of WUP. The bulk of the money and resources are going to the West side. WUP does not stop at Buffalo Speedway! In the Master Parks plan, I do not see anything on the East side of WUP. Again, this leadership does not care about the will of the people! You may attack Brennan Reilly now, but you need to look at the actions or inactions for the citizens of this leadership. When one taxpayer is denied services, with the full knowledge of the city manager, mayor, and city council, what does that say about this city? When one senior citizen is not allowed to join senior activities in the senior center, or trash service is denied when they are injured and unable to put the trash out on the curb, that speaks volumes about the kind of city we live in. I suspect the leadership is not concerned with the people who live here, pay taxes, and have varying opinions. Election will come soon enough. WUP citizens must make a change in leadership. Hopefully, we will find leadership who bends to the will of the people (not just caters to staff), moves in a positive direction (not just fights with the city manager, the church, each other, citizens, etc.), will work to find the best solutions to WUP issues (not put tax resources to work outside WUP), will be compassionate to WUP citizens concerns (not just punish targeted citizens), and build a vibrant community where no matter where you live, you get equal rights (not just put parkland on the West side of WUP, limit citizens to 3 minutes of input, while staff monopolizes Board meetings). VOTE FOR NEW LEADERSHIP NEXT TIME!

    • MJR Says:

      Thank you and I agree with you.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    I attended the ZBA meeting. If Brennan was at the meeting as a private citizen, like me, why was he sitting at the table with the Board members? Why was he free to speak at will, instead of the 3 minute limit afforded “private citizens”, why was he allowed to be introduced with the Board members during the introductions, why was he allowed to give opinion during the Board members time, etc. Sorry Brennan, it is not plausible that you were at the ZBA meeting as a private citizen. I tried to defend Brennan this morning, but since your fellow city council members and mayor refuse to support you, the public will follow suite. I see that the major is angry with you at times, the other members of the city council seem to vote against whatever you vote for, but right is right. You were at the meeting in a leadership role! This city council seems to be terrified of litigation. It controls their every move. When I go to the Board meetings, I must wait until the chairman deems it is the scheduled time for citizen input. When someone sits at the table with the Board members, and speaks during the time the Board members speak about the issues at hand, they ARE in fact acting in the capacity of a city council member, NOT a private citizen. I hope George gets to the bottom of this! But, do it because it’s the right thing to do, not just to use Brennan as a scapegoat.

  6. Dick Yehle Says:

    Brennan’s bold promises of transparency and citizen participation during his campaign a year ago have proven hard for him to deliver. His style, alternately one of juvenile petulance or aggression, has turned a formerly collaborative Council Chamber into a legalistic debating society where he parses every word and routinely persists in promoting his divergent points of view while making no attempt to find common ground with other Councilmembers.

    Reality can be sobering. As every Councilmember learns sooner or later, the laws of government in Texas frustrate the use of normal interpersonal business practices and often limit the freedom of elected individuals to act as individuals. Reilly seems to deal with the restrictions by looking for loopholes rather than adapting to the laws and rules of civility followed by others. He also seems to take a narrow view of issues being dismissive of the myriad of factors often associated with change. By overlooking or being dismissive of those factors, he fails to demonstrate the breadth of vision and diplomacy necessary to gain consensus among Council.

    George’s conclusion is spot on. While Councilmember Reilly may have committed procedural transgressions in the past, the public should be most concerned about what he is likely to do in the future and the propriety of how he might do it. Hopefully, the full Council will deal with this matter in the near future.

  7. Xavier Noster Says:

    Brennan is a nice man. But he is lost. He does not get it.

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