For Immediate Release January 23, 2017
League of Independent Voters of Texas Claims Texas Water Development Board in Violation of Texas Open Meetings Act
The people of Texas have a vital interest in water. Yet, the Texas Water Development Board is, in essence, holding a secret meeting–what they call a “unique opportunity” available only to their invited presenters and those who pay $525 to attend–to set their course on water allocation issues. If there was ever an issue where transparency should rule and dissenting opinions ought to be heard, it is the big issue of water.
The Texas Water Development Board, the state agency responsible for water planning, and financial and technical assistance services to the citizens of Texas, is holding a “closed meeting” in violation of six sections of the Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA), according to the non-profit League of Independent Voters of Texas (LIV). LIV members are active in water planning and preservation in Central Texas, and, along with other interested persons, desired to attend the Water for Texas 2017 meeting being hosted by TWDB on January 23-25, 2017, only to discover that the meeting is not open to the public unless they pay $525.
Attorney and Texas open government expert Bill Aleshire issued this warning letter to TWDB on behalf of LIV late Sunday afternoon, stating:
“Upon review of the information available on the TWDB website about this meeting, it appears to me that it constitutes a violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA), Tex. Gov’t Code sections 551.002 (open meetings requirement); 551.023 (right of attendee to record the meeting); 551.041, 551.044, and 551.048 (meeting notice requirements); 551.144 (closed meeting criminal offense).”
Further, Aleshire suggested the following remedy:
“We encourage the TWDB to reconsider the way this event is being handled and, at a minimum, announce that the meeting is open to any member of the public who desires to attend and exercise their rights provided by the Texas Open Meetings Act.”
LIV Board member Michele Gangnes is a landowner and attorney who has fought for the last seventeen years to protect the coveted Simsboro formation of the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer underlying Lee, Burleson, Milam and Bastrop counties. Gangnes said,
“This event is an extension of the way the public was treated during the interim session by State Senator Charles Perry, reappointed by Lt. Governor Dan Patrick to chair the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water and Rural Affairs. Those most personally affected by the battles over groundwater were rebuffed when they requested the opportunity to testify with other invited witnesses at Perry’s interim committee hearings. Now those same rural landowners who want both to conserve the groundwater they own and protect our aquifers from being drained by profiteers, to the detriment of all Texans, are effectively excluded once again. TWDB’s high dollar event will provide access to decision-makers by those same water purveyors, municipalities and special interests already favored by Senator Perry.”
LIV Board member, Samantha Davis, of Cedar Park said,
“Rural landowners and suburbanites have common interests. We cannot allow slick special interests to sip champagne and deal away what belongs to us. These big shots want to drain our wallets as dry as they want to drain the aquifers. Folks must have access to meetings. That’s the law.”
The Water for Texas conference, hosted by TWDB, features two statewide officials, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar and five members of the Texas Senate and House. Additional participants include Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith and a host of leaders from business, large-scale agriculture, local government and environmentalists. Noticeably missing are representatives of small farming interests and those who opposed the Constitutional Amendment known as Proposition 6 on the 2013 statewide ballot. Prop 6 set up a funding mechanism, run by the new Governor-appointed, paid TWDB Board, for financing the billions of dollars worth of projects in the state water plan.
For more information:
LIV Office: 512-213-4511