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Monday, April 07, 2008

Oh Yeah? Prove it!

In Texas, a city has devised an ingenious strategy: let's change the open meetings laws so citizens have to prove that the city violated the law, by holding meetings that the citizens couldn't attend! Wow, that'll work....to ensure that the city can meet secretly and never get sued again.

The city of Farmers Branch, the target of three lawsuits alleging violations of the state open meetings law, is trying to get the law changed.

The suits accuse the City Council of improperly deliberating in private about ordinances designed to prohibit the renting of apartments and houses to illegal immigrants.

City officials, who have denied the allegation, say the burden is unfairly on governmental bodies to prove they didn't violate the law, rather than on the plaintiffs to prove they did.

The council voted last week to send a letter urging state Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, to push through revisions during the next legislative session, which begins in January.

"If someone alleges you violated the open meetings act, they can bring a lawsuit with not one shred of evidence there was actually an open meetings violation and force cities to pay to defend themselves," Mayor Pro Tem Tim O'Hare said.

Oh, and of course, the city has salaried lawyers to throw at the citizens who are bankrolling their own lawsuits...More here.

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