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More Texas public officials will sue to conduct business in secret

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  1. Freedom of Information
Yet another Texas municipality has signed onto a lawsuit that challenges the state’s Open Meetings Act and seeks to do…

Yet another Texas municipality has signed onto a lawsuit that challenges the state’s Open Meetings Act and seeks to do away with criminal sanctions for elected officials who conduct public business behind closed doors.

The city of Rockport voted Nov. 3 to join at least a dozen other cities, including Pflugerville and Alpine, in the suit expected to be filed before the first of the year.

The Texas public officials are arguing that the state’s open meetings law, which prevents a quorum of government officials from deliberating in secret and attaches a penalty of up to six months in jail and a $500 fine for doing so, violates their free speech rights even though prosecutions under the law are rare.

The lawsuit mirrors a recent federal case that became moot after the Alpine city council members seeking to overturn the law no longer held office. Attorneys for the previous plaintiffs have taken on the new case free of charge, reports Caller.com.

The Reporters Committee filed a brief with the Fifth Circuit in support of the constitutionality of the open meetings law during the first case. Prior to the case’s dismissal, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Junell in Midland, Texas, upheld the constitutionality of the act in 2006.