2 Carroll ISD trustees indicted by grand jury on alleged violations to Texas Open Meetings Act

Carroll ISD board members Michelle Moore and Todd Carlton have been indicted on misdemeanor charges alleging violations to the state's open meetings law. (Sandra Sadek/Community Impact Newspaper)
Carroll ISD board members Michelle Moore and Todd Carlton have been indicted on misdemeanor charges alleging violations to the state's open meetings law. (Sandra Sadek/Community Impact Newspaper)

Carroll ISD board members Michelle Moore and Todd Carlton have been indicted on misdemeanor charges alleging violations to the state's open meetings law. (Sandra Sadek/Community Impact Newspaper)

Updated at 3:50 p.m. April 6: This story has been updated to include a statement from Carroll ISD.

Two Carroll ISD board members have been indicted on misdemeanor charges that allege violations to the Texas Open Meetings Act, according to documents from the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office.

CISD board President Michelle Moore and Vice President Todd Carlton were indicted April 1 by a Tarrant County grand jury on suspicion of “[conspiring] to circumvent for secret deliberations.” Carlton was booked in jail April 5 and released on a $500 bond the same day, records show. Records were not available for Moore.

The two school board members are accused of “knowingly [engaging] in at least one communication in a series of communications" outside a school board meeting that was in violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act. The indictment states that the board members were "engaging in a series of communications [that] constitute a quorum of members and knew at the time ... that the series of communications involved a quorum and would constitute a deliberation."

The topic being discussed during these communications on or about Aug. 3, 2020, was the district's proposed cultural competence action plan, according to the indictment.


Moore declined to comment on the misdemeanor charge and directed media questions to her attorney.

Her attorney, Mark Daniel of Mark Daniel Law, said the criminal prosecution has been brought by “political and philosophical differences.”

“We respectfully view this as a tremendous waste of resources,” Daniel said in a written statement. “No one cares more or has done more to protect the safety and welfare of the children of Carroll Independent School District than Michelle Moore. On behalf of Ms. Moore, we look forward to being exonerated and her full attention once again being devoted to the education of our children.”

Carlton’s attorney, Jeff Kearney of Kearney Law Firm, could not be reached for comment.

Carroll ISD issued a statement, saying: "Carroll ISD’s seven elected trustees dedicate many hours of service to ensuring a quality education for all Dragons. Yesterday, the district was informed that two current board members were indicted on charges related to alleged violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act. The CISD Administration remains focused on providing a safe and caring learning environment for all students. We stand committed to our Dragon core values and will work with the community and our school board to continue to foster public trust."

In 2019, the Texas Legislature passed a bill that revised the criminal provision of the open meetings law to specify deliberations to include written communications after the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals found some of the language unconstitutionally vague.

Joe Larsen, a First Amendment attorney and a board member for the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, said while the open meetings law is often violated by state officers, most are not criminally pursued.

“It's not an easy lift for the prosecutor," Larsen said adding that a prosecutor would have to show elected officials knew what they were doing.

All elected officials in Texas are required to take a state-approved class on the open meeting law.

“Democracy is not always easy,” Larsen said. “[But] in order to have a transparent government, you do have to do your business in front of the people.”

A hearing date for Moore and Carlton has yet to be announced. The misdemeanor charge carries penalties of a fine between $100 and $500 and between one to six months in county jail.

The criminal charges come as several board members are embroiled in a separate civil lawsuit alleging violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act. The civil suit names Moore and Carlton as well as board members Sheri Mills, Danny Gilpin and David Almand. The suit is based on a series of text messages among some of the board members about the district’s proposed cultural competence action plan, which was supposed to be voted on in August 2020.

A temporary restraining order as part of the civil suit prohibits the district and its school board from taking an action on the plan. The parties involved in the civil suit are in mediation, according to court documents.

No criminal charges have been announced against Mills, Gilpin or Almand as of April 6.
By Sandra Sadek
Sandra Sadek covers the cities of Grapevine, Southlake and Roanoke as well as Carroll ISD for Community Impact. She graduated from Texas State University where she majored in journalism and international relations. She has experience working for several local papers including the University Star, the Katy Times, and the Fort Stockton Pioneer. When she's not on the ground reporting, she enjoys a good book and a hot drink. Follow her on social media @ssadek19.


MOST RECENT

Federal funding is set aside for public schools to address effects of the pandemic. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Why Texas has not yet distributed $18 billion in federal funds intended for public schools

As budget decisions loom for school districts across Texas, state leaders are holding on to federal funds intended for public schools to use in addressing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas said power outages are not expected April 13, while requesting energy conservation. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
UPDATE: ERCOT call for energy conservation ends April 13 without need for power outages

An ERCOT official said "tight" supply and demand conditions arose on the state's electric grid April 13 due to forecasting issues amid planned, seasonal maintenance outages by some power generators.

construction zone
Tarrant County still deciding how to choose projects to include in upcoming transportation bond

April 16 is the deadline for Tarrant County municipalities to submit project ideas for the $400 million transportation bond measure that voters will consider in November.

vaccine administered
COVID-19 update: Tarrant County vaccine appointments canceled at last minute

Residents scheduled to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at AT&T Stadium April 13 received last-minute notice that their appointments were canceled, according to a Tarrant County briefing.

The chain has several restaurants in Texas, including two in College Station. (Courtesy I Heart Mac & Cheese)
I Heart Mac & Cheese coming to Highland Village; Gyro Shop opens in Frisco and more DFW-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended health providers pause distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine April 13. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)
State, federal health authorities recommend pause of Johnson & Johnson vaccine after 6 rare, severe blood clots

Hub providers in Dallas, Harris and Travis counties have all announced they will follow the recommendations and pause distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Grapevine looks to build on its local esports community

Efforts include the expansion of GCISD's esports program to middle schools this fall, along with the opening of an Esports Academy this summer at the local library.

hand dropping voter ballot into box
Voters prepare for local May elections in Grapevine, Colleyville and Southlake

Races on the ballot will include mayoral races for Grapevine and Southlake, city council races for all three cities, and school board seats for Grapevine-Colleyville ISD and Carroll ISD.

plate of food
Tarrant Area Food Bank, Culinary School of Fort Worth launch new apprenticeship program

A new food industry job-readiness program in partnership with the Tarrant Area Food Bank and Culinary School of Fort Worth is launching.

Dunkin' serves coffee drinks, doughnuts, breakfast sandwiches, muffins and more. (Courtesy Dunkin')
Dunkin' to open in Richardson; Mad for Chicken coming to McKinney and more DFW-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

plate of food
Lucy's Lot closes after serving Grapevine for six years

After six years in Grapevine, Lucy's Lot closed in late March.

man sitting at table
Southlake entrepreneur services small-business IT needs through Computer CPR

Michael Young, founder of Computer CPR, shared some tips to protect yourself and your online data from hackers and malware.