Montgomery County Texas Open Meetings Act case underway

The case against Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal and other elected officials has been dismissed.

The case against Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal and other elected officials has been dismissed.

The first testimony for the case involving Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal and two county commissioners was delivered Wednesday.

The case, which is being heard in Montgomery County's 221st District Court, brings to question whether Doyal, Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley, Precinct 4 Commissioner Jim Clark and political consultant Marc Davenport violated the Texas Open Meetings Act while negotiating details of the November 2015 Montgomery County road bond.

During Wednesday’s hearing, the defense attorneys asked presiding Judge Randy Clapp, of Wharton County’s 329th District Court, to consider the constitutionality of portions of the TOMA. The court heard testimony from Austin-based attorney Alan Bojorquez—who has roughly 20 years of experience in working with municipalities and is a former adviser on behalf of the Texas Municipal League—as well as Meadows Place Mayor Charles Jessup and Brookshire Mayor Eric Scott.

Attorneys asked questions related to Texas Government Code 551.143, which states that members of a governmental body cannot knowingly conspire to circumvent the TOMA by meeting in numbers less than a quorum for the purpose of secret deliberations, Doyal’s attorney Rusty Hardin said.

“We hope to show through this evidence that we are not challenging TOMA,” Hardin said. “This is simply talking about [a] single statute that criminalizes a supposed conspiracy. The problem with the statute is it does not set out in specific set ways what a person that may be exposed to it can and cannot do. This specific statute is unconstitutionally vague.”

However, prosecutors Joe Larson and Chris Downey argued that the statute in question is essential to the integrity of the TOMA and that the statute in question is not vague or unconstitutional.

Bojorquez said he saw fundamental flaws with the government code statute and that he believes the wording in the statute is vague, while Jessup and Scott expressed their own concerns with the law and inability to clearly understand how to avoid violating the state's open meetings act without triggering the section 551.143 clause.

The case recessed on Wednesday afternoon and is scheduled to resume Thursday morning.


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