A member of a school district board of trustees sued the district for which he served as a trustee, alleging that the board violated the Texas Open Meetings Act when it took certain actions related to the appointment of two new trustees.

The board had two vacancies to fill. Two board members wanted the positions to be filled by a special called election, while the other three wanted to appoint two new members. The dissenting board members announced that they would not attend a meeting if there was an item that could authorize filling those two vacancies by appointment. An agenda was posted that read “discussion and possible action on all available options for the filling of vacancies on the board” and “appointment to fill said vacancies by the remaining members of the board.” This meeting did not occur because the two objecting board members did not attend.

Subsequently, an agenda was posted that called only for discussion and possible action regarding a special called election. The two objecting board members attended the meeting. At the meeting, a motion was made to approve a special election. The motion failed. A motion was made to amend the motion by substituting language that called for the appointment of two specific candidates. The motion was approved.

The basis of the lawsuit was that the board violated the Texas Open Meetings Act because the only action that the board was permitted to take under the posted agenda item was to call a special election to fill the two vacant trustee positions. The district court made some initial rulings that the board’s actions were lawful, and an appeal was filed to the Texas Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals concluded that the board violated the Texas Open Meetings Act. A governmental body must give written notice of its proposed actions when they are of special interest to the public. The notice must fairly alert the reader to the topic for consideration. Here, the agenda did not give the public notice that the board would appoint replacement trustees and therefore, it did not alert the public that this action could take place.