Investigation into council members concludes with deferred prosecution
The investigation into Texas Open Meeting Act violations allegedly committed by Mayor Lee Leffingwell, five of Austin’s six council members and one former member has concluded. All 7 defendants have signed individual compliance which defers any prosecution or criminal punishment.
The agreements made by Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole and council members Riley, Spelman, Morrison and Martinez and former council member Randi Shade require all parties and their staffs to complete education courses regarding TOMA and the Texas Public Information act.
They also promised to conduct all future business on city accounts and to act promptly when asked to forward city-related received on personal accounts.
According to county attorney Davis Escamilla, several changes to the way that Austin’s City Council does business were proposed by the Travis County Attorney’s Office.
• Public work sessions are now held before regularly scheduled council meetings.
• One-on-one meetings with colleagues regarding city business will be limited
• Council Aide agenda review meetings have been eliminated
• All city-related communication from personal devices are forwarded to the city server for preservation
• Creating a senior team to review compliance with council members’ legal and ethical obligations
According to Escamilla, many of those changes are only voluntary, but the compliance agreements with the council members “put teeth into several of these reform measures for two years.”
Investigation into open meeting violations first began in January of 2011 when Austin resident Brian Rodgers filed a complaint with county authorities after he said council member Chris Riley acknowledged the council regularly discussed city business behind closed doors.