KBS Reference Desk: TOMA Social Gatherings Conventions

Q:        We’ve recently hired a new Superintendent. The school board would like to have dinner with the new Superintendent to get to know him. Since a quorum of the board will be present, do we need to post a public notice to stay compliant with the Open Meetings Act?

A:        No. The Act requires public notice of a “meeting” of a quorum of a governmental body. However, “meeting,” as defined by the Act, does not include attendance at a social function. Thus, as long as no school business is discussed, and the dinner remains purely social, there would be no violation of the Act.

The Texas Open Meetings Act, and its public notice requirements, applies to a governmental body when it engages in a “regular, special, or called meeting.” Tex. Gov’t Code §551.002. A “meeting” is defined as “a deliberation between a quorum of a governmental body, or between a quorum of a governmental body and another person, during which public business or public policy over which the governmental body has supervision or control is discussed or considered or during which the governmental body takes formal action.” The Act specifically provides that the term “meeting” does not include “the gathering of a quorum of a governmental body at a social function unrelated to the public business that is conducted by the body.” The definition also excludes attendance by a quorum at other events such as regional, state or national conventions, workshops, ceremonial events, press conferences, and candidate forums, appearances, or debates. Importantly, in such instances, any discussion of public business must be “incidental” to the social function, convention, workshop, etc.

In the scenario above, as long as the school board and the new Superintendent steer clear of conversations about school business, and that any such dialogue is merely incidental to the event, there is no violation of the Open Meetings Act and no posting requirements or other mandates of the Act apply.

For specific or additional questions, please contact your local school attorney.

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