By Betsy Dolan
Faced with potential legal action after Fort Bend ISD Trustee Bruce Albright was accused of violating the Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA) in June, the Board of Trustees decided to vote again on proposed re-zoning changes and the opening of a new elementary school at their meeting in August.
The TOMA complaint, by Sugar Land resident Nancy Dunham, was filed with Fort Bend County Attorney Roy Cordes Jr., and District Attorney John Healey on June 28.
At issue is the BOT meeting on June 11 where the trustees considered the recommendations by the Building Utilization Committee concerning four re-zoning proposals. When Board President Jim Rice asked for a motion to approve, Albright made a motion to amend the plan to include an opening date of Elementary School No. 46, planned for Aliana, in August of 2014. When Trustee Grayle James questioned why the school opening was not originally included on the June agenda since it had been part of the re-zoning discussion at the three town hall meetings in May, district administrators said they excluded it because they felt locking down an opening date was premature. After much discussion, primarily on the re-zoning proposals, the amended measure passed 4-3.
The TOMA complaint, filed by Dunham’s attorney, Joe M. Davis of The Davis Law Firm, stated that Albright was in violation because the proposal to build a new school was not included in the Public Notice issued prior to the meeting.
“If found in violation, I recognize that a suitable remedy is for the proposed boundary changes and Elementary School No. 46 to be placed as separate items on the agenda for consideration by the Board during its next regularly scheduled meeting”, Davis wrote in the complaint.
The complaint prompted Fort Bend ISD to formally disregard the June vote and to place the proposed re-zoning and opening of elementary school No. 46 as two separate items on the August 13 agenda.
Much of the discussion at the August meeting centered on the plan to move 12 students from Schiff Elementary in Riverstone to Palmer Elementary. After several parents expressed their concern that the move to Palmer would disrupt the middle school feeder pattern, Trustee Jenny Bailey proposed an alternative plan that would move the students to Austin Parkway. Trustee Susan Hohnbaum stated her reluctance to make any changes to the agenda with the TOMA complaint still unresolved but the district’s attorney, Richard Morris, said Bailey’s alternative wasn’t a violation.
“I do not believe it would be a violation of TOMA and just to be consistent, I do not believe and I still maintain that it was not a violation of the Open Meeting Act with respect to the board’s original consideration,” Morris said.
The board did vote in favor of the amended zoning changes 5-2 and a unanimous vote for the opening of the new elementary school No. 46 in August of 2014.