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League City councilmen’s emails questioned - The Galveston County Daily News : Local News

November 26, 2014

League City councilmen’s emails questioned

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Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2013 12:00 am

LEAGUE CITY — City Councilman Dennis OKeeffe accused at least three of his colleagues of attempting to circumvent the state’s open meetings act by conducting city business through email. 

In reference to an agenda item to excuse the absence of Councilman Dan Becker, OKeeffe said Becker emailed council members Andy Mann and Todd Kinsey requesting that they place his excuse on the agenda. 

State law prohibits council members from deliberating and deciding on matters outside of a posted meeting.

But Kinsey said everything was above board and he simply forwarded Becker’s request to the city secretary. In an email, Becker said he too was following proper procedure by seeking a co-sponsor to place an item on the city council agenda. 

At Tuesday’s meeting, OKeeffe produced copies of what he said were emails among Becker, Mann and Kinsey from their personal email accounts discussing the placement of the item on the agenda. 

The Daily News obtained a copy of the emails from the city.

In an email from Jan. 16, Becker addressed Kinsey and Mann and said it looked as if he would miss as many as three meetings. Becker said it would be a good idea to place an item on the agenda to vote on excusing his absence. 

Becker noted that City Secretary Dianna Stapp typically likes to have those requests in by Thursday. But Becker added, “if you want to create a little tactical surprise you have every right to put it on a supplemental (agenda) on Friday, but why bother waiting?”

Becker also suggested getting council members Heidi Thiess or Geri Bentley to co-sponsor the agenda item.

“It sends a message on who is a supporter,” Becker wrote. 

Becker is in the United Kingdom on business and was absent at Tuesday’s regular meeting and at Monday’s workshop. In the emails, Becker said he may miss a workshop on Saturday as well. 

To place an item on the agenda would require a co-sponsor so he would have to discuss it with another council member, Becker said in an email to The Daily News. 

“Discussion of booking an agenda item versus a discussion of how one intends to vote on a particular agenda item or lobbying a quorum of council members to vote a particular way on an item are vastly different,” he said in the email. 

In November, League City residents approved a ballot proposition that would cause a council member to forfeit his or her office if he or she fails to attend three consecutive meetings. 

Becker was excused from Monday’s and Tuesday’s meeting. Mayor Tim Paulissen, Kinsey, Mann, Bentley and Thiess voted for excusing the absences at Tuesday’s meeting. OKeeffe and Councilwoman Joanna Dawson voted against it. 

OKeeffe said he questioned why Becker did not email the city secretary directly asking for his request to be placed on the agenda. 

By discussing the matter over personal email, the council member may have been attempting to circumvent the Texas Open Meetings Act, he said. 

OKeeffe called the use of the personal emails to discuss city business “an atrocity.”  

Mann said he had no comment on the allegations. 

The council members were not attempting to get around the open meeting act, Kinsey said. The emails are only among three members of council, and that does not constitute a quorum, Kinsey said. 

Kinsey said the only mistake might have been for Becker to send his request to him via his personal email account.