Weatherford Democrat

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April 29, 2014

Court hears public comments before meeting

By JUDY SHERIDAN

Parker County commissioners heard a presentation about re-building Maddux Road from former district court judge Max Bennett at a very unconventional time Monday — right before the court’s regular session at 9 a.m.

The presentation was not listed on the court’s April 28 agenda, which was convened after Bennett concluded.

Parker County does not offer a public comment session during its regular meetings, requiring instead that requested items be placed on the agenda.

According to the 2014 Open Meetings Handbook, a public comment session is, in fact, a meeting — as defined by section 551.001(4)(B) of the Government Code — because the members of a governmental body “receive information from ... or receive questions from (a) third person,” and a governmental body must give notice of a public comment session.   

However, County Attorney John Forrest said the unposted presentation by Bennett was not illegal because the court had not called the regular meeting, commissioners did not comment publicly and the item wasn’t actionable.

Bennett, as a former district judge, “has earned the honor to be recognized,” Forrest said. 

Bennett may have stated more information than what he was limited to, Forrest said, namely stating his reason for being there and requesting that the item be put on the agenda in the future. 

“Max had not requested to be on the agenda,” County Judge Mark Riley said later. “He just showed up. He is a retired district judge, and I wasn’t going to tell him he couldn’t say something.”

Maddux Road

Bennett closed his presentation to the court by saying Maddux Road, located in west Parker County, is unsafe.

“Clark Gardens is on that road,” he said, “and thousands of people go into Clark Gardens every day.”

A letter he handed out to commissioners states that improvements to Maddux were promised as part of the Parker County Transportation Bond program, which Riley denies.

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