Is Mayor Margo Holding Walking Quorums?

Former city staffer and current District 2 candidate Judy Gutierrez had some revealing things to say in this story in the El Paso Inc.:

Gutierrez said Mayor Dee Margo meets one-on-one with city representative once or twice a month and that while Annello passes on those meetings, she will not.

“You’ve got to figure it out and you’ve got to work it out before you get to a City Council meeting,” she said. “We saw that back when (City Manager) Joyce Wilson was in office.”

Have you noticed how it seems like some decisions have already been made even before a City Council meeting? How public input is ignored? As though City Council had been meeting in secret?

A meeting of a quorum of City Council (in El Paso, five members) must be announced in advance and the public must be allowed to attend.

Some elected bodies have attempted to circumvent the rules by holding meetings with less than five members present at the same time. If two or three or four members of the El Paso City Council get together to make a decision beforehand, that’s not a quorum. But if, say, the Mayor meets with the Representatives one at a time, and the Mayor lines up five votes before a City Council meeting, that counts as an illegal meeting.

The Texas Ethics Commission calls it a Walking Quorum.

A “walking quorum” is described in Esperanza Peace and Justice Center v. City of San Antonio. The night before an open city council meeting was to be held, the mayor met with several city council members in the city manager’s office and spoke with others by telephone about the city budget. A decision was made that night and ratified at the public meeting the next day. The federal court stated that it would violate the spirit of the Act and render a result not intended by the Legislature “[i]f a governmental body may circumvent the Act’s requirements by ‘walking quorums’ or serial meetings of less than a quorum, and then ratify at a public meeting the votes already taken in private.” The Esperanza court said that a meeting of less than a quorum is not subject to the Act “when there is no intent to avoid the Act’s requirements.

”On the other hand, the Act would apply to meetings of groups of less than a quorum where a quorum or more of a body attempted to avoid the purposes of the Act by deliberately meeting in groups less than a quorum in closed sessions to discuss and/or deliberate public business, and then ratifying their actions as a quorum in a subsequent public meeting.”

The evidence showed that the city council intended to avoid the Act. For example, the mayor met with council members constituting less than a quorum to reach a conclusion; the city manager kept track of the number of council members present so as to avoid a formal quorum; the consensus reached was memorialized in a memorandum containing the signatures of each council member; and the consensus was “manifested” when adopted at an open meeting.

Well, golly gosh gee willikers, it sure sounds like Mayor Margo is organizing walking quorums, lining up the votes before the public is informed.

Maybe that’s why District 2 Representative avoids meeting with the Mayor, because she wants to avoid participating in a walking quorum.

That might all be irrelevant after January, if we elect a new mayor.

One comment

  1. Or irrelevant for District 2 if they elect Ms. Gutierrez…sounds like she is ready to play the game.

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