A Texas newspaper filed a lawsuit saying a county agency broke the state’s open meetings law when it hired former Rep. Blake Farenthold as a lobbyist.
On Monday, the Victoria Advocate announced it was suing over whether the county ports authority discussed hiring the disgraced former congressman in a closed meeting on May 9.
The notice for the meeting described that it would be regarding “for the purposes of deliberating the appointment, employment, compensation, evaluation, reassignment, duties, discipline or dismissal of a public officer or employee.”
But it did not specifically mention Farenthold’s name, his proposed job or his $160,000 salary.
The lawsuit was filed in the Calhoun County district court and seeks to void the hiring of Farenthold, saying the ports authority acted illegally.
“Few rights of the public are as important as the right to knowledge about how their government spends taxpayer funds and manages the public’s business. This suit is to vindicate those rights and reaffirm ... that sunshine is indeed the best disinfectant,” the newspaper’s attorney John Griffin wrote in the filing.
The ports authority called for a special meeting on Thursday, and the announcement for that meeting identifies Farenthold as part of the agenda.
Griffin said the port authority should have named Farenthold since he is a former congressman who would be paid $160,000.
The fact Farenthold refused to pay the federal back after he used $84,000 to settle a sexual harassment claim after he resigned from Congress is another contributing factor to the suit, Griffin said.
“The more significant the issue or person, the more detail that’s required in the notice, and this notice was a boilerplate, generic notice, not unlike notices for any other meeting,” he said.
Farenthold resigned in April after the revelations that he paid off a former staffer who had filed a sexual harassment claim with taxpayer money. After saying he would repay the amount of the settlement, he later said he would not, citing advice from attorneys. He also refused Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s request that he cover the cost of the special election to replace him.
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