An Open Records Request To Confirm An Illegal Walking Quorum In McKinney

Upon hearing that Bernie Sanders made the motion to nominate Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nominee just now, I’ve had a flashback. Nobody on Planet Earth could possibly think Bernie can stand the thought of Hillary. But he is being a good soldier under  “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” rule book. 

The flashback I am having relates to the process a few weeks ago when the McKinney Mayor Pro-Tem was selected.

The Mayor Pro-Tem for the last several years has been Travis Ussery. He has only one more year left on the City Council and is termed out. From the audience, Mr. Ussery has been the quintessential Mayor Pro-Tem. He is a gentlemen and has been subservient and respectful to Mayor Loughmiller in all of the good ways. A betting person would have put their money on Travis Ussery being given the courtesy of being Mayor Pro-Tem for one more year. Presumably his las year in that he has not announced that he was running for Mayor in May 2017. 

However, Councilmember Randy Pogue had announced weeks before that he was going to run for Mayor. On the surface! Mr. Pogue also seems to be a gentleman. Many people I talked to assumed Mr. Travis would continue in his role as Mayor Pro-Tem. Well, until a few days before the Council meeting. There were whispers that Mr. Pogue was lobbying other Councilmembers for him to be named Mayor Pro-Tem as a way to bolster his chances a year away to ascend to the Mayoral throne. 

I attended the meeting and arrived early. Travis Ussery also appeared well before the other  Councilmembers. I could tell by his face that something had happened. I don’t know Mr. Travis very well, but I could tell he was hurting. Enough that I was hurting for him and could see what was about to happen. 

When the meeting started, all seven Councilmembers were somber. Then in a most awkward manner, the Mayor stuttered and stammered about protocol, complimented Mr. Ussery and then turned it over to him. Mr. Ussery, also awkwardly, expressed gratitude and then nominated Mr. Pogue as Mayor Pro-Tem. Wow! There was only one problem, and it was huge. His face and tone did not match his words. 

Just about anybody half-way observant would have surmised a coup had taken place. Mr. Ussery had been drawn and quartered and given two ugly choices. 

There was one more weird thing that happened. At the close of the meeting, Randy Pogue re-announced that he was seeking the office of Mayor in 2017. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. If you were to watch the video in slow motion, I’m pretty sure the expression on the Mayor’s face might resemble the Dallas policemen in the white hat and suit standing next to Lee Harvey Oswald when Jack Ruby stepped up and shot him. As I recall, the Mayor joked to Mr. Pogue that he still had a year to be the Mayor. 

Up to now, I’ve been trying to lay the foundation for my primary message. In Texas, Open Meetings and Open Records are serious topics. Discussions are supposed to be in the public forum. Even for qualified closed meetings, the decisions made have to be stated publicly. There is even a specific prohibition against Walking Quorums. This violation occurs when Councilmembers talk to each other individually to work out a deal. In fact, even a third party like the City Manager or a Developer can’t visit with individual Councilmembers to influence a decision, especially to indicate where previously Councilmembers are leaning. Walking Quorums are the most surreptitious and flagrant of Open Meeting violations. 

So, how did this obvious “deal” get brokered? It had to be behind the scenes. I’m not a lawyer, but it sure seems to me that Open Meetings laws were broken. 

Therefore, I am making an Open Records Request (ORR) for any and all emails, text messages or notes between all seven Councilmembers related to any aspect of choosing and selecting the Mayor Pro-Tem serving the current. I fully expect to confirm Open Meetings laws have been broken. I will turn over my finds to the news media and legal authorities. Stay tuned. LFM

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