Former city administrator files request to obtain city council members' text messages
by Coy Slavik, Advance-Guard Editor
Aug 21, 2014 | 1363 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
GOLIAD – Former Goliad City Administrator Larry Zermeno filed an open-records request with the City of Goliad to obtain any text messages sent and received by Mayor Anna Lopez Machacek and city council members during open city council meetings.

Zermeno claims city council members were seen using their cell phones during a July 21 special meeting.

"It's a simple records request," Zermeno said Thursday. "I submitted it because I observed the new council members texting during council meetings. My understanding is when you do that, it becomes public record."

Communication between city officials with personal cell phones at any time is public record.

City Secretary Pam Long responded to Zermeno's request and contacted Machacek, council members Joey Thompson, Cheryl Worley and Liz Holsey, and former council members Buddy Zavesky and Lionel Garcia. According to Long, Machacek, the council members and former council members denied using their cell phones to send or receive text messages during the meeting.

Zermeno said city staff members have seen council members holding their cell phones under the desk during meetings and sending texts.

The July 21 meeting started 22 minutes late. Thompson said he used his cell phone to check his Facebook account.

"I believe that some people are trying to damage our character," Thompson said Thursday. "There aren't a lot of people, but just a few people who have very loud voices out to damage our character. It's creating an atmosphere where it's difficult to get work done."

Zavesky and Garcia have accused the mayor and city council members of meeting in "walking quorums," which are a violation of the Open Meetings Act.

"I am positive that they were not aware that it was a violation," Zermeno said. "Since they went to training, I haven't observed it anymore."

Zermeno requested to see the council members' cell phone records. The city has 10 days to reply to Zermeno's request from the time the request was made.

"I'm going to give them the 10 days," Zermeno said. "I was told they refused to provide the information. I made a records request which I think is legitimate. If they choose not to turn over public records, that's on them. I'll probably contact the attorney general and say I was denied access to the public records."

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