Mayor Rawlings Claims Scott Griggs Broke Law with His Trinity Toll Road Jeremiad

Not backing down.
Not backing down.
Mark Graham

Mayor Mike Rawlings is not happy with Dallas City Council member Scott Griggs. Two weeks ago, in response to a series of pro-Trinity toll road open-microphone speakers, Griggs tore into the road at a council meeting.

"This is the worst boondoggle imaginable, and it's time to get serious about developing southern Dallas, think of what we can do with this money and the opportunity cost," he said. "This thing has been nothing but a sales job based on some watercolors. Fancy watercolors. It's time now to just kill this road and get on with business." (Griggs' speech starts about 48 minutes into the video below.)

Rawlings missed the March 4 meeting. Tennell Atkins, council member and mayor pro tem, chaired the meeting and gave Griggs the floor for his speech. Now, Rawlings has seen the video. He was so disturbed by what he saw that he decided to issue a memo aimed squarely at Griggs.

"I was unable to attend the March 4, 2015 city council meeting, but I watched the video of it. I asked [Dallas City Attorney] Warren Ernst to clarify the confusion about what responses to public inquiry or comments are permitted during the city council meeting public comment open microphone portion of the agenda. The key point is that, while the Act allows for open microphone speakers to address the city council on topics of their choosing, it does not mean that council members are then free to further deliberate or discuss the topic raised"

Rawlings then outlines portions of the state's open meetings act that pertain to an official's potential response to a public speaker. Basically, he suggests, if a subject is not listed on the council's meeting agenda and a speaker brings it up, a council member can only respond with basic factual information. "An example of a statement of factual information or recital of existing policy permitted under the Act could include a citizen asking about a malfunctioning traffic signal and a council member calling a staff person to reply with a statement of specific factual information about the condition of that particular traffic signal and any planned repairs or explain city policy regarding malfunctioning traffic signals," Rawlings' memo says.

See also: Watch Dallas City Council Member Scott Griggs Absolutely Lay Out the Trinity Toll Road

Griggs has a different take on the portion of the open meetings act Rawlings and Ernst built their position on. He says he was only stating a fact when he called the toll road a boondoggle.

"I was engaged in providing statements of specific factual nature given in response to the individuals who came up and spoke. That's not a violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act," he says. "Whenever people make comments, I think it helps the public that they're not behind closed doors. On the Trinity River toll road, we've got the dream team operating completely behind closed doors, in secrecy. The comments that were made there by the toll road supporters, at least those were made in the bright light of an open forum. It's good to have responses in the bright light of an open forum, too, specifically on factual information like [the Trinity toll road] being a boondoggle. Rawlings memoed me, but it's certainly not going to prevent me from speaking out against this boondoggle of a Trinity toll road."

Update: 10:00 a.m.: Rawlings spokesman Scott Goldstein called to tell us that the memo was not directed at Griggs specifically. The mayor is not mad at Griggs he said, he just doesn't want the open microphone portion of meetings going off the rails -- especially when that derailing violates the open meetings act.

That Rawlings decided to issue the memo on the heels of Griggs blasting the toll road is just a coincidence, we're sure.

03 18 15 MEMO Open Meetings Act (Rawlings)

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