County attorney asks for AG opinion on hospital board terms

Courtesy Glen Rose News

bannerCounty Attorney Andrew Lucas last week officially requested that the Texas Attorney General’s office issue an opinion to resolve the issue of the tie vote between two elected hospital district board members and their terms of office.

The letter was dated Aug. 13 and received by the AG’s office on Aug. 15. Read it and the AG’s response letter here: County Attorney letter to AG and AG’s response

On Aug. 18, Lucas received an email from the Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office confirming receipt of the letter. The office said it would issue an opinion no later than the 180th day after the date the opinion is requested unless the AG provides written notification that the opinion will be delayed.

That means the due date for the opinion is Feb. 11, 2015.

Lucas asked that the office provide an answer in time for the May 2015 election cycle when Somervell County Hospital District board one-year terms will come up for election. The filing deadline for the election likely will fall in early December this year, he said.

“We will make every effort to respond by that date, or before, if possible,” Virginia K. Hoelscher, chair of the AG’s Opinion Committee, wrote in the response letter. “Please be advised, however, that we cannot guarantee that the opinion will issue before the December 2014 filing deadline.”

The Glen Rose News requested and obtained copies of both the requesting letter and the response letter from the AG’s office under the Texas Public Information Act.

Hoelscher also asked that legal briefs be submitted by Sept. 8 to give the office enough time to review and consider arguments. Briefs and other correspondence are subject to the Texas Public Information Act, Hoelshcer added, meaning they will available to be public.

The hospital district board at its July 31 meeting voted to seek the AG opinion. Board members Eugene Brode and Paul Harper were elected last May with tie votes, creating a conflict about who would serve a two-year term and who would serve a one-year term.

Under Chapter 286 of the Texas Health and Safety Code, the number of directors equal to a majority of the directors who receive the highest number of votes at the initial election serve for two years and the remaining directors serve for one year.

Lucas noted that the petition to create the district “called for the four directors who receive the most votes to serve for two years and the remaining directors to serve for one year.”

The question Lucas posed in the letter was whether the fourth and fifth place finishers – Brode and Harper — equal a “majority” and each serve two-year terms, leaving the sixth and seventh place finishers to serve one term – or whether the tie vote has to be resolved under the Texas Election Code so that four directors serve two years and three directors serve one term.

At the July 31 meeting, board Chairman John Parker said he would be willing to give the AG’s office “a couple of months” to issue an opinion. Board President Chip Harrison said he would be willing to wait only a few weeks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>