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A local agency recently held a closed-door meeting with a businessman who is trying to buy a piece of property. Can they do that?

The Texas Attorney General’s office has held that outside members of the public are not allowed to attend executive sessions.

The Texas Attorney General’s office, moreover, notes on its Web site in discussing the state open meetings law, specifically, that “a governmental body … should not allow someone to attend an executive session regarding a proposed real estate transaction if this person is bargaining with the local unit for the purchase or sale of the real property.”

A governmental body is allowed to discuss in executive session a real estate transaction, or to discuss that item with its own attorney, but the Attorney General has held that outside parties (other than certain officials or personnel, such as a city manager or school superintendent) are not authorized to attend an executive session.

For more information, visit the Texas Attorney General’s Web site.

You can click on the open government section and find a number of resources, including copies of the Texas Open Meetings and Open Records Laws, and easy guides to those laws. You can also print off copies of specific attorney general opinions to give to local government officials, if they doubt your word.

Here are some direct links

By Dianna Hunt

Dianna Hunt, a reporter/editor at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and former co-owner of the weekly Bosque County News, spent more than 25 years at some of the largest newspapers in Texas and in community journalism.

She has worked at The Dallas Morning News, the Houston Chronicle, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, covering a variety of government beats, including multiple City Halls, federal courts, public education and the Texas Legislature.

Many of those years were also spent as a watchdog/investigative reporter producing stories on racial profiling in the Houston area and throughout Texas, improprieties among nonprofits, failure of federal emergency funding to reach the neediest victims of a tornado, and problems within suburban fire departments in North Texas.

She won the Texas APME Freedom of Information award twice and the national Brechner Award for Freedom of Information for packages of stories about open government, and she has also won state and national awards for feature writing, short features and spot news.

She moved into editing in 2001 to oversee the government reporters at the Star-Telegram, and later moved to the business department as an assistant business editor. She recently returned to reporting in a combined reporting/editing role.

She and her husband, longtime Texas journalist Evan Moore, are also former co-owners of the Bosque County News in Meridian, southwest of Fort Worth, covering a county of about 22,000 people with seven cities and eight school districts.

She is a former board member of the Investigative Reporters & Editors organization, and is a member of the Native American Journalists Association. She received a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1981 from the University of Texas at Austin.