Judge rules Texas university violated open-meetings law when firing president

TEXAS — A Wichita Falls judge ruled Friday that theMidwestern State University Board of Regents violated the stateopen-meetings act when it failed to properly notify the publicof pending action against former President Henry Moon.

The district judge granted the Times Record News’ requestfor a temporary injunction against the regents, voiding theirdecision to fire Moon, who was embroiled in controversy and subsequentlyplaced on administrative leave in August 2001.

"I was elated by the outcome," said Carroll Wilson,editor of the paper that filed the suit after the regents meton June 11 to consider Moon’s status at the university, includingthe possibility of ending his administrative leave and pay status.

The suit, filed on June 14, alleged that the board violatedthe open-meetings act when it retired to executive session alongwith attorney Roger Lee and Texas Assistant Attorney General JamesTodd. The regents argued the session was necessary to receiveadvice relating to matters exempt from the open-meetings act,including attorney/client privilege and "possible pendinglitigation."

Wilson said when the regents returned four hours later, chairmanMac Cannedy opened the meeting and a motion was made to invalidatethe hiring of Moon two years earlier with the promise of tenure.

The motion, presented by regent John Bridgman, passed unanimously,and Moon’s paid administrative leave was scheduled to end July15.

The Times Record News filed the suit under the provisionof the open-meetings act that requires written notice of the subjectmatter to be considered at the meeting of a governing body.

"No mention or notice was given that the subject of tenurewould be considered at the governmental meeting," the suitstated. "It is obvious from the motion made by [Bridgman]and unanimously adopted by the entire [board of regents] thattenure was a subject discussed."

The Times Record News also objected to the regents’failure to tape-record the executive session as required in theact.

Lee is unsure about how the university will proceed, but saidthe board is likely to reconvene an open meeting to reconsiderthe matter. The final decision is up to the Texas attorney general’soffice.