Attorney General Opinions

May 01, 2015

Legislative News

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TAC has highlighted recent Attorney General Opinions and Requests for Opinions of interest to counties.

Attorney General Opinions

KP-0011: Whether a public school district may expend funds for the management of  county school lands to determine if a lessee of a mineral estate is fulfilling its duty to explore and develop the mineral estate. (RQ-1225-GA) Summary: The Texas Supreme Court has concluded that article VII, section 6 of the Texas Constitution requires the county to pay out of its own funds any expenses incurred in fulfilling the county's constitutional duties as trustee of county school lands. Thus, a court could have reason to conclude that a school district's allocation of funds to determine if a lessee is exploring and developing the mineral estate on county school lands is not necessary and therefore not authorized under section 45.105 of the Education Code. A county commissioners court acts as sole trustee of the county school lands for the benefit of the public schools in the county. The commissioners court may not delegate its trustee responsibilities to the school districts in the county. Selling county school lands for a nominal fee to the county school districts would be inconsistent with the trustees' duty to manage the property as a prudent investor would.

KP-0012: Validity of a salary increase for the sheriff that exceeded the amount listed in the initial public notice required by section 152.013 of the Local Government Code. (RQ-1226-GA) Summary: Subsection 152.013(b) of the Local Government Code requires a commissioners court to provide public notice of a proposed budget increase to a sheriff's salary prior to setting the sheriff's salary, and failure to do so invalidates any increase. Subsection 111.010(b) of the Local Government Code prohibits the commissioners court from making changes to officers' salaries after the budget has been finally approved. If the Coke County Commissioners Court finally approved its budget prior to providing the required notice of the sheriff's proposed salary increase, the sheriff's salary for 2014-2015 must remain at the prior year's amount.

KP-0013: Commencement of term of office of a person elected sheriff as a successor to an individual who was appointed to fill a vacancy in that office. (RQ-1227-GA) Summary: The election for San Jacinto County Sheriff held in 2014 was to fill a vacancy for the remainder of an unexpired term. Therefore, pursuant to section 601.004 of the Government Code, the newly-elected sheriff was entitled to qualify for and assume office as soon as possible after receiving the certificate of election in November 2014.

Requests for Attorney General Opinions

RQ-0018-KP: The Honorable Shane Britton, Brown County Attorney, Authority of a county to reimburse a county commissioner for legal costs related to defending against criminal allegations for which the commissioner was found not guilty.

RQ-0019-KP: Ms. Katie Conner, Brazos County Auditor, Whether the Open Meetings Act applies to district and county court-at-law judges when they meet to appoint county officials.

RQ-0021-KP: The Honorable Rene O. Oliveira, Chair, Committee on Business and Industry, Texas House of Representatives, Taxing authority of the Port Isabel-San Benito Navigation District.