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Jo Clifton is the Politics Editor for the Austin Monitor.
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Posting faux pas postpones first meeting of Formula 1 race committee
Tuesday, July 12, 2011 by Jo Clifton
There was more than enough disorganization to go around for the Local Organizing Committee of the Circuit of the Americas Monday as its first public meeting was cancelled due to lack of public notice.
As attorney David Armbrust explained last night, the events surrounding the failed attempt to post notice of the meeting and its subsequent cancellation were “a classic example of ‘Who’s on first?’” His partner, Richard Suttle, represents the local Formula 1 investors.
Problems started last Friday when attorney Wayne Hollingsworth, the corporate counsel for the local Formula 1 group, delivered a notice to the city “thinking the city was going to post it,” Armbrust said. “And for whatever reason, the city decided not to post it,” he added. “So Wayne learned this morning that it had not been posted, so he cancelled (the meeting),” Armbrust said.
Hollingsworth shared the information about the meeting and the cancellation with Council Member Laura Morrison’s office. Her aide, Barbara Rush, sent out an email Monday morning, notifying people about the meeting. She sent another email notifying the same group about Hollingsworth’s decision to cancel.
Assistant City Manager Sue Edwards, who helped negotiate the Formula 1 agreement, told In Fact Daily she had nothing to do with the decision not to post the meeting. The city’s Public Information Office told a reporter seeking information about the meeting she should contact Armbrust & Brown.
However, a receptionist at the law office—the current contact for the committee—said that she was unable to provide a reason for the cancellation.
On June 29, City Council signed on as an endorsing municipality for Formula One, and entered into an agreement with the committee that gave it the power to act on the city’s behalf.
As a governmental entity, meetings of the committee are now required to abide by the same rules as other city agencies, including abiding by the Texas Open Meetings Act.
Hollingsworth wrote that he had learned from City Clerk Shirley Gentry that Assistant City Manager Sue Edwards determined that the city would not post the committee notice on Friday, but failed to give the group adequate notice to find alternative public posting arrangement.
Edwards has told In Fact Daily that this was not the case, and she had nothing to do with the matter. She pointed out that she was out of town on Thursday and Friday.
Though the agenda was accepted by the City Clerk’s office on Friday, it was not posted physically or online, as is required of public meetings.
Gentry said she and members of the city’s Law Department had determined several months ago that the City Clerk’s Office should no longer accept postings for non-city meetings, such as the Capital Metro board and the CAMPO board. She said once the city accepts responsibility for a posting, members of her staff must post it physically, make sure it is on the city’s web site, and then archive the information.
Several members of the public were on hand to attend the meeting Monday, and were surprised to find out that it had been cancelled.
Rush, Morrison’s aide, explained that the process frustrated them, that they had to ask repeatedly for information about the meeting before finally receiving an agenda. She noted that, as far as she had heard, their office was the source of information for the agenda and meeting.
There is no word on when the meeting will be rescheduled. Suttle told In Fact Daily late last night that he had just returned from attending the Grand Prix race in Silverstone, England. He said the rescheduling would be difficult because everyone on the board has a job.
Last month, the City Council approved the agreement with F1 at a specially called meeting. Suttle emphasized the import of passing the agreement quickly in order to ensure the state’s Major Event Trust Fund is secured before the anticipated June 2012 race start date.
On the agenda for the cancelled meeting was the finalization of agreements with the City and Formula One Management Ltd., submission of documents to the state comptroller’s office, and election of a director and officers for the committee.
Suttle said he would probably post future meetings at the Travis County courthouse.
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