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The Calhoun Port Authority, which secretly hired a disgraced congressman as a lobbyist much to residents’ chagrin in 2018, stopped emailing its meeting agendas to the public this week.

Port staff said the agendas will continue to be posted to the port’s website, calhounport.com, and at the courthouse in Port Lavaca at least 72 hours before regularly scheduled meetings.

Regularly scheduled meetings are at 9 a.m. on the second Wednesday of the month.

Neither Port Director Charles Hausmann nor the board responded to questions about why the port has stopped emailing the agendas by deadline Monday.

The port last emailed the agenda to 37 addresses in July.

The addresses belonged to representatives of businesses including as NGL Energy Partners, Formosa and Hilcorp Energy Company; newspapers, such as the Victoria Advocate, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times and the Port Lavaca Wave; other governmental entities, such as the Matagorda Bay Pilots and the General Land Office; and members of the public.

In a previous interview with the Advocate on Aug. 1, Luis De La Garza, who promised transparency when he was elected to the board in May, said “it’s taking time away from doing other things that they need to be doing, sending this one huge message out.”

When a reporter asked if the public should be expected to check the website and go to the courthouse every day so they can receive notice of a meeting that is not regularly scheduled, De La Garza said, “That’s a fair question. We may have to revisit that one.”

Donnis Baggett, the executive vice president of the Texas Press Association, said it doesn’t cost the port anything to email the agenda and “to eliminate that ... even though it may be legal, is slap in the face of transparency.”

“Considering the port’s history when it comes to transparency, one would think they’d be eager to keep the public aware of their actions. It appears the opposite is true,” he said.

The law requires a political subdivision such as the port to post notice of its meetings either at the county clerk’s office or at the political subdivision’s office, if the political subdivision’s office is accessible to public.

People must check in with security before going to the port’s office.

Political subdivisions must post the notice 72 hours before the meeting unless there’s an emergency or an urgent public necessity. Then, the notice can be posted two hours before the meeting.

The Legislature defines an emergency or an urgent public necessity as something that “poses an imminent threat to public health and safety” or is “a reasonably unforeseen situation.”

The port board next meets Wednesday. Then, it will review and consider an option to lease 10 acres on its south peninsula to Hexl Asset Management as well as the abandonment of a 20-inch natural gas pipeline by Matagorda Offshore.

Jessica Priest reports on the environment and Calhoun County for the Victoria Advocate. She may be reached at jpriest@vicad.com or 361-580-6521.

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Environment/Investigations Reporter

Jessica Priest has done a little bit of everything since moving to Victoria in 2012. She was a regular fixture in the Crossroads’ historic courthouses, but now slathers on the sunscreen to report on the environment.

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