UPDATED: DART advances trans protections after discussing them behind closed doors

Posted on 15 Jun 2010 at 6:16pm

Following a 30-minute executive session to discuss the item behind closed doors, DART’s Board of Drectors voted Tuesday evening to advance a proposal to add transgender protections to the agency’s nondiscrimination policy.

The proposal, which came in response to allegations that DART discriminated against a transgender bus driver, now proceeds to a final board vote on Tuesday, June 22.

The board, acting as a committee-of-the-whole, voted 11-2 to advance the proposal to next week’s meeting.

Tuesday’s vote came after the board voted 6-5 to delay the proposal last month, requesting more information about the definition of “gender identity” from the agency’s attorneys. The attorneys reportedly provided this information during the executive session prior to Tuesday’s vote.

Once the meeting was reopened, there was no board discussion of the proposal before the vote was taken.

DART spokesman Morgan Lyons noted that Texas open meetings law allows government bodies to conduct closed sessions to discuss information that falls under attorney-client privilege.

However, a Houston-based attorney who’s an expert in open meetings law said Wednesday morning that the circumstances of the closed session sounded “extremely suspicious.” Joe Larsen, a board member for the Texas Freedom of Information Foundation, questioned whether the entire 30-minute closed session was devoted solely to information that falls under attorney-client privilege.

“It sure sounds to me like they went beyond whatever legal implications this thing may have, just because of the time frame in combination with the complete lack of discussion once they went back into open session,” Larsen said.

Voting in favor of the proposal were DART board members John Danish, Loretta Ellerbe, Jerry Christian, Pamela Dunlop Gates, Raymond Noah, Robert Strauss, William Tsao, Tracey Whitaker, Faye Moses Wilkins, Claude Williams and William Velasco.

Voting against the proposal were DART board members Scott Carlson and Mark Enoch. Carlson represents Dallas, which has had trans protections in a nondiscrimination ordinance since 2002. Enoch represents Farmers Branch, Garland and Rowlett.

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