Image: Betty Graham was the first Montgomery County employee in history to receive a 45-Year Service Pin in 2014. Graham retired from Montgomery County in 2016 after 47 years of service. Graham had been County Treasurer Martha Gustavsen’s choice as her interim successor as County Treasurer. The Commissioners Court voted to appoint Stephanne Davenport instead. Craig Doyal pushed for that appointment because it put his daughter Lindsey Doyal on the path to a promotion and pay raise.
Conroe, April 7 – Craig Doyal’s primary motivation in pushing for the appointment of Stephanne Davenport as County Treasurer in 2013 was to move his daughter, Lindsey Doyal, into a higher-paying job, according to a secret cache of documents The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, has obtained.
The June, 2013, appointment of Stephanne Davenport (formerly Laviolette prior to her marriage to political consultant Marc Davenport) raises troubling questions regarding nepotism and her political relationship with County Judge Craig Doyal. Her predecessor as County Treasurer, Martha Gustavsen, raised concerns with several County officials who ignored her as she was retiring from the County as an elected official on June 30, 2013. Strangely, Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador consistently opposed the appointment of Davenport as Treasurer and had sought to follow Gustavsen’s recommendation.
Hiring Lindsey Doyal, Craig Doyal’s daughter: building the path
Until January 1, 2015, Craig Doyal was the Precinct 2 County Commissioner. Doyal was part of a voting bloc that consistently voted for greater County government spending despite concerns which then-County Judge Alan B. Sadler had raised for many years.
Doyal’s daughter, Lindsey Doyal, had applied for a County job with the County Treasurer, Gustavsen, twice. Gustavsen declined to hire her on both occasions for reasons of lack of qualifications for the jobs. Davenport was the Payroll Coordinator in the Treasurer’s Department and quite a politically ambitious lady. On a third occasion, Lindsey Doyal applied for a job working as the administrative assistant to Davenport. Davenport interviewed Lindsey Doyal and hired her. (On March 14, 2017, Davenport in a fiery speech in the Commissioner’s Court told the Commissioner and the public that she had “inherited” all of the employees of the Treasurer’s Department including Lindsey Doyal. That statement is not accurate.)
Very soon thereafter, Davenport and Lindsey Doyal became well known as close friends. They went on vacations together. Their children played together. Davenport, Lindsey Doyal, and Lindsey’s father, Commissioner Craig Doyal, often had lunch together. Davenport’s strong relationship with Lindsey Doyal became a political path to a friendship with then-Commissioner Craig Doyal.
Gustavsen’s resignation; recommendation for Graham as successor
Martha Gustavsen had worked for Montgomery County for almost 27 years by 2013. Gustavsen had been one of the most energetic Republican political activists in the history of Montgomery County. If there was a Republican women’s group meeting, Gustavsen was always there. She served as an officer and director of the Woodlands Area Republican Women and was a close friend both of remarkable Republican activist Billie Gray and of her son Jim Alexander.
In mid-2013, Gustavsen and her husband Bob (quite an interesting character as well) decided it was time for the two of them to retire, take care of themselves, and enjoy life. Gustavsen submitted her resignation to Judge Sadler and the Commissioners Court on May 3, 2013, but to be effective, June 30, 2013.
Gustavsen recommended that the Commissioners Court appoint Betty Graham as her successor. Graham had worked for the County government for 44 years by 2013. Graham had worked in the County Treasurer’s Office since June, 1986. Gustavsen made clear that Graham would not run for election to the County Treasurer’s Office but that “she can do everything in this office and the employees look up to her as a mentor.”
One of the primary reasons Gustavsen recommended the appointment of Graham as a “placeholder” County Treasurer until the voters elected a permanent replacement was that Gustavsen wanted to permit Davenport and Patricia Reaves, both Treasurer’s Department employees interested in the job, to run against each other in an election and permit the voters to determine the County Treasurer. In a May 22, 2013, memorandum, Reaves made clear that she did not want the appointment, intended to run for the position, and supported her longtime co-worker Betty Graham as the interim County Treasurer until the voters had an opportunity to decide Gustavsen’s replacement. Gustavsen had, of course, supported that approach as well.
Gustavsen clarified this approach in an email she sent to the Commissioners Court on May 18, 2013, in which she stated:
“I believe Betty [Graham] is the most logical choice for replacing me as County Treasurer as she has been in this office since June, 1986. Six months earlier than I took office. For the smooth transition and for all my employees concerned, it would be the smartest replacement. Stephanne [Davenport] and Patricia Reaves (also in my office) are both planning to run for County Treasurer. Betty is not going to run for County Treasurer – she will probably be retiring after 2014.”
Graham had worked in the County Auditor’s Office prior to working in the County Treasurer’s Office. She had risen to the position of Chief Deputy County Auditor and had a lengthy and extensive background in the duties and operations of the County Treasurer’s Office.
Selection of Davenport
Judge Sadler and the County Commissioners interviewed Davenport and Graham on June 3, 2013, in an executive session.
In the open Commissioners Court, Meador moved to appoint Betty Graham and stated that she was the right lady for the job. His motion died for lack of a second.
Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack then moved to appoint Davenport. Amazingly, Doyal seconded the motion, even though he had a serious conflict of interest given his daughter’s close relationship with Davenport. Sadler joined Doyal and Noack. Commissioner Ed Rinehart abstained. Meador voted “no.” Gustavsen was on a trip with her husband Bob to Illinois during the June 3 Commissioners Court meeting.
Gustavsen’s nepotism concerns
When Gustavsen returned from her vacation, she discovered the Commissioners Court had ignored her recommendation and, on a motion which Craig Doyal had seconded, the Court had appointed Davenport.
Gustavsen complained about the appointment of Davenport in writing, because she felt that Doyal’s vote and second in favor of Davenport was improper and that he should have recused himself. In a scathing memorandum, Gustavsen wrote:
“I highly recommended Betty Graham to replace me…Stephanne only knows payroll in my department and has never made a concerted effort to learn any of the other jobs in this office.
“I also question Craig Doyal’s right to vote on this issue as his daughter, Lindsey, is Stephanne’s payroll assistant and if Steph takes over my position, Lindsey would be the Payroll Accountant with a $15,000 plus increase in pay. For that reason, Craig might should have abstained from voting.“
Doyal treated the County government as a “family business” as long ago as 2013. He failed to disclose his daughter’s financial interest in Davenport’s appointment as County Treasurer to the other members of the Commissioners Court.
Noack told The Golden Hammer, “I would have taken that additional information into consideration if Davenport and Doyal had disclosed it.”
On that vote, Commissioner Mike Meador was the lone dissenter.
Davenport did finally move Lindsey Doyal into the higher paying job which her father, Craig Doyal, had sought for her. For a full explanation of the details of that move, please read “County Treasurer’s Department: Here’s What the Fact of Nepotism Looks Like, Doyal and Davenport,” The Golden Hammer, March 18, 2017.