Conroe, June 8 – Yesterday morning, June 7, 2017, The Golden Hammer‘s Publisher contacted Lieutenant Scott Spencer, the Public Affairs Officer for the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) to inquire about the status of the investigation into the “Video-Gate” scandal wherein Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal filmed a political advertisement for his County Judge campaign inside of his official County Office on the Fourth Floor of the Sadler Administration Building. Such use of a County facility is a clear violation of Section 255.003 of the Texas Election Code, as Texas Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion Number 443 has made known for a long time.
In response to The Golden Hammer‘s inquiry, Captain A. Bryan Carlisle, the Director of the Executive Division of MCSO, which includes the Internal Affairs Division, which conducted the investigation, issued a press release this afternoon in which Carlisle stated,
“On June 5th, 2017, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office Internal Affairs Unit completed a two-week inquiry, upon request from Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon, into allegations that Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal violated sections of the Texas Election Code and Penal code by posting a video taken inside of his official office which was utilized for a political advertisement.
“The…[MCSO] makes no recommendation in regard to prosecution, as that decision rests exclusively with the District Attorney’s Office in every case.”
Captain Carlisle added that “Sheriff Rand Henderson and his Leadership Team take matters involving public integrity within Montgomery County very seriously.”
This public integrity investigation was the first involving a potential non-law enforcement prosecution target, since Doyal is not involved in criminal justice or law enforcement. Sheriff Henderson had promised during his electoral campaign in 2016 that, under his leadership, MCSO would conduct public integrity investigations which the District Attorney’s Office had previously conducted.
Time Line and Benchmarking
In a May 30, 2017, story, The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper reported:
“The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, broke the “Video-Gate” story on Sunday, May 21, 2017. The facts of ‘Video-Gate’ are far simpler and require less investigation than even the Seiler matter.
Therefore, it’s easy to benchmark the Sheriff’s Office’s investigation into Doyal. By the middle of this week, six (6) business days will have elapsed since the story broke and since citizens delivered the videos to appropriate law enforcement authorities. By approximately Wednesday, May 31, 2017, discussions between the District Attorney’s Office, as the prosecutors, and Doyal’s legal team should begin. If the Seiler matter is a ‘benchmark,’ then Doyal’s matter should reach final resolution – and public knowledge thereof by approximately Tuesday, June 6, 2017, which, interestingly enough, coincides with the next meeting of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court over which Doyal presides (as well as D-Day).
In actuality, the Sheriff’s Office completed the investigation and referred the matter back to the District Attorney on June 5, only 5 calendar days and 3 business days later than the “benchmark.” Although the facts of the case were quite simple, this investigation was a first of MCSO. Captain Carlisle’s team did a super job meeting expectations in getting their work done.
The District Attorney’s Office, Public Integrity Unit, will now review the file and determine what action to take next. Under the time line discussed above, citizens should hopefully see a resolution of this matter within a week or so. One aspect of this case might complicate such a rapid resolution: the pending criminal charges against Doyal for allegedly violating the Texas Open Meetings Act.
Doyal and his attorneys might want to address those allegations as part of an agreement with the District Attorney.
Of course, it’s also possible that the District Attorney will choose not to proceed, despite the clear and overwhelming evidence against Doyal in this matter.
Doyal’s “Video-Gate” problem
In this case, Doyal faces criminal charges for “abuse of power” (Section 39.02, Texas Penal Code) and for violating Texas Election Code Section 255.003. Doyal filmed a political advertisement in his official County Office. The Texas Ethics Commission, in Opinion Number 443, made clear that such conduct constitutes a Class A misdemeanor under Section 255.003 of the Election Code. Doyal filmed the advertisement on Friday, May 19, 2017, during normal County business hours in his office. He had previously filmed a political advertisement to support his political friend City Councilman Duane Ham on October 31, 2016. The second film is now also part of the investigation.
Will Doyal face any consequences whatsoever? Doyal’s actions would seem more serious than Seiler’s and McCarty’s. The value of Doyal’s office as a film location exceeds $750. Doyal directly used County property for political purposes. Using the County Judge’s office as a film studio would seem far more serious than thanking some jurors in a letter or feeding some cows.