Conroe, July 14 – Open mouth. Insert foot. So it went for Precinct 2 Montgomery County Commissioner Charlie Riley who expressed his ignorance of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and of Montgomery County Courthouse security procedures.
Riley, a regular recipient of “The Golden Hammer Award” which recognizes County officials who “hammer the taxpayers” with profligate tax dollar spending policies, ended the Tuesday, July 11, 2017, Commissioners Court meeting by saying “I got one thing. Are these real hammers? They paint them real nice and pretty and tie a bow around them. We need to review. What’s going to happen when someone paints a gun?” Precinct 1 Mike Meador, also a recipient on several occasions of “The Golden Hammer Award,” added “It’s a possibility.”
Of course, there’s never been any sort of security problem with the hammers used in “The Golden Hammer Award,” which Riley, Meador, and others have received every two weeks since late June, 2016. There was one disturbing incident that occurred on July 12, 2017, at the beginning of the citizen comments portion of the Commissioners Court meeting.
A teenage girl who is the daughter of two convicted felons who collaborate closely with local political boss and consultant Marc Davenport and his wife County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport, at the urging of Marc Davenport, appeared in the Commissioners Court brandishing an unpainted hammer ostensibly for the purpose of giving it to the Commissioners Court to “hang pictures.”
Riley also has worked closely with the Davenports, has hired Marc Davenport to work for him in the past, is a co-defendant in the criminal case under the Texas Open Meetings Act with Davenport, and is currently negotiating with Davenport possibly to hire him again for the 2018 Republican Primary Election.
Therefore, Riley’s comments at the end of the meeting appeared staged, as do many of the comments he makes during Commissioners Court meetings.
There are several problems with Riley’s comments about hammers in the Commissioners Court. First, as Captain Bryan Carlisle of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office has noted, if the hammers are intended as an expression of free political speech, then prohibiting them would be a prior restraint on free speech. Riley himself, along with Davenport and County Judge Craig Doyal, challenged the constitutionality of the Texas Open Meetings Act as an unlawful restraint on their free political speech.
Second, Sheriff Rand Henderson, who sat at the back of the Commissioners Courtroom at the time of Riley’s outburst, stated, “They’re [hammers] not a prohibited item, sir, according to current policy.” Henderson is absolutely right. In fact, The Golden Hammer has confirmed with the Sheriff’s Office that there is no current list of prohibited items for courthouse security. With Governor Greg Abbott signing the Julie Kocurek Judicial and Courthouse Security Act on May 27, 2017, effective September 1, 2017, the Sheriff must provide a written report to the Texas Office of Court Administration detailing any security incidents and describing courthouse security measures. County Attorney J.D. Lambright told The Golden Hammer that the County government is in the process of writing a security policy.
Third, and perhaps most important, Riley clearly has failed to understand the point of “The Golden Hammer Award.” The Golden Hammer Award will continue with painted gold hammers, painted stage prop foam rubber hammers, or even drawn golden hammers on a piece of paper, if necessary, because the point of them is not the prop but the message behind it. That’s a message Riley has failed to understand. The Golden Hammer Award recognizes the failure of the recipient to act as a steward of taxpayer money by “hammering the taxpayers” with wasteful tax dollar spending.
“Riley clearly has failed to understand the point of the ‘The Golden Hammer Award.’ The Golden Hammer Award will continue with painted gold hammers, painted stage prop foam rubber hammers, or even drawn golden hammers on a piece of paper, if necessary, because the point of them is not the prop but the message behind it. That’s a message Riley has failed to understand. The Golden Hammer Award recognizes the failure of the recipient to act as a steward of taxpayer money by “hammering the taxpayers” with wasteful tax dollar spending.
For example, Riley received “The Golden Sledgehammer Award,” which was a stage prop sledgehammer (a rubber one filled with hot air, which seems appropriate for Riley) for his wasting $13.1 million of County tax dollars on the completely unnecessary $73 million 3.6 mile Tx-249 Taxway tollroad on which Riley has seemed to concentrate all of his time and energy. Meanwhile, Riley has failed to move the November 2015 road bond projects in his Commissioners Precinct 2 forward and Riley has failed to exercise his duty to oversee County government business operations and spending.
The idea of The Golden Hammer Award came, of course, from “The Golden Fleece Award” which Senator William Proxmire of Wisconsin presented to federal government officials from 1975 to 1988 “for their squandering of public money.” Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, who during his career served as the Senator Majority Leader as well as the President Pro Tempore of the United States Senate, stated that The Golden Fleece Award was “as much a part of the Senate as quorum calls and filibusters.”
The Golden Hammer Awards will continue whether Riley likes them to do so or not. Riley is a major problem for the taxpayers of Montgomery County and for the citizens of Precinct 2 whom he should represent and serve. Besides failing to fulfill the two basic functions of his job – acting as the road and bridge project manager for Precinct 2 and overseeing the County government’s operations – Riley has engaged in some of the most wasteful government spending projects in the history of Montgomery County.
It’s not a surprise that Riley would collaborate with convicted felons and the Davenports. He’s under indictment himself. He doesn’t do his job. He’s responsible for the traffic congestion in Precinct 2, at this point in time, and the failure of the County government to get its spending under control.