Magnolia and Conroe, November 14 – Precinct 2 Montgomery County Commissioner Charlie Riley’s “head in the sand” technique of trying to cover up the facts surrounding the “Trailer-Gate” scandal doesn’t appear to work. The Montgomery County Grand Jury continues to investigate Riley’s use of County government and school district property as part of a growing criminal investigation.
Yesterday, Riley’s Commissioner’s Precinct 2 office had to respond to Republican Precinct Chair Ginger Russell’s request under the Texas Open Records Act for all emails and text messages between Riley and Magnolia Independent School District Superintendent Todd Stephens during the period from April 1, 2017, through November 1, 2017. In response to the request, Riley attempted to stick his head deep into the sands of Montgomery County.
Riley, through his assistant JoAnne Moore, told Russell, “There are no responsive documents for your request.”
There’s a problem with Riley’s response, however, that he doesn’t have any emails or texts with Magnolia ISD Todd Stephens between April 1, 2017, and November 1, 2017. That problem is that Russell already knew that emails and texts exist! Even more dramatically, the emails and texts that Riley has attempted to cover up are precisely concerning the topic about which Russell has conducted an investigation of Riley and the Magnolia ISD he seems to control: use of school district facilities, equipment, and storage for free for Riley’s personal and political use.
In response to a Texas Open Records Act request from Russell last month, the Magnolia ISD produced several emails showing that Riley and Stephens regularly use the school district’s musical equipment, storage facilities, and rooms for their band that they use for political and personal functions. More importantly, Riley and Stephens regularly communicate about their personal use of the government equipment and facilities through the County’s email server and the school district’s email server.
The emails and texts which Riley hid from Russell in response to her Open Records Act request seem to be a fairly regular occurrence.
Now, in addition to hiding responsive documents under the Texas Open Records Act (a Class B misdemeanor punishable by fine up to $1,000 and confinement in the County Jail for up to 6 months), here’s what we know about Riley and his groupies:
- Under then Commissioner Craig Doyal’s personal direction, a County employee regularly prepared his campaign reports at the Precinct 2 office.
- Under Doyal’s personal direction, a County employee prepared political program ads during work hours at the Precinct 2 office.
- Under Doyal’s personal direction, a County employee prepared and mailed political checks during work hours and worked on political fundraisers during for Doyal during work hours.
- Other county employees in Precinct 2 worked on campaign activities and fundraisers for Doyal during work hours.
- The Precinct 2 mechanics shop built platforms during work hours for Doyal’s political fundraisers.
- Operations Manager Charlie Riley purchased food for Doyal’s political fundraisers during county business hours.
- Doyal approved of the use of County materials, equipment, and time to work on his campaign.
- Riley instructed a County employee to “do what you need to do to get it [Doyal’s political campaign reports] finished” including taking a county printer to the County employee’s home.
- For the past several years, Riley and Doyal have stored their barbecue trailers they use during political campaigns on County property in the Precinct 2 Commissioners barnyard in Magnolia behind a locked and gated fence. Riley and Doyal have not paid the County anything for the use of that storage space.
- Precinct 2 employees have confirmed that Riley and Doyal have had County employees provide automotive repairs and vehicle maintenance to members of Riley’s and Doyal’s families at no charge to them.
- Riley and Doyal had the Building Maintenance Department install plumbing and electrical connections at the Precinct 2 barnyard so they could cook there for their political campaigns.
- On September 14, 2017, Riley admitted in writing, “As far as the County yard storing my personal cooking trailer, that is correct.”
- On October 13, 2017, Riley, his wife Deanne who is a County employee in the position Riley established for her, and several County employees spent a large portion of the County work day making preparations for his political campaign kickoff the next day.
- On October 14, 2017, Riley, Stephens, and at least two Magnolia ISD maintenance workers loaded a Magnolia ISD truck at the Magnolia ISD Administration Building with Riley’s personal band equipment stored at the Administration Building for free. The school district employees then transported the equipment to the site of Riley’s political campaign kickoff, unloaded the equipment, participated in Riley’s campaign presentation, loaded the equipment back onto the school district truck, transported it back to the Administration Building, and unloaded the equipment with Riley and Stephens there to help with the unloading and re-storage of the equipment.
- On October 14, 2017, Riley utilized some County-owned electrical carts as a “train” to carry passengers attending Riley’s campaign kickoff from where they parked to the site of the event. On October 15, 2017, the carts were back in the Commissioners Precinct 2 barnyard behind the locked and gated fence.
- On October 16, 2017, in order to attempt to cover up Riley’s free use of school district vehicles and employees, Stephens ordered Director of Finance Garrett Matej to create a phony invoice 8101 for $100.00 to Riley for Riley’s use of the school district’s truck over the October 14 and 15 weekend.
Russell, who is spearheading the investigation into the Precinct 2 corruption, told The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, in an exclusive interview, “I wonder if there will come a time when Commissioner Charlie Riley will think it might be beneficial to be transparent and honest? I would like to say I am shocked that his office responded stating there are no documents responsive to my open records request, when I have in my possession some that satisfied the request, but they seem to have no fear of their massive coverup or what it will cost them. Why lie? Again?”