Conroe, December 23 – On May 8, 1998, President W. Jeff Clinton’s personal attorney David Kendall issued a press release complaining about “leaks” from the United States Department of Justice concerning Clinton’s relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
On Tuesday, December 19, 2017, Montgomery County Community Development Director Joanne Ducharme had a Clintonian moment in the midst of her display of unbridled anger as she attempted to present a flood buyout grant application to the Montgomery County Commissioners Court.
Ducharme was upset that the financial information backing up the grant application was made available to the public, because the financial documents revealed that Ducharme, who already receives a County annual salary of $117,410, plus benefits of approximately $47,316, for total annual compensation of approximately $164,746, wanted to give herself a $45,000 raise (plus about $18,000 more in County benefits) out of the federal flood buyout funds in the grant application.
Ducharme referred to the salary increase, she had hidden in the documents she had not even disclosed to the members of the Commissioners Court other than the secretive County Judge Craig Doyal, as “I also included a small stipend for me.” Ducharme’s “small stipend” would constitute a 19.2 percent (19.2%) raise for herself each of the two years. The Golden Hammer broke the story on Saturday, December 16, after receiving a confidential tip on Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper’s tipline followed by a Texas Open Records Act request to appropriate County Departments.
Ducharme furiously ranted, “I want to tell you that the reason this document, which three of you are squinting at because you’ve never seen it, is not in the public record for voting on this application is because it’s not part of the public record for the application, and it’s not part of the application. This was a proposal. This was a conversation.”
Ducharme admitted that she had held a secret meeting with Doyal where the two decided by themselves to give Ducharme and two of her employees the massive raises: “I had met with the judge to discuss the program…In that meeting I said one of the things we’re trying to figure out is how on Earth at 2% admin from this grant this year we’re going to get this amount of work done.”
Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack pointed out at least four other County departments can do grant administration and could help the Community Development Department administer the grants without any salary increases or additional expense to Montgomery County taxpayers. Even Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador suggested utilizing the services of the County’s Emergency Management Department personnel.
Ducharme expressed her fury that the information about her and Doyal’s secret plans to give herself the gigantic raise came to the light of public vigilance.
“This document is not secret; it was leaked,” Ducharme barked at the Commissioners Court.
County Human Resources Department Director Dodi Shaw (who had not provided the confidential tip to this newspaper) told the Commissioners Court, “These documents were produced after Open Records Act requests.”
The “leak” occurred because Ducharme hid her and Doyal’s plans for her raise, a diligent County employee felt an ethical duty to make their secret plans available for public scrutiny, and that employee did the right thing by providing the information to The Golden Hammer.
As former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich once observed, however, “leaks don’t happen when government doesn’t have secrets.”
The Commissioners Court deferred approving Ducharme’s pay raise or taking any action on the salaries of her staff in order to determine whether a more cost-effective method of administering the 2016 flood buyout grant might occur instead.