Conroe, January 8 – Taxpayers won’t get any respite from the Montgomery County Commissioners Court as 2018 begins. The garbage of wasteful spending, corruption, and secrecy continue under the direction of County Judge Craig Doyal, Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley, and the Davenport Ring of corrupt officials and candidates who follow the direction of political boss Marc Davenport.
On Tuesday, January 9, 2018, the citizens will suffer the first Commissioners Court meeting of the year beginning at 9:30 a.m. Some of the suffering includes the following.
$95 million, 4.5 mile, Tx-249 Tollway, also known as the Decimation of Hope Highway
Doyal is rushing to push forward with the Tx-249 Tollway to ensure that he and Riley are able to control the political supporters of theirs who get the fat $82 million-plus construction contract for less than 4.5 miles of road, making the Decimation of Hope Highway one of the most expensive road projects in American history.
On the Court agenda is a proposal to begin advertising for construction bids for the stretch of road from Spring Creek to 0.96 miles south of the intersection of Tx-249 with F.M. 1774. It’s stunning that the Commissioners Court would rush into this project at this juncture:
- CDM Smith has not yet completed its $400,000 revenue and traffic study, so it’s not clear that even bogus economic analysis will support construction of the road;
- Texas Department of Transportation has confirmed that they’d construct the road as a free road, using gas tax funds the citizens have already paid, if Montgomery County didn’t proceed to build the project as a tollroad;
- On March 6, 2018, Montgomery County Republican voters will vote on statewide Proposition 2 which calls for no government funding or construction of tollroads without voter approval first; and
- State Representative Mark Keough who is running for Montgomery County Judge, State Representative candidate Steve Toth, Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and a score of other political leaders have called for no additional tollroads in Texas.
Even though a few special interest individuals and businesses from the Magnolia area have asked for construction of the Tx-249 extension, no one has asked for a tollroad as opposed to a free one, with the exception of two individuals: Doyal and Riley, who want to funnel revenue bond funds to their favored political and criminal legal defense fund contributors.
Doyal tries to take credit for Noack’s debt reduction work
As a result of some creative thinking and leadership of Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack, the Commissioners Court will vote perfunctorily to approve the debt reserve reduction they already approved on September 5, 2017, when they passed the Fiscal Year 2018 Budget. Noack suggested the concept of taking $17.081 million of pass-through toll funds to defease outstanding debt obligations and reduce debt service.
Noack’s leadership on this matter is the only reason that Doyal’s governmental expenditure increases from the previous year did not result in a tax rate increase, even though the Doyal-, Riley-, and Meador-led property tax appraisal increases have raised the amount of property taxes Montgomery County homeowners are paying.
Last week in a press release, Doyal tried to take credit for the debt service reduction. That’s the type of garbage election seasons bring from struggling incumbents.
Graves Humphries Stahl/NetData
The folly of using an outside law firm to collect fees and fines for four out of five JP courts unfortunately is continuing into 2018. As a result of the Davenport Ring’s Marc Davenport (not even a County employee) and James Metts (a JP) forcing the terrible Graves Humphries/NetData collection system on the citizens of Montgomery County, the Commissioners Court will pay $22,126.54 for the terrible collection services.
It’s certainly not free. For some reason which no Commissioners Court member is likely to know, the County government is paying Graves Humphries $10,000 for the “free” NetData software.
As this chart shows from data from the Texas Office of Court Administration, Montgomery County is losing millions of dollars each year in the four JP courts – Precincts 1, 2, 4, and 5 – that use this outside collection system, in comparison to Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Edie Connelly who has refused to do so.
Connelly’s court’s collection percentage is 97%, while Metts only collects 75% of the fees and fines he imposes. That’s a loss to Montgomery County taxpayers of $304,837.83 in fees and fines in Metts’ court alone during one fiscal year.
Failure to review $8.994 million of bill
Once again, the Commissioners Court will fail to review $8.994 million of payments over 93 single-space pages. There’s no backup or explanation for any of the payments, which include hundreds of thousands of dollars of charges on the County government’s Citibank credit card.
No one is minding the government.
Tx-249 Tollroad payments
Riley continuously lies to citizens who ask whether the County has paid anything for the Tx-249 Tollway. In actuality, the citizens have paid in excess of $13 million in general revenue funds for this Tollway in the form of an interest free “loan” to Commissioners Court from the taxpayers.
On Tuesday, January 9, 2017, the taxpayers will pay an additional $152,004.63 for this Tollway that Riley and Doyal claim won’t cost the taxpayers anything:
- $20,728.21 paid to Halff Associates, Inc., the engineering firm of Doyal’s best friend and business partner Bobby Jack Adams;
- $75,611.24 paid to CDM Smith, Inc., the engineering firm under a United States Department of Justice investigation for bribery and under several worldwide investigations for padding invoices for engineering services to finance payment of bribes;
- $37,277.64 to Aguirre & Field engineering firm, another major political and criminal defense fund donor to Doyal and Riley;
- $13,465.00 to Sugar Land attorney Rich Muller;
- $4,730.01 to LandTech Surveyors; and
- $192.53 to Entergy.
That seems like a lot of money that taxpayers are paying that Doyal and Riley refer to as nothing.
When the Commissioners Court passes its budget in haste without public hearings, fails to require the County Auditor to comply with Generally Accepted Accounting Practices, and has a County Treasurer who wrote a 700 page manual “to manipulate the county finance system,” it’s not surprising that the County government fails to follow its approved budget.
The Commissioners Court will approve, on an “emergency” basis, $1,688,761.20 in “budget amendments for Fiscal Year 2017, which ended on September 30, 2017. The purpose of those amendments is obviously to clean up the books to make the budget comply with what the County government actually spent.
The Fiscal Year Budget amendments are nothing short of frightening for the fiscal irresponsibility they represent:
$3,689,996.79 “to correct carryover for FY17 encumbrances” in various departments
$10,886,083.98 for Commissioner Precinct “slush funds” of unspent road and bridge funds (!!!)
$51,949.00 for salaries for the Adult Probate Department
$17,665 for the Animal Shelter
$14,632 for “supplies” for Building Maintenance
$152,000 taken out of Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador’s road materials fund to put into capital outlays for a building
$346,577.03 for problems in Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley’s budget
$7,239,210.70 for adjustments in Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack’s budget
$327,300 in adjustments for the Records Management budget
$19,588.50 for printing and supplies for the Elections Office
$1,000.59 for equipment rental for the Extension Office
$260.00 for Historical Commission revenue
$280.00 taken from carryover to pay for unexplained “transportation” for embattled JP4 James Metts
$29,707.81 for more books for the Memorial Library
$1,000 for Mental Health Court supplies
$1,400 for travel for a magistrate
$563,587.73 in budget amendments for the Sheriff’s Office which includes over $414,000 of “remodeling”
$61,385.05 in Auto Theft Task Force carryover of unspent funds from the previous Fiscal Year
$360 in budget changes for the Veterans Services Department
The total budget amendments for Fiscal Year 2018 are $23,403,979. That’s a lot of money and reflects what a poor job the Commissioners Court did when it hastily passed the budget on September 5, 2017.
Holzwarth, the duplicate engineer
John Holzwarth is getting a nice return on his political contribution investment.
Just on January 9, the Commissioners Court will pay Holzwarth $17,666.45 to provide the same engineering services that the salaried County Engineer Mark Mooney should be doing as part of his job duties as the County’s official “road engineer.”
Harvey relief funds increase with no backup for request
Everyone is sympathetic to the victims of Tropic Storm Harvey. The bureaucratic Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management is seeking an additional $60,000 in Harvey “relief funds.” They’ve provided no backup materials along with the agenda whatsoever.
That’s another example of the secretive leadership under Doyal. and his politically-charged County department directors.
Nichols Sawmill Road construction
Riley is finally getting the Commissioners Court to approve his contracts for the Nichols Sawmill Road construction which was part of the road bonds approved over two years ago. Citizens of Commissioners Precinct 2 have suffered through terrible delays while Riley has seemed to focus on everything but roads and bridges, his primary job responsibilities.
Executive session violation of Texas Open Meetings Act
Section 551.041 of the Texas Government Code, part of the TOMA, mandates “A governmental body shall give written notice of the date, hour, place, and subject of each meeting held by the governmental body.” The notice must be posted following a particular procedure of public posting 72 hours before the meeting. That means that Commissioners Court meetings beginning Tuesdays at 9:30 a.m. must be the subject of a public posting at the Courthouse no later than the previous Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m. The notice must include the subject of the meeting.
About 31 years ago, the Austin Independent School District landed in a bunch of hot water when they began to abuse executive sessions by failing to provide any notice of the subject of the executive sessions that they’d hold when they provided notice of the school district meetings. A newspaper chain, Cox Enterprises, Inc., filed a lawsuit against AISD and fought the issue all the way to the Supreme Court of Texas, which held on April 9, 1986, that before an executive session may occur under TOMA, advance written notice of the date, hour, place, and subject of the executive session is required. A “reader…[must be] alerted to the topic for consideration” in order for the executive session to comply with Texas law.
Nor surprisingly, the Commissioners Court, which appears to want to operate in secrecy, doesn’t give the proper notice oftentimes.
In Tuesday’s instance, there’s the following notice only and nothing else: “Discuss and Deliberate the Appointment, Employment, Evaluation, Reassignment Duties, Discipline, or Dismissal of a Public Officer or Employee.” Nothing in the notice gives the public a clue about the position at issue in the proposed secret meeting. Nothing in the notice states whether the purpose of the secret meeting is to hire, fire, or discipline someone.
Clearly, the purpose of Doyal’s secretive agenda posting is to prevent the public from knowing what the County government is doing.
One of the most conscientious County Department Directors is Dodi Shaw, the County’s Human Resources Director. Of course, she’s on Doyal’s “Hit List” of County employees he wants to terminate because she hasn’t supported him politically.
Shaw placed the full “Payroll Change Request Forms” with full backup with the Commissioners Court packet. All citizens should thank Shaw for this transparency against which Doyal and his “chief of staff” jim fredricks have fought.