Entire Montgomery County Commissioners Court gets “Golden Hammer Award” for consent agendas that are so secretive that they don’t know for what they’re voting, costing taxpayers tens of millions

Entire Montgomery County Commissioners Court gets “Golden Hammer Award” for consent agendas that are so secretive that they don’t know for what they’re voting, costing taxpayers tens of millions

Conroe, April 26 – All five members of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court – County Judge Craig Doyal, Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Meador, Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley, Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack, and Precinct 4 Commissioner Jim Clark – received the “Golden Hammer Award” during yesterday’s Commissioners Court meeting for “hammering the taxpayers” with the repeated passage of “consent agendas” consisting of tens of millions of dollars of spending and County policy items about which many of which the Court members don’t and couldn’t even know. During the April 11, 2017, Commissioners Court meeting, the Commissioners Court approved more than $10 million of spending on the “consent agenda” and, incredibly, passed three resolutions, including the adoption of a new County Employee Benefits Policy Plan that no one had even presented to the members of the Commissioners Court before they voted to approve those items. The proposed Plan was not attached to the agenda. The proposed Plan was never presented during the meeting. To this moment, no one knows what Plan the Commissioners Court actually adopted.

The April 25, 2017, “consent agenda” was no exception to the ludicrous and dangerous nature of the Commissioners Court passage of a consent agenda. The first eight single-spaced pages were agenda items involving more than $11 million. There was no discussion during the Court meeting. There was no deliberation and no consideration.

Among the “consent agenda” items were several illegal budget amendments which the Court members passed unanimously on a 5 to 0 vote in which they declated a “grave public necessity” that exists for certain “emergency expenditures” necessitating changes in the adopted Fiscal Year 2017 Budget for which “reasonable and diligent thought and attention” would not possibly have resulted in their including these spending matters, according to the written resolution, which the five Court members approved but obviously could not have read. Before you begin packing your belongings to flee your residence in the midst of the declared “emergency” and “grave public necessity,” you should consider what matters the Commissioners Court included, of course without any idea that they had done so:

  • funding for a park in Commissioners Precinct 1
  • spending $3600 on the Civic Center’s janitorial supplies
  • recognizing more fee revenue for the Memorial Library than they had originally budgeted
  • taking $25,000 out of the Precinct 2 Road and Bridge Fund for drainage facilities and spending it on library books
  • one item that obviously was such an emergency that Commissioner Meador didn’t have time to write it out but instead listed the Budget Amendment simply as a $29,817 expenditure of “transfer from 612-7340 into 612-7573.”

The April 25 secretive “consent agenda” which the Commissioners Court members didn’t review, deliberate, or discuss also included:

  • Thousands of dollars of credit card charges which no one has reviewed.
  • Computer and computer accessory purchases which no one has reviewed.
  • Tens of thousands of dollars of retail-priced purchases from Lowe’s, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Staples, and other retailers, without negotiation of government discounts.
  • Payments of over $4.1 million out of the County’s general fund with essentially no review. Since many of these payments are credit card charges, the excuse that “we’ve already reviewed and approved these purchases under contracts” is completely phony and irrational. These expenditures are just unreviewed, unaudited, and without oversight.
  • A $5,143 expenditure out of the County Engineer’s road and bridge fund for Gullo Cars.
  • Tens of thousands of dollars of payments to Smith & Company, a paving contractor, without oversight.
  • Payment by Commissioner Meador in the amount of $2,784.15 to Halff Associates, Inc., the company of Bobby Adams, Doyal’s best friend and business partner, without explanation.
  • Payment by Meador to the Texas Department of Transportation in the amount of $355,619.67 without any explanation.
  • Payment for the $73 million (allegedly) 3.6 mile Tx-249 Decimation of Hope Highway project to Muller Law firm in the amount of $3,625.00.
  • Payments of $10.4 million without oversight or discussion.
  • Budget amendments, without public hearing or open discussion, for the current Fiscal Year 2017. Except for the fact that millions of dollars are at stake, it’s almost comical that, without discussion, the Commissioners Court will approve these amendments based upon “emergency expenditure is necessary,” “due to grave public necessity,” “to meet unusual and unforeseen conditions which could not by reasonable and diligent thought and attention have been included in the original budget for 2016/17 adopted on September 6, 2016.” Could these public officials be any more irresponsible than to pass upon these major amendments without any discussion, thought, or attention?
  • The budget amendments include:
  • $55,000 for the Veterans Memorial Park; hundreds of thousands of dollars of state criminal court fees; moving $25,000 from Meador’s road and bridge fund for the memorial park, moving $15,000 from Riley’s road and bridge fund for the memorial park, and moving $15,000 from Clark’s road and bridge fund for the memorial park. Unlike Commissioner Noack who contributed $5,000 of his own money and raised another $10,000 from private contributions, Meador, Riley, and Clark are merely taking money away from much-needed road allocations and pretending to show some “charity.”
  • $3,600 extra for janitorial supplies from carryover funds for the Civic Center.
  • $29,817.00 removed from the Commissioner Precinct 1 asphalt fund and placed into the purchase of vehicles. (New truck for Gerald, perhaps?!)
  • $18,677 removed from a nonexistent account in Commissioner Meador’s budget into so-called “professional services” which is actually a payment to the Chamber of Commerce.
  • Transfer of several hundred thousand dollars from the Precinct 2 road and bridge funds into unexplained “professional services” and payments for new books for the library.
  • $150,000 of payments for “professional services” from the Precinct 2 carryover “slush fund.”
  • Expenditure of $219,000 from the Precinct 3 road and bridge carryover funds on roads and bridges. This novel expenditure of budgeted funds for matters on which they were budgeted is an example that the other members of Commissioners Court may want to follow.
  • $90,000 moved from the Commissioners Precinct 4 carryover funds for roads and bridges to “fund a generator repayment.”
  • $72,000 of funds for “contract services” from “professional services” for the “emergency management” department.
  • An $8,000 transfer from road and bridge funds to spend on telephone bills without explanation.
  • $210,000 of civil asset forfeiture expenses.
  • The Commissioners Court will accept the Auditor’s time sheet audits of the five Constables.
  • The Commissioners Court will accept a completely insufficient audit of Commissioner Meador’s Lake Conroe Park operations. The County Auditor admitted in her report that the audit was “for informational purposes only” and that no one should rely upon its accuracy, because Meador should audit himself.
  • The Auditor has presented unaudited financial statements through February, 2017. The unaudited February, 2017, financial statement reveals that the actual total expenditures of governmental funds for Montgomery County “budgeted” in Fiscal Year 2017 is: $439,606,519
  •  $6,047,216 of County governmental funds are secretly “budgeted” for the $73 million 3.6 mile Tx-249 Decimation of Hope Highway project.
  • The following agenda item, “APPROVE THE CORRECTION OF THE USING DEPARTMENT FOR ENVIRONMENTAL CONSULTING SERVICES WITH BAY ENVIRONMENTAL, INC. FROM BUILDING MAINTENANCE TO VARIOUS DEPARTMENTS.” Sadly, there is no such department entitled the “Using Department.” This entire agenda item is completely nonsensical and had no backup materials to explain its meaning.

One of the problems with the massive expenditures and budget amendments the Commissioners Court approves with every meeting is that they are directly violating Texas law, which in the Texas Local Government Code provides:

“Sec. 111.041. EXPENDITURE OF FUNDS UNDER BUDGET; EMERGENCY EXPENDITURE; BUDGET TRANSFER. (a) The commissioners court may spend county funds only in strict compliance with the budget, except as provided by this section.

“(b) The commissioners court may authorize an emergency expenditure as an amendment to the original budget only in a case of grave public necessity to meet an unusual and unforeseen condition that could not have been included in the original budget through the use of reasonably diligent thought and attention. If the court amends the original budget to meet an emergency, the court shall file a copy of its order amending the budget with the county clerk, and the clerk shall attach the copy to the original budget.




“(c) The commissioners court by order may amend the budget to transfer an amount budgeted for one item to another budgeted item without authorizing an emergency expenditure.”

The Commissioners Court claims that they’re spending money under subsection (b) but, in fact, they’re not. Many of their expenditures don’t even fall under subsection (c), because they do not constitute transfers of “an amount budgeted” but instead constitute transfers of funds for spending into the Fiscal Year 2017 Budget from outside of that budget, a clear violation of the Texas Local Government Code.

In summary, the Commissioners Court members are hammering the taxpayers. A lot of their decisions are made at points when they are completely unaware of what they’re doing.

The “consent agendas” are a bureaucrat’s dreamworld and a nightmare for the citizens.

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