Image: Shhhhhh! Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace James Metts has gone hunting.
New Caney, December 2 – Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace James Metts has gone hunting, so his courtroom has gone dark. Metts and his County employee girlfriend, Dianne Rogers, disappeared for three weeks in late 2016 to go hunting in Colorado, as they announced to the employees of the office who they left behind.
Employees inside Metts’ JP office have confirmed that Metts and Rogers have gone to Colorado for their annual hunting trip. They’ve canceled several days of court dockets and will likely not have a full court docket again until 2018.
Metts has not held a juvenile docket for several weeks. That makes sense since Rogers, who receives full-time pay as a Montgomery County employee as the Juvenile Court Coordinator, has been busy managing their Sweetie Pie’s restaurant and flower shop as a full-time job, while Metts was out managing his logging company that he has bragged is his “third full-time job” (after Sweetie Pie’s and occasional cameos as a justice of the peace).
Even when Metts is in town, he rarely works more than 18 hours in a week as a JP, despite his annual salary in excess of $126,000 per year.
Metts strikes out as the worst run Justice Court in Montgomery County and a serious loss leader among those five courts. The numbers are striking and reveal that Metts’ terribly run court alone costs Montgomery County taxpayers at least $313,943 in lost revenue collected. The data come from the Texas Office of Court Administration and the Montgomery County government.
Precinct 3 Justice Edie Connelly utilizes the County’s Collections Department for its fines and fees collection. The Collection Department operates under the direct of Clegg DeWalt, II, an experienced manager from the national collections industry. Connelly’s collection rate is a remarkable 97%. During Fiscal Year 2016, Connelly’s Court collected $3,198,396.62 of the $3,283,089.70 in fines and fees assessed. Although her budget is a bit higher than the other courts due to her substantially higher caseload, her net (equaling amount collected per case minus cost per case) is strikingly higher than any of the other courts at $134.21 per case.
Metts’ Precinct 4 Justice Court is the second worst in net per case at $26.52, or less than one-fifth of the net in Connelly’s Justice Court. Metts’ collections are substantially lower as a percentage of total fees assessed than the other Justice Courts. Metts only collects 75% of the fees his JP court assesses.
Metts, Wayne Mack (JP 1), Judge Grady “Trey” Spikes (JP2), and Judge Matt Masden (JP5) all use an outside collection law firm to handle all of the intake of their fees and fines. The outside firm, Grave Humphries Stahl (GHS), has provided a free database software program, NetData, that those four courts utilize to handle all of their judicial cases. The free software program is a complete mess. The public cannot access the NetData database, so litigants cannot view court files. Connelly’s Justice Court utilizes the County’s Odyssey database, so all of her court files are available online to the general public.
None of the other four JP courts come close to Connelly’s 97% collection rate. Metts is the worst at a 75% collection rate with a $26.52 net per case. Mack is the second worst with a 78% collection rate with a $41.23 net per case. Interestingly, Judge Masden has a much lower case load but does not suffer from a diseconomy of scale, because his collections rate, 83%, is actually higher than Metts or Mack. Obviously, Masden is doing something right to help him overcome the serious problems from the GHS-NetData losses.
Judge Spikes has the highest collection rate among the four users of GHS-NetData at 89%. With almost 1100 cases less than Metts, Spikes’ collections still exceeded Metts by approximately $92,000.
Metts and the person whom he claims is his “sworn deputy,” local political boss and consultant Marc Davenport, have foisted the NetData fiasco on the four JP courts, while Connelly refused to go along with them for fiscal and due process reasons. Metts and Davenport cost Montgomery County at least the following amounts during Fiscal Year 2016, in comparison to the 97% collection rate in Judge Connelly’s Precinct 3 Justice Court:
JP1 (Mack) FY2016 Loss to the Taxpayers = $258,606
JP2 (Spikes) FY2016 Loss to the Taxpayers = $99,511
JP4 (Metts) FY2016 Loss to the Taxpayers = $313,943
JP5 (Masden) FY 2016 Loss to the Taxpayers = $96,102
TOTAL FY2016 LOSS TO THE TAXPAYERS AS A RESULT OF METTS AND DAVENPORT FOISTING THE GHS/NETDATA COLLECTION SYSTEM ON THE FOUR JUSTICE OF THE PEACE COURTS 1, 2, 4, AND 5 = $768,162.
While Metts hunts for his kill, Montgomery County taxpayers hunt for a full-time Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace.