Conroe, September 4 – Montgomery County Attorney J.D. Lambright is trying to put some teeth into the County’s new Code of Ethics, which the Commissioners Court reluctantly passed on February 1, 2017, in order to maintain eligibility for grants from the Texas Department of Transportation (Tx-DOT). At the August 22, 2017, Court meeting, Lambright proposed a change to the Code in order to ensure that violators would comply with ethics requirements in the future.
Lambright asked the Commissioners Court to pass a new Article 17 to read:
“All County Officers and high level personnel employed by the County or a County Officer are responsible for the oversight of compliance with this Code. The Director of Human Resources shall develop procedures to the extent allowed under applicable law which procedures shall be designed to ensure compliance with this Code. The procedures shall include reporting of non-compliance to Commissioners Court and/or the county elected official having oversight of the respondent to a complaint. When a Violation has occurred, the Director of Human Resources will determine the appropriate measures, if any, that should be taken to prevent future Violations. At a minimum, such measures that will be considered include adopting revisions to the Code of Ethics and providing supplemental ethics training.”
The additions are shown in bold.
The changes to the Code of Ethics require the County’s Director of Human Resources to take appropriate measures to prevent future Code of Ethics violations. That would seem to set a baseline for compliance and preventing recidivism by violators.
Assistant County Attorney Amy Dunham, the head of the County Attorney’s Governmental Affairs group, explained to the Commissioners Court that the purpose of the proposed change was “to meet grant requirements and Tx-DOT’s minimum standards.” Dunham further explained, “We want to take measures to make sure future violations don’t occur again.”
The members of the Commissioners Court didn’t seem responsive to Dunham’s discussion or the Office of County Attorney’s proposed strengthening of the Code of Ethics.
That changed quickly during the meeting, however, when Dunham clarified, “We need to make this change to ensure eligibility for future Tx-DOT money.” At that moment, Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador perked up and became a brief proponent of ethics reform!
Meador made the motion to adopt the proposed Code of Ethics change, which passed unanimously without further discussion.
While Lambright has urged the Commissioners Court to adopt a strong Code of Ethics, and Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon has urged the adoption of an “aspirational” set of ethics, the Commissioners Court has stuck to the minimum ethics standards required in order to continue the flow of Tx-DOT grants into Montgomery County.