Conroe, Magnolia, and Willis, December 3 – Precinct 2 Montgomery County Commissioner Charlie Riley and Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador received The Golden Hammer Award – for hammering the taxpayers – on Tuesday, November 28, 2017, during the Commissioners Court meeting for squandering more than $500,000 of budgeted funds for much-needed asphalt and road materials on new salaried employeyes, vehicles, and unidentified equipment.
Riley and Meador have used their “asphalt and road material” budgeted accounts as a “slush fund” to spend massive quantities of tax dollars on whatever they feel like spending. During the Commissioners Court meeting this past Tuesday, Riley spend the money on vehicles, while Meador spent the money on four new salaried employees, a substantial raise for one employee in the middle of the fiscal year, and unidentified equipment and machinery.
One of the shocking aspects of the diversion of funds in the middle of Fiscal Year 2018 is that the entire Commissioners Court went along with this terrible diversion of needed road funds, even including Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack who, until recently, had always voted against mid-year salary increases.
What’s even more shocking about Riley’s and Meador’s taking the funds away from their asphalt and road material accounts is that fact that the citizens of Montgomery County (the bosses on the government organizational chart), and both of their servants, Riley and Meador, have acknowledged that road construction is a major priority in Precincts 2 and 1, respectively.
In November, 2015, Riley and Meador campaigned heavily in favor of the $280 million road bond referendum and both argued that new roads in both of their precincts are an urgent need. At the present time, however, the four County Commissioners have only budgeted $93.935 million of the $280 million road bond for actual projects, meaning they’re moving forward with less than 34.26% of the projects they told us were “urgent” two years ago.
Almost two thirds of the budgeted amount of $93.935 million is in Noack’s Precinct 3 where he and Chief of Staff Matthew Beasley oversaw the development of a south Montgomery County mobility plan. None of the rest of Montgomery County has a mobility plan in place, despite vociferous calls from Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark and Noack for a Countywide mobility plan. Apparently, County Judge Craig Doyal, Riley, and Meador would rather distribute their road funds to favored County vendors (also known as political contributors) on an ad hoc basis.
Meador has only begun one of his road bond projects in Precinct 1. Precinct 1 has urgent maintenance needs that Meador and his road crew have ignored for many years.
Riley has focused almost all of his efforts on the Keenan Cutoff Road project. The progress of other road projects in Riley’s Commissioner Precinct 2 has been monstrously slow. Riley has also failed to get the State of Texas to move forward expeditiously on the projects that receive State funding. The widening of F.M. 1774 is a terrible mess and has created major mobility delays almost 24 hours per day. Improvements, such as the overpass at the F.M. 149 intersection, along F.M. 1488 have taken several years when they should have taken approximately one year. Riley has done a poor job moving the widening and extension of Research Forest in The Woodlands, a project where progress occurs only on rare occasions.
Perhaps more significantly, the state of roads throughout Commissioners Precinct 2 is terrible. The maintenance has been nothing better than serendipitous. There are some potholes that are deeper than the height of a normal adult person.
That’s why Riley’s and Meador’s taking of funds from their budgeted asphalt and road material accounts reflects such poor decision making.
Riley took $154,957 from his asphalt and road account for “vehicles.” The commissioner failed to explain what vehicles he needs in his Commissioners Precinct or how they could possibly benefit his road and bridge operations. Riley has spent tens of thousands of dollars are carts, similar to golf carts, which he seems to utilize more for entertaining political supports at private political events than any other use. Observing Riley’s Precinct 2 barn operations, there appear far more vehicles than they need.
Without any explanation or backup, Meador transferred $140,000 out of his asphalt and road materials fund into “machinery and equipment.” Like Riley, Meador’s Precinct 1 operations seem to have far more machinery and equipment than they already need. Even if Meador needed some sort of new machine toy, he should have provided the citizens with some explanation for this major amendment to his budget.
Meador also spent $277,264 during the November 28 Commissioners Court meeting to hire four new employees and give one road and bridge employee a substantial raise. The average new compensation for the five employees is $55,000 per year plus more than $22,000 in County benefits per employee. Meador falsely told the Commissioners Court that those funds were for raises rather than for new employees. The documents Meador submitted to County Auditor Phyllis Martin and to Human Resources Director Dodi Shaw reveal Meador created four new positions within his department.
When citizens of west or north Montgomery County suffer traffic delays, potholes, or other road problems, they should remember that the resources to solve those problems went elsewhere thanks to the free spending Riley and Meador.