Image: Magnolia Independent School District Director of Finance Garrett Matej, whom Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley and District Superintendent Todd Stephens threw into the Montgomery County Grand Jury hot seat on Thursday, November 9, 2017.
Conroe, November 9 – The Montgomery County Grand Jury’s investigation into the use of government property, services, equipment, and storage facilities by Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal and Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley will take a bit of a different direction today, Thursday, November 9, 2017, as the Grand Jury and District Attorney’s Office will explore Riley’s use of Magnolia Independent School District (MISD) property, personnel, and equipment for his political campaign.
Confidential sources inside MISD have confirmed to The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, that Director of Finance Garrett Matej, only two months into his new job, received a subpoena to testify first thing on November 9 with respect to his involvement in the preparation of a questionable invoice to Riley created after this newspaper and Republican political activists Ginger Russell and Kelli Cook uncovered the corruption related to Riley’s October 14, 2017, “campaign kickoff” where he utilized MISD vehicles, equipment, storage facilities, and personnel.
Early in the afternoon on Saturday, October 14, 2017, Russell and Cook observed, photographed, and video-taped Riley, Magnolia ISD Superintendent Todd Stephens, and at least two Magnolia ISD maintenance workers loading a Magnolia ISD truck at the Magnolia ISD Administration Building with Riley’s personal band equipment stored at the Administration Building for free. The school district employees then transported the equipment to the site of Riley’s political campaign kickoff, unloaded the equipment, participated in Riley’s campaign presentation, loaded the equipment back onto the school district truck, transported it back to the Administration Building, and unloaded the equipment with Riley and Stephens there to help with the unloading and re-storage of the equipment.
On October 14, 2017, as he introduced members of the “Charlie Riley Band” standing among the band’s privately-owned equipment to the sparse crowd during Riley’s campaign kickoff, a political event, and standing in the Unity Park Pavilion, Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley of Montgomery County announced,
“We ended up trying to get to places where we had to have some help, so Dr. Todd Stephens [Magnolia ISD Superintendent] gave us or let us borrow a couple guys from Magnolia ISD…maintenance guys who help us load this equipment, and move it around from place to place…and one of them’s missing, but we’ve got Mr. Louis Bennett. He’s our roady!”
Riley openly admitted that, for personal and political campaign purposes, Riley and Stephens use Magnolia Independent School District maintenance workers to help them load, unload, transport, and store their equipment.
During the October 14 Riley “campaign kickoff,” Riley also utilized some County-owned electrical carts as a “train” to carry passengers attending Riley’s campaign kickoff from where they parked to the site of the event. On October 15, 2017, the carts were back in the Commissioners Precinct 2 barnyard behind the locked and gated fence.
On October 16, 2017, Russell submitted a formal request under the Texas Open Records Act to the Magnolia ISD for any purchase orders for the use of the school district truck, equipment, and personnel and any invoices.
After waiting for eleven (11) days, the school district finally responded by October 27, 2017, letter to Russell (shown above). In the response the school district told Russell:
“Enclosed please find documents responsive to your request for public information dated October 16, 2017, a copy of the Accounts payable sent/or to be sent to the Charlie Riley campaign regarding the use of ISD equipment.” (Emphasis added.)
Unbelievably, the Magnolia ISD couldn’t even just provide the letter that was “sent.” Instead, they admitted that the invoice was “sent/to be sent”!!! Obviously, someone in the school district created the invoice after Russell sent the Open Records Act request!
Cook, who serves as the Texas Gulf Coast Regional Coordinator for the Campaign for Liberty and is a close associate of Dr. Ron Paul, the former Congressman and presidential candidate, said, “It appears Magnolia ISD has fabricated a truck rental invoice further implicating them in their gross display of political favoritism. Is this why we pay exorbitant school taxes, so they can funnel money to their favorite political candidate?”
Russell, who is a Republican Precinct Chair and a renowned expert in public education, told this newspaper:
“Magnolia Independent School Superintendent Dr. Todd Stephens should have been fired immediately by the school board for violating school policy and law for using district vehicles to assist Commissioner Riley with his campaign event. In my opinion the Magnolia ISD School Board is an epic failure and has definitely failed the taxpayer. At this time they are spending taxpayer money on an outside attorney to represent the Superintendent. Why? We now know that the invoice created to cover for Commissioner Riley is a fake. Its creation I am sure came at the request of Dr. Stephens. One wonders how long this collusion and deception has been in play. My hope is the District Attorney puts a stop to these activities once and for all.”
The details about the creation of that invoice have begun to surface. Around approximately October 18, MISD Superintendent Stephens approached Matej and told Matej, “We need an invoice to charge Charlie Riley for the vehicle we let him use this past weekend.” Matej told Stephens that the District does not invoice private individuals like that. Stephens instructed Matej to create an invoice and provide it to Denise Meyers, MISD’s Public Information Officer (who had already received Russell’s Open Records Act request).
Matej, just beginning his second month in his job as Director of Finance, was very uncomfortable with Stephens’ request but feared that there would be reprisal if Matej didn’t accede to it. Matej created an invoice, numbered 8101, in the amount of $100 and provided a copy of it to Meyers.
There are some interesting facts surrounding Matej’s creation of the phony invoice obviously created to make it appear as though the school district intended to charge Riley for the vehicle and services Riley received for his “campaign kickoff.”
First, Matej has told several people inside the school district that he greatly fears for his job and also has concerns that Stephens forced him to commit an unethical or illegal act. In response to a request to interview him for this article, Matej very politely responded, “Mr. Yollick, Good evening. Hope this email finds you well. While I am flattered that you would reach out to me. I must decline as we have no comment at this point in time. Thank you. Garrett Matej.”
Second, in response to an Open Records Request from conservative activist Kelli Cook, MISD’s Meyers has confirmed that there are no invoices with numbers surrounding the infamous “Invoice 8101” shown above. In correspondence on November 8, Meyers noted, “There are no documents responding to your request” for invoices 8096, 8097, 8098, 8099, 8100, 8102, 8103, 8104, or 8015.”
Third, Matej has admitted to several close associates that there are not invoices similar to the one he created for Riley upon Stephens’ request.
Fourth, Louis Bennett, the MISD Maintenance worker whom Riley recognized as the “roady” for the October 14 “campaign kickoff” event for Riley’s Precinct 2 County Commissioner re-election campaign received 5.27 hours of overtime compensation for working for the school district that weekend. It’s unclear whether the 5.27 hours of overtime would exceed the $100 invoice amount.
It’s genuinely sad that Riley and Stephens would place a young employee in a new position in such a precarious spot. An important question is why Stephens chose not to do his own “dirty work” and create the invoice in his office at MISD since he has administrative staff available to him.
The Grand Jury will hear from Matej, Stephens, and others with respect to Riley’s and Stephen’s use of MISD government property for private and political uses.
The Grand Jury has investigated the following abuses among others:
- Under Doyal’s personal direction, a County employee regularly prepared his campaign reports at the Precinct 2 office.
- Under Doyal’s personal direction, a County employee prepared political program ads during work hours at the Precinct 2 office.
- Under Doyal’s personal direction, a County employee prepared and mailed political checks during work hours and worked on political fundraisers during for Doyal during work hours.
- Other county employees in Precinct 2 worked on campaign activities and fundraisers for Doyal during work hours.
- The Precinct 2 mechanics shop built platforms during work hours for Doyal’s political fundraisers.
- Operations Manager Charlie Riley purchased food for Doyal’s political fundraisers during county business hours.
- Doyal approved of the use of County materials, equipment, and time to work on his campaign.
- Riley instructed a County employee to “do what you need to do to get it [Doyal’s political campaign reports] finished” including taking a county printer to the County employee’s home.
- For the past several years, Riley and Doyal have stored their barbecue trailers they use during political campaigns on County property in the Precinct 2 Commissioners barnyard in Magnolia behind a locked and gated fence. Riley and Doyal have not paid the County anything for the use of that storage space.
- Precinct 2 employees have confirmed that Riley and Doyal have had County employees provide automotive repairs and vehicle maintenance to members of Riley’s and Doyal’s families at no charge to them.
- Riley and Doyal had the Building Maintenance Department install plumbing and electrical connections at the Precinct 2 barnyard so they could cook there for their political campaigns.
- On September 14, 2017, Riley admitted in writing, “As far as the County yard storing my personal cooking trailer, that is correct.”
- On October 13, 2017, Riley, his wife Deanne who is a County employee in the position Riley established for her, and several County employees spent a large portion of the County work day making preparations for his political campaign kickoff the next day.
- On October 14, 2017, Riley, Stephens, and at least two Magnolia ISD maintenance workers loaded a Magnolia ISD truck at the Magnolia ISD Administration Building with Riley’s personal band equipment stored at the Administration Building for free. The school district employees then transported the equipment to the site of Riley’s political campaign kickoff, unloaded the equipment, participated in Riley’s campaign presentation, loaded the equipment back onto the school district truck, transported it back to the Administration Building, and unloaded the equipment with Riley and Stephens there to help with the unloading and re-storage of the equipment.
- On October 14, 2017, Riley utilized some County-owned electrical carts as a “train” to carry passengers attending Riley’s campaign kickoff from where they parked to the site of the event. On October 15, 2017, the carts were back in the Commissioners Precinct 2 barnyard behind the locked and gated fence.