Montgomery County Government “For Sale!” Part 3: The ties that bind (CC – MCAD – CISD – SJRA – LSGCD)

Montgomery County Government “For Sale!” Part 3: The ties that bind (CC – MCAD – CISD – SJRA – LSGCD)

Image: The Montgomery County Commissioners Court, Montgomery Central Appraisal District, Conroe ISD, San Jacinto River Authority, and Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District are tied together through the Four Big Spenders. If the citizens seek smaller government, lower government spending, and, as a result, lower taxes they must unbind themselves from the Six Big Spenders and from the spiraling spending of those government entities.

Conroe, October 8 – The single greatest issue Montgomery County citizens face is the spiral of property taxes. Even when the taxing entities, such as the County, the school districts, and others don’t raise their tax rates, they know they’ll get away with increasing government spending thanks to the continuing pressure the Board of Directors of the Montgomery Central Appraisal District (MCAD) causes to raise property taxes so that tax collections during the past five years have skyrocketed.

When County Judge Craig Doyal claimed in 2016, that he and the Commissioners Court gave citizens a “tax cut” by lowering the County government tax rate by a penny, he couldn’t say that without a smile and a wink, because he knew that, in fact, tax collections to the County and each taxpayers’ actual tax payments to the County were increasing on average, thanks to the aggressive work of MCAD.

When Doyal and the Commissioners Court blame the Texas Legislature for failing to pass a statewide property tax reform bill, they can’t keep a straight face either. Real property tax reform will only occur when local governments reduce spending.

Doyal and some of his sidekicks claim that increasing spending by less than population growth plus inflation is a form of “fiscal conservatism.” In fact, over the past five years, the past ten years, and the past 18 years, County government spending growth and Conroe ISD spending growth have vastly exceeded the rate of population growth plus inflation.

Citizens just suffered the “shock and awe” of County Judge Craig Doyal’s and the County Commissioners Court’s tax system that Doyal and friends have used to grow the County government’s spending by 428% since 2000, while population growth has only grown 84% during the same time period. Doyal has made clear he wants more County government spending. With their Notices of Proposed Valuation from the Montgomery Central Appraisal District received across Montgomery County over the past few days, now County citizens are getting to see why Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley, who serves both on the Commissioners Court and on the board of directors of the Montgomery Central Appraisal District (MCAD), was willing to vote for a 20% homestead exemption, although he did so very reluctantly.

The Ties That Bind

The Montgomery County government, through its Commissioners Court, could easily exert the leadership to reduce spending and taxation along with that reduction that would reverse the spiral of increased spending and taxation the citizens suffer. It’s important, therefore, to understand what the ties are that make that leadership so important.

County government – MCAD – CISD tie.

Don’t believe for a moment that the County government doesn’t control County appraisal policy through the MCAD. First, of the five members of the MCAD Board of Directors who actually set its reappraisal policy under Section 25.18 of the Texas Tax Code, three are current or former members of the County Commissioners Court: Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley, Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador, and former Precinct 3 County Commissioner Ed Chance, a close friend of both Meador and Doyal who worked closely with them to pull off the Joe Corley Detention Center and Mental Health Hospital Facility scams. Please see “Examining the Most Expensive Fishing Trip in Montgomery County History,” The Golden Hammer, September 26, 2017.

The two other MCAD Board of Directors members also have very close ties to Doyal and Meador: former Woodlands Township Bruce Tough and local homebuilder Tom Cox, two political “establishment “scions.

The County government has great influence in its nomination of MCAD Board members. (The next nominations will occur on Tuesday, October 10, 2017.) Doyal consults with CISD Superintendent Don Stockton with respect to the composition of the CISD Board, according to sources inside both the County government as well as CISD’s Administration. Doyal and Stockton want to ensure that the MCAD Board remains fully committed to raising property tax appraisals as rapidly as possible, so that they may continue to increase government spending in their respective entities.

Readers may recall Stockton’s email on September 14, 2017, to CISD Board President Melanie Pryor Bush in which the superintendent expressed his hope that Riley and Meador would remain on the MCAD Board, since they are reliable votes for increasing the size and taxation of government. Please see “Secret Documents Reveal CISD Anti-Citizen Thugs Williams, Kidd, Hubert, Husbands, Stockton Took Aim At Flood Victims, Taxpayers, Fellow Board Member Bush,” The Golden Hammer, September 30, 2017.

County government – SJRA – LSGCD – MCAD tie.

Recent events have caused citizens to become more active in examining how the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) and Lone Star Groundwater Conservative District (LSGCD) fit within the problems of government growth.

It’s not just that LSGCD has created an artificial water supply shortage by over-regulating, unnecessarily, the withdrawal of groundwater through wells. By limiting the groundwater extraction, LSGCD’s Board of Directors, which includes and seems to be under the control of SJRA General Manager Jace Houston, LSGCD forces water utility companies, water producers, cities including Conroe and Magnolia, and many others to purchase surface water from SJRA at monopolistically exorbitant prices.

It turns out, however, that the ties between Doyal and the County Commissioners, LSGCD, and SJRA are much closer than might at first appear. Recently, the term of LSGCD’s longtime president Richard Tramm had expired. Doyal wanted to reappoint Tramm who has shown his loyalty to the SJRA, Doyal, and the political establishment. A number of citizens, including political activist Kelli Cook, Conroe City Councilman Duane Ham, and former Conroe Mayor Webb Melder wanted Doyal to appoint someone who would vote against the overregulation of groundwater which LSGCD has inflicted. Only after Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack, Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark, and Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley committed to vote to appoint Melder to replace Tramm did Doyal reluctantly join with them for the nomination.

Fortunately for Doyal, SJRA, and LSGCD itself, at least through the end of 2018, Melder will be in a distinct voting minority for reform on the LSGCD Board. Nevertheless, having Melder, who has been a water property rights advocate, on the LSGCD Board should open up member of LSGCD’s practices to public scrutiny before November, 2018, when the citizens will finally have the right to vote for the Board’s members, thanks to recent legislation Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law.

How does SJRA have anything to do with property taxes and Doyal?! SJRA’s General Manager Houston has very close ties to Doyal. More importantly, however, Houston moves in lockstep with Doyal’s closest friend and business partner, Bobby Jack Adams, the Regional Vice President for Halff Associates, Inc., engineering firm. Adams is the son of the late Jim Adams, who was a predecessor of Houston as the General Manager of SJRA. Adams has successfully procured multi-million dollar engineering contracts for Halff with SJRA. Halff representatives attend every SJRA Board meeting. Halff is currently working under a $2 million SJRA contract to provide a basin analysis of the San Jacinto River watershed.

Doyal, of course, socializes with Adams frequently on and off the golf course. Doyal has socialized with Houston and regularly meets with Houston and Adams for planning purposes, sources within the SJRA have confirmed.

As local civil engineer Ron Saikowski, P.E., recently explained to The Golden Hammer, (see “Longtime Local Engineer Ron Saikowski, P.E., Harshly Criticizes San Jacinto River Authority’s, County’s Handling Of Harvey Storm, Lake Conroe: Have High Property Tax Appraisal Policies Overtaken Flood Control And Safety Policies?” The Golden Hammer, October 4, 2017), SJRA is a major factor in high property tax appraisals in the Lake Conroe area of Montgomery County.

Saikowski explained, “…the SJRA has accepted the FEMA studies as accurate while those studies ASSUME the lake surface is flat for miles while it is definitely not during a 100-year event…The flood plain maps show that the elevation of the Lake Conroe Dam’s flood plain is 203 feet above sea level. 4 or 5 miles upstream the maps show the same elevations.”

What that means is that upstream from the Lake Conroe Dam, homes are built at elevations higher than 203 feet that are not actually designated as “flood plains” on the FEMA flood plain maps when they, in fact, are in the 100 year flood plain.

Why does FEMA not show the flood plain at a higher elevation than 203 feet above sea level around Lake Conroe? “It’s because the Montgomery County government and the SJRA failed to comment to FEMA during the formal comment and review process for flood plain maps that the flood plain elevation should have been higher upstream of the Lake Conroe Dam than at the actual point of the Dam spillway,” Saikowski said.

Why does Saikowski believe the County government and SJRA failed to comment on the major error in the location of the flood plains on the maps of Lake Conroe? “If they had commented and caused those flood plain levels to be lower, the County government and other beneficiaries of the high property tax appraisals of the Montgomery Central Appraisal District would not have had nearly as much very valuable lakefront property to appraise and tax outside of the flood plain,” Saikowski explained to The Golden Hammer. 

Now, of course, the MCAD Board could have taken matters into its own hands by refusing to appraise properties around Lake Conroe to include the higher elevations, but with big spenders Riley, Meador, Chance, Tough, Cox, and ultimately Doyal setting MCAD’s reappraisal policies, they seek higher taxes and appraisals, not fair appraisals.

The Six Big Spenders; Is There An Acolyte On The Horizon?

These ties show that, when it comes to government spending increases in Montgomery County, there are actually six people who keep the spiraling spending progressing deeper and deeper into the citizens’ pockets.

  • Craig Doyal, County Judge. Doyal has ties to all of the pro-spending “establishment.”
  • Marc Davenport, local political boss. Doyal doesn’t do anything without Davenport’s approval. If Davenport vetoes a Commissioners Court agenda item, it won’t even appear on the Agenda. If Davenport wants something done through the Purchasing Department or the Information Technology Department, Doyal puts the items on the Commissioners Court “Consent Agenda” so that citizens and some of the other Court members won’t ever hear much about those items. If Davenport insists that the JPs use Graves Humphries law firm and the NetData software for fees and fines collections and court files, Doyal welcomes that and helps Davenport and his “clients,” JPs James Metts and Wayne Mack to foist those systems on the taxpayers.
  • Bobby Jack Adams, Halff Associates engineer, Doyal’s best friend and business partner. Adams is squarely in control of the $73 million, 3.6 mile, Tx-249 Tollway Extension, as Halff has a multimillion contract to provide “project management.” Adams and Halff’s other engineers are among the largest contributors to Doyal, Doyal’s legal defense fund, and Riley. Adams has brought SJRA’s money into Halff as well through Adams’ family ties to the water sales authority and controller of the Lake Conroe Dam.
  • Don Stockton, CISD Superintendant. For years, it’s been apparent that the CISD Board of Trustees works for Stockton, not the other way around. The documents, which The Golden Hammer obtained for the September 30, 2017, story on the CISD Board’s vote against providing property tax appraisal relief to Harvey flood victims, are examples of the direction Stockton provides to CISD Board members behind-the-scenes.
  • Charlie Riley, Doyal’s longtime Precinct 2 Operations Manager (after Riley’s 2002 Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing after a disastrous attempt to work in the private sector), consistently votes, now as the Precinct 2 County Commissioner, for all of Doyal’s spending increase proposals on the Commissioners Court and, as an MCAD Board member, reliably votes for MCAD’s property tax appraisal increases.
  • Mike Meador, Precinct 1 County Commissioner and MCAD Board member. Meador has never voted against any spending increase proposal. Meador votes for higher taxes on the Commissioners Court and for higher tax appraisals on the MCAD Board.
Left to right: Lobbyist and attorney Nelda Blair, Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley.

Is there an acolyte on the horizon?

Recently, Doyal and Davenport have begun friendly discussions with Noack. Noack consistently votes with Doyal’s spending increase proposals, and voted for the highest operational expenditure budget in Montgomery County history for Fiscal Year 2018, although Noack has consistently voted against the Tx-249 Tollway. (Until recently, Davenport regularly criticized Noack on social media, referred to him as “Little Jimmy,” questioned Noack’s sexual preferences, and even did some manic posts about Noack’s and one of Noack’s employee’s male body parts.)

It’s very apparent that Doyal and Davenport are working hard to try to draw Noack into the spending establishment. Therefore, don’t be surprised if Doyal and Meador push for the appointment of Noack in place of Riley (who has declined reappointment to MCAD) on the MCAD Board of Directors at Tuesday’s Commissioners Court meeting. The Golden Hammer has confirmed with one member of Doyal’s political team, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, that Doyal is seriously considering nominating Noack for the MCAD Board, as he believes Noack would likely be a reliable vote for higher property tax appraisals.

Noack denies that he’s changed his voting or his pro-citizen outlook. Noack did support state efforts at property tax reform during the 85th Legislature, but he also voted for the terrible Fiscal Year 2018 County Budget.

What the Citizens Must Do

The single biggest issue in the 2018 election for County Judge, Precinct 2 County Commissioner, and Precinct 4 County Commissioner is: WILL THE CANDIDATES COMMIT TO REDUCE COUNTY SPENDING (not grow it at all)?!

So far, three candidates have committed to spending reductions: Precinct 2 Commissioner candidate Greg Parker, incumbent Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark, and Precinct 4 Commissioner candidate Bob Bagley.

One candidate, Precinct 2 Commissioner candidate Brian Dawson, has talked a lot about spending issues but has not committed to reductions.

Neither candidate for County Judge – Craig Doyal or Mark Keough – has discussed spending issues during the campaign yet. In 2014, Doyal filmed a video wherein he claimed he’d make sure County spending growth was less than the federal government’s. In fact, under Doyal as County Judge, the County government has grown spending substantially faster than the federal government.

While Doyal and Riley are mute on the spending issue in the campaign, both of them have voted for massive spending increases as County Judge and Precinct 2 Commissioner.

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