Image: Conroe businessman Brian Dawson, who is running for Precinct 2 Montgomery County Commissioner.
Conroe, August 15 – Precinct 2 Montgomery County Commissioner candidate Brian Dawson called for a “comprehensive ethics policy” in the Montgomery County government on Monday August 14, 2017. “We need to do what is necessary to re-instill trust in the Montgomery County government,” Dawson explained. “We’re growing to the point that we’ve got to restore the public’s faith in our local government.”
Dawson told The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, during an exclusive interview yesterday, “I thought about a serious ethics policy as I sat through the Commissioners Court discussions leading to the adoption of our current ethics policy earlier this year. One of my major takeaways is that the County currently has no policy with teeth in it, because there’s no real remedy if someone violates the policy.”
Dawson is critical of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court, because they failed to approach the Texas Legislature while in session this year to obtain legal authority to adopt a comprehensive ethics policy with full civil penalty enforcement powers, as has El Paso County, the sole Texas county with such powers under Chapter 161 of the Texas Local Government Code. “I don’t understand why no legislative amendment to allow Montgomery County to have the same ethics enabling legislation that El Paso County has was proposed during the 85th Legislative Session in Austin.”
Under Chapter 161 of the Local Government Code, El Paso County can impose fines of up to $4,000 per violation for county officials who violate the ethics code. “I’m find it bothersome that there are no ramifications if someone violates the Montgomery County Ethics Policy. There are no financial implications for a violator. That’s where we need to start.”
Dawson told this newspaper that he’s troubled by the fact that campaign finance violations can carry civil penalties while violations of the Montgomery County Ethics Policy may merely result in reprimands.
The Precinct 2 Commissioner candidate said that he’s spent a lot of time studying the Local Gvoernment Code and likes the provisions that provide for civil penalties for violators, penalties for filers of frivolous complaints, and fair and orderly appeals of Ethics Commission rulings to the local district courts.
“This [passing an El Paso-like ethics code] would be another step in the right direction for Montgomery County. We would be remiss to be satsified with the policy that’s in place because there’s nothing there.” Dawson criticized the poor definition of a “gift” under the Montgomery County policy: “What is a gift is a short list but what’s not a gift is a list that’s almost a page long. They’ve got that backwards.”
Dawson also urged the County government to adopt a “clear and strong” policy against nepotism for new hires into the County government.”
Dawson explained that he might exempt law enforcement officers as long as they’re not working directly under the supervision of family members. He would also grandfather “good productive current employees.”
Dawson is challenging incumbent Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley who has faced a number of ethics problems. Among those problems, Riley is currently a criminal defendant in an criminal proceeding under the Texas Open Meetings Act. Also, Riley created a new job in the Precinct 5 Constable’s Office for his wife Deanne when she lost her job in the Sheriff’s Office working for then-retiring Sheriff Tommy Gage, who happens to be Riley’s best friend.
Local Conroe author and former Comal County Commissioner Gregory Parker is also running against Dawson and Riley in the March 6, 2018, Republican Primary Election.