Secrecy, waste, Animal Shelter dominate Commissioners Court’s first agenda since Doyal, Riley struck down one of main provisions of Open Meetings Act

Secrecy, waste, Animal Shelter dominate Commissioners Court’s first agenda since Doyal, Riley struck down one of main provisions of Open Meetings Act

Image: On March 24, 2017, County Judge Craig Doyal held a secret meeting with Animal Shelter Director Charles Jackson (shown here) in which Doyal, with no evidentiary basis whatsoever, confronted Jackson with allegations that he was a “racist,” a “homophone,” and a “bigot.” When Jackson, of course, denied the baseless charges, Doyal sought to secure Jackson’s loyalty by accusing Jackson of making hiring and firing decisions at the Animal Shelter based on the direction of Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack. Jackson, who had a longstanding job offer from some friends, resigned from Montgomery County 4 days later. Now, Doyal seeks to replace Jackson in a secret process rather than relying on hundreds of citizens who are animal experts to provide input.

Conroe, April 8 – Secrecy, government waste, and the Animal Shelter dominate the first Commissioners Court Agenda, since Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal and Precinct 2 County Commissioner struck down one of the main provisions of the Open Meetings Act with the help of a judicial activist judge last week. The Court meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, April 11, 2017, at 9:30 a.m.

The cloak of darkness veiled over the Montgomery County government begins with the massive “consent agenda” that County Judge Doyal has proposed not to involve any discussion before the Commissioners Court approves all of those items involving millions of dollars in funding and numerous major changes of policy direction. That the Court would approve those items without open discussion, of course, begs the question: how could the Commissioners Court member know what they’re approving without such a discussion?

The massive, secretive “consent agenda” includes:

  • $7,949,537.35 in expenditures in a sprawling 82-page, single-spaced report of payments
  • $12,000.00 of payments to controversial consultant Dennis McMahon whose contract the County has “terminated”
  • an unexplained $9,500 payment to “Opengov, Inc.” for the Elections office
  • more than $77,000 in proposed payments to Ford Audio Video
  • several thousand dollars of payments to Lowe’s, O’Reilly Auto Parts, XL Auto Parts, and Sherwin Williams at retail pricing
  • $895.50 which the taxpayers have kindly donated to the Historical Commission
  • $700 for “civil indigent defense”
  • several thousand dollars in payments to auto parts companies out of the road and bridge fund
  • $16,713.00 in payments to Fairweather Group out of the road and bridge fund, even though that company has no experience or capability to construct roads or bridges
  • a payment of $132,183.58 to an unidentified “Texas Department” since the report did not include any further identifying information (but, watch, the County Judge and Commissioners will approve the payment anyway!)
  • $84,297.96 in payments to Halff Associates, Inc., the company of Craig Doyal’s best friend and business partner Bobby Adams (Doyal should, of course, recuse himself from this vote)
  • $99,648.22 in payments for the $100 million 3.6 mile Tx-249 Decimation of Hope Highway (Doyal should, of course, recuse himself because of the Halff payments; in actuality, under the new Code of Ethics for the County, all five members of the Commissioners Court should recuse themselves from this vote, because they are board of directors members of the Toll Road Authority which “borrows” these funds from Montgomery County, so they’re both the lender and the borrower in the same transaction)
  • $328.90 to Hammacher Schlemmer!
  • Budget Amendments which include the following (PUBLISHER’S NOTE: please take nausea medication before reading further)
    • an unexplained transfer of $50,000 from Commissioner Meador’s Precinct 1 road and bridge fund to “professional services” with the ENTIRETY of the explanation as follows: “Please transfer $50,000.00 from line item #612-7340 to line item #612-7419.”
    • $30,000 in road and bridge funds of Commissioner Meador transferred so that he may purchase a 2017 1500 Silverado 4×2 Crew Cab truck
    • a transfer of $250,000 from major projects to supplies
    • a $1.3 million transfer from carryover funds to road and bridge funds in Precinct 4. Actually, there’s nothing wrong with this transfer of funds, but Commissioner Clark still should have to explain this very large Budget Amendment in open court to the public.
    • Increasing supply expenditures and reducing capital outlays in the so-called Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management
    • An unexplained $2,000 expenditure for travel expenses for the Mental Health Court
    • The true carryovers of the road and bridge “slush fund” are recognized in a secret budget documents under account 7997. Here are the unspent road and bridge funds for each precinct. Nothing
      “encumbered” here! It’s just straight unspent money.

              Precinct 1 (Meador): $4,896,946.20

              Precinct 2 (Riley): $855,998.26

              Precinct 3 (Noack): $1,982,214.38

              Precinct 4 (Clark): $1,908,845.97

              Please note that the agenda materials do not reveal the entirety of the foregoing information. Some came from two sources

              inside the County Auditor’s Office.

             Somehow – and it must be a miracle (!) – in the hidden documents, the County Auditor can recognized the full

             unencumbered carryover of funds without spewing a bunch of bureaucratic gobbledygook.

  • approval of several hundred thousand dollars of unexplained additional expenditures through the Purchasing Department
  • approval of seventy (70) payroll changes none of which were attached to the agenda packet for the Commissioners, so they won’t even know on what they’re voting. (The Golden Hammer had to obtain the document from a source inside the County government.)
  • An agenda item that has no explanation the entirety of which is “CONSIDER AND APPROVE A RESOLUTION IN SUPPORT OF MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES IN TEXAS AND MONTGOMERY COUNTY.” The proposed resolution is NOT attached!
  • The Commissioners Court is to accept and approve a report concerning the condition of the roof on 105 (!) County buildings without receiving a copy of the report. What a spending boondoggle that will be! Doyal’s, Riley’s, and Meador’s political contributors who are County vendors are licking their chops!

In summary, the “Consent Agenda,” which comprises 10 of the 14 pages of the entire Commissioners Court Agenda, reflects the following philosophy of government:

“Hi. We’re Craig Doyal, Charlie Riley, and Mike Meador. If you don’t know what we’re doing, then you can’t criticize us. Approve what we’ve told you to approve and don’t ask any questions. Then we can spend what we want.”

 Agenda Item 12. Montgomery County Sheriff Rand Henderson will present his strategic plan after 100 days in office.

BEWARE OF BOONDOGGLE! Agenda Item 13A. Your so-called “Conroe-North Houston Regional Airport” wants the County to borrow $209,151.00 to spend to clean its runway. The Golden Hammer will provide more in-depth coverage of this waste of taxpayer dollars.

Agenda Item 14. The County Auditor is getting into all sorts of mischief.

  • First, she has presented a so-called “compliance report” from Weaver & Tidwell accountants with respect to federal and state grants. Although the report states that they completed their review under “Government Accounting Standards,” they have failed to follow standards related to independence in violation of several of the “Yellow Book” standards for Generally Accepted Accounting Principles issued from the United States Office Government Accountability Office.
  • Second, the “Budget Packet” is a major improvement from the proposed packet presented in the last meeting, as it recognizes some of the ideas of the Citizens Budget Committee, Commissioner Noack, and Commisioner Clark. The Packet does request that departments provide budgets with 5% reductions in expenditures, although the packet does not address any line-by-line reductions. The Packet also recognizes the need to preserve the integrity of law enforcement programs. Signs of progress? Perhaps…
  • Third, the County Auditor is requesting $3,000 in funding for covered parking for the Fire Marshal due to an error she claims to have made in the budget hearings. Error or not, it’s not the place of the Auditor to make a budget request. That request should be from the Fire Marshal, not the Auditor, who should be independent of such decisions.

Agenda Item 19. Commissioner Jim Clark has proposed an excellent idea to “CONSIDER AND TAKE APPROPRIATE ACTION ON ESTABLISHING AND SETTING OPEN ‘WORKSHOP’ MEETINGS PRIOR TO THE REGULAR SESSIONS OF COMMISSIONERS COURT FOR DISCUSSION OF REGULAR SESSION AGENDA ITEMS AND PUBLIC COMMENT.

Obviously, this idea is a great one whose time clearly has come.

Agenda Item 20. In the Executive Sessions, the Commissioners Court has included a a secret meeting, behind closed doors, to discuss “the employment and duties of selected public employees including potential animal shelter director.” That meeting should not be in a secret executive session. It’s time for Doyal and the Commissioners to learn how to deliberate and have a meaningful discussion about an issue important to so many citizens in an open meeting in public.

The Montgomery County Toll Road Authority, which is really just the Commissioners Court, will meet afterwards to vote to spend a fortune on another bogus engineering study involving “traffic and toll revenue.”

 

 

 

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