Conroe, January 20, 2017 – A proposed $1.3 million payment for County Judge Craig Doyal’s and Commissioner Charlie Riley’s TX-249 “Decimation of Hope Highway” project to build a 3.6 mile road for a total $100 million at the far southwest edge of Montgomery County highlights the Commissioners Court Agenda for January 24, 2017, at 9:30 a.m., Sadler Building, 501 North Thompson Street, Conroe. The Agenda is a study in obfuscation, steganography, and downright hiding of county spending, waste, and inefficiency.
The Agenda includes the following:
Item 8A1 – County Auditor’s cash count audits for a number of county departments. There is nothing unusual in the audits or their findings.
Item 8A2 – more Budget Amendments for the last Fiscal Year.
Item 8A3 – Several million dollars of budget amendments for the current Fiscal Year.
Here’s an example of the study in obfuscation. Commissioner Charlie Riley, Precinct 2, provided a memorandum calling for moving approximately $529,000 from Account 613-7340 to 613-7419. The item is on the Consent Agenda so it’s likely there will never be any explanation. Does that mean anything to you? Probably not, unless you’re a county budget nerd. What it means actually is that Commissioner Riley is taking $529,000 out of his asphalt and road materials “slush fund” and moving it over to pay for professional services of his buddies who provide him large political campaign contributions. Commissioner Riley proffered no other explanation for the account transfer. There are other account transfers that are similar. There should NEVER be such large budget transfers without an explanation, in the open, on the video, in the Commissioners Court meeting! That’s a lot of money.
By the way, there is a reference to moving a lot of money from account 614-7997. At least in the FY 2017 County Budget, there does not appear to exist such an account.
ALL of these Budget Amendments for the current Fiscal Year should occur only after a discussion in detail in the open.
Item 8A4 – Payment of Accounts. This agenda item is the scariest of all. It comprises $9,557,973.09 of expenditures that no member of the Commissioners Court seems to review.
The County will pay engineer John Holzwarth another $13,339.52 for his services duplicative of what County Engineer Mark Mooney should be doing.
The County will pay Restoration Solutions, Inc., $1,217,810.00 and Brown & Gay Engineers $54,185.60 for the Tx-249 “Decimation of Hope Highway” project that is the equivalent of flushing money down the toilet. It’s a 3.6 mile project at the southwest edge of Montgomery County which will provide de minimis mobility to Montgomery County citizens.
Agenda Item 8J3 – This item includes the purchase of moving expenses and eminent domain expenses for the Rayford Road expansion.
Agenda Item 10A – This item includes establishing a countywide safe clear towing program to move disabled vehicles from county roadways and establish contract stipulations for the towing companies permitted to provide those services, including a standard charge of $162.50 per tow.
Agenda Item 10C – County Judge Doyal has not indicated whom he will appoint to the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District Board. Citizens who use water and must pay for it, cities, property owners associations, real estate developers, and utility companies should jointly seek an appointment of a pro-citizen individual who will not continue to permit the San Jacinto River Authority to dictate the District’s water usage restriction policies. As real estate developer Mike Stoecker has written, “Montgomery County does not have a water conservation problem; we’ve got a water regulation problem.” Doyal will likely spring his decision on the Commissioners Court at the meeting. Rather than an open process to select this important board member, it’s a closed one.
Agenda Item 10D – Judge Doyal is offering some sort of resolution calling for the Legislature to change the method of selecting the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District Board by election of the voters. Of course, that resolution is appropriate and calls for the right method of selection. The big question, however, is: why didn’t Doyal call for that legislative change two years ago?
Agenda Item 10E – Consider and take appropriate action regarding adoption of a Code of Ethics for Montgomery County. As one might expect from the Craig Doyal administration, the proposed Code of Ethics remains in hiding. There has been no public disclosure of what Doyal’s ethics might include. After all the calls for ethics reform from citizens and from District Attorney Brett Ligon, this obfuscation is truly astounding!
Agenda Item 13C – This agenda item involves a proposal to “further authorize carryover of unspent funding into future fiscal years” for the County Mental Health program. Nothing on the agenda and no backup materials describe how much, for how many years, why is the money unspent.
Agenda Item 16 – This agenda item involves the Montgomery County Animal Shelter and calls for revising the Montgomery County Animal Restraint Ordinance. The backup for this agenda item did not go with the full posted packet for the meeting. The Commissioners Court should table this item until the public and the Commissioners Court members have the opportunity to review the proposal.
Agenda Item 20A1 – This agenda item involves appointments to the Airport Advisory Board. Once again, there is a black hole of information about the proposed appointments for this important county board.
Agenda Item 21A – County Commissioner Mike Meador, Precinct 1, is pulling another trick on the citizens of this community. The grossly overpaid Bonnie Houser retired on December 31. Now, Meadow is giving mid-Fiscal Year merit raises to two secretaries in his office, a violation of long-time county budgeting practice. Meador wants to give Debra Bailey a raise from $23.82 to $26.71 per hour and Susan Bingham a raise from $1,766.40 per bi-weekly pay period to $1,997.17 per bi-weekly pay period. Meador also wants to give his two secretaries cell phone allowances of $18.46 per pay period. Why does a secretary need a cell phone for which the citizens must pay?