BREAKING NEWS! Montgomery County Commissioners Court opts into Ethics Commission provision of Lambright Local Government Ethics Reform Act

Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough, the “People’s Judge.” Keough is fighting to reform the Montgomery County government.

BREAKING NEWS!

The Golden Hammer Staff Reports

Conroe, October 9 – The Montgomery County Commissioners Court voted unanimously, 4 to 0, to opt into the ethics commission provisions of the JD Lambright Local Government Ethics Reform Act. Precinct 2 Montgomery County Commissioner Charlie Riley was absent from the meeting.

Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough, the “People’s Judge,” drafted the Resolution and Order, which the Court adopted with little discussion. A full copy of the Resolution and Order appear at the bottom of this article.

Montgomery County Attorney JD Lambright, after whom the 86th Legislature named the statute, was one of the most popular and highly-respected elected servants in the history of Montgomery County. He fought for government ethics at every turn and dreamed of enactment of an enforceable ethics code in the Montgomery County government. On Friday, June 14, 2019, Governor Greg Abbott, thanks to the hard work of State Representative Steve Toth (Republican of Conroe), State Senator Brandon Creighton (Republican of Conroe), Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough, Montgomery County Attorney B.D. Griffin, and conservative activists including, among many, Montgomery County Republican Party (MCRP) Vice Chairman Reagan Reed, MCRP Treasurer John Hill Wertz, MCRP Finance Chair Kelli Cook, and MCRP Steering Committee member Jon Bouche, signed the JD Lambright Local Government Ethics Reform Act into law. The statute, effectively immediately, brought profound changes to every local government entity in Texas with some additional benefits for Montgomery County and Chambers County.

The Lambright Act, which was House Bill 1495, during the 86th Texas Legislature started as a bill allowing Montgomery County to establish an ethics commission with an enforceable Code of Ethics but, thanks to the work of its brilliant author, State Representative Steve Toth (Republican of Conroe), and its sponsoring Senator, State Senator Brandon Creighton (Republican of Conroe), the legislation contained important statewide government disclosure provisions which are mandatory for all political subdivisions of the State of Texas other than junior college districts.

Passage of the Lambright Act was truly a community effort. Lambright, who was the extraordinarily popular and highly-respected County Attorney of Montgomery County until his death on March 9, 2019, after a very brief battle with cancer, inspired the legislation, after he had written a code of ethics for the County government which had minimal import due to the lack of any enforcement mechanism with respect to violations. Local conservative activists, including Montgomery County Republican Party (MCRP) Vice Chairman Reagan Reed, MCRP Treasurer John Hill Wertz, MCRP Finance Chair Kelli Cook, and others, were instrumental in the broad outline of the bill.

There is no question, however, that Toth, his outstanding staff, Creighton, and his outstanding staff were instrumental in turning the Lambright bill into the Lambright Act. They worked closely with Representative Giovanni Capriglione (Republican of Keller) on the brilliant idea to add to the legislation mandatory statewide provisions which require every governmental entity to make public disclosures about their direct and indirect expenditures on taxpayer-funded lobbying. The one group of legislators, who had opposed the Lambright bill when it merely created ethics commissions for Montgomery County and Chambers County, quickly came to support final passage of the bill after Toth, Creighton, and Capriglione added the taxpayer-funded lobbying disclosure language in the final version of the legislation which came out of a House-Senate Conference Committee on Sunday, May 27, one day before the end of the 86th Legislative Session.

The Conference Committee report easily passed the Texas Senate on a 27 to 4 vote, thanks to the enormous influence and respect of Senator Creighton.

On the evening of Sunday, May 27, Toth went to the front podium in the House to move passage of the final Lambright bill. Yvonne Davis, a liberal democrat, raised a point of order. During the discussions in the well of the House, Davis accused the Republicans of trying to “shame” liberals for their use of taxpayer-funded lobbying. House Speaker Dennis Bonnen overruled the point of order, after State Representatives Briscoe Cain (Republican of Deer Park), Will Metcalf (Republican of Conroe), Toth, and Capriglione argued that the proposed legislation comported with the Texas Constitution and the Rules of the Texas House.

Toth moved for passage and Speaker Bonnen swiftly put the bill to a vote before the liberals were able to raise another point of order. The Lambright bill passed the Texas House on a 116 to 11 vote.

It was very apparent that Toth had put his full blood, sweat, and mind into passage of the Lambright Ethics Bill. Toth and Creighton came upstairs to the House Gallery on the Third Floor of the State Capitol to pass hugs around with some Montgomery County citizens who went to Austin to support Toth and Creighton.

Toth told The Golden Hammer on June 14, after Governor Abbott signed the bill into law, “The JD Lambright Local Government Ethics Reform Act that Governor Abbott signed into law this afternoon was truly a community achievement. JD and Belinda’s charity and decency inspired the legislation while the hard work of [Montgomery County Attorney] B.D. Griffin…helped Senator Creighton and me get it over the goal line.  Honestly, there is a little sadness in my heart that JD isn’t here to celebrate with us. We know his legacy will continue to inspire Texas towards future greatness.”

Griffin, who went to Austin to testify in favor of the Lambright bill in a hearing before the Texas House County Affairs Committee, said, “”It was truly my honor to work with and for JD for six plus years.  He was a man and an attorney of great integrity.  The legislation is a fitting memorial to him and his legacy and impact upon Montgomery County will not be forgotten or diminished.”

The Montgomery County Republican Party’s Executive Committee, comprised of the elected Precinct Chairs, passed a resolution in favor of the Lambright bill. MCRP’s elected Treasurer John Hill Wertz said, “JD Lambright was the consummate professional, treating everyone with respect.  He made time for anyone he came into contact with. He was truly a servant of God and his constituents. He’s missed by all that knew him.”

Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough also went to Austin to testify in favor of the Lambright bill before the House County Affairs Committee. Numerous political activists, such as MCRP Finance Chair Kelli Cook, expressed their support for the legislation.

In its final form, which Governor Abbott signed, the Lambright Act:

  • Requires all local governmental entities, other than junior college districts, to disclose publicly all contracts and expenditures for the purpose of “directly or indirectly influencing or attempting to influence the outcome of legislation or administrative action.”
  • Permits Montgomery County and Chambers County to establish ethics commissions with enforceable codes of ethics applicable to County government employees.

The Lambright Act was JD Lambright’s dream legislation. The statewide component concerned an issue – taxpayer funded lobbying – about which Lambright frequently to this newspaper. It is certainly fitting for this important statute to have Lambright’s name on it.

Lambright was born on October 25, 1949, in Pampa, Texas. He joined the Lord on Saturday morning, March 9, 2019, after a fight with cancer and serious complications from the disease.

JD’s beloved wife, Belinda Cates Lambright, one of the finest and most popular ladies in Montgomery County, survives him. She currently serves as President of the Lake Conroe Area Republican Women and in a host of other charitable and community roles.

JD and Belinda were high school sweethearts and married for 42 years.

JD Lambright, as County Attorney, and friend of the citizens, was responsible for the passage of Montgomery County’s first Code of Ethics, substantial reforms in the County Attorney’s Office, and serious efforts to challenge some of the corrupt practices of former County Judge Craig Doyal and some of Doyal’s henchmen within the Montgomery County government. He once told the Publisher of this newspaper, “I’m proud of the fact that I made the ‘Doyal Hit List,’; that shows I’m having a real positive impact.”

County Attorney JD Lambright (sitting, right) speaks with State Representative Steve Toth (sitting in the foreground) and Senator Brandon Creighton (standing) at this 2018 Republican women’s club luncheon.

As County Attorney, Lambright reorganized the County Attorney’s Office into the robust law firm type of function which it presently is with the help of his two dynamic assistants, First Assistant County Attorney BD Griffin (now County Attorney), and Amy Dunham, the manager of his Governmental Affairs Division. Lambright repeatedly remarked that “I brought in the finest attorneys I could find to represent the people of Montgomery County from within the County Attorney’s Office.”

Lambright was a true believer in “open government” and public integrity during his two terms as County Attorney. By reorganizing the County Attorney’s Office, so that the County government would not rely upon outside lawyers, his actions have saved Montgomery County taxpayers millions of dollars.

Lambright never cowered before the Montgomery County Commissioners Court. When they were about to take actions which he believed were unethical, Lambright would speak up during meetings in public view. For example, when Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley tried to place his best friend, former Sheriff Tommy Gage, on the Ethics Committee, Lambright objected and prevented the Commissioners Court from taking that action in March, 2017.

Lambright’s last appearance at a Commissioners Court meeting was a brief visit during the February 12, 2019, meeting, where Lambright looked rather thin and tired. He had obviously suffered harsh problems with his health by that time, as he had robustly spoken to the Commissioners Court as recently as January 29 and had appeared as the first guest on “It’s Hammer Time” during 2019 in a very highly-viewed show on January 11, 2019.

Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough said,

“The sudden passing of JD Lambright is a great loss for his family, co-workers, and Montgomery County constituents. He was a man of consistency and focus and deeply respected by all. He was a gentlemen and a friend. I will miss him greatly.”

“Being the professional that he was, ever since my entering into public service JD became a friend and trustworthy advisor in all things “ county.” He assembled a highly skilled  and professional team that is incredible to work with and because of his legacy, his team, although deeply saddened by his untimely departure, will carry on the great work of Montgomery County.”

As an advocate for conservatives, open government, and ethics, Lambright has been a wonderful friend to this newspaper as well as to conservative activists throughout Montgomery County. Lambright never hesitated to show his support for grassroots conservative activists, the Texas Patriots PAC, the Montgomery County Tea Party, and all of the Republican Women’s organizations in Montgomery County.

JD Lambright was elected on November 6, 2012, to serve as Montgomery County Attorney, and was sworn in on January 1, 2013, to succeed the retiring David Walker. The voters re-elected Lambright in 2016. Lambright won every voting precinct in Montgomery County in the 2016 Republican Primary Election when he faced an opponent.

Out of seventeen nominees, Lambright won Montgomery County’s “Boss of the Year Award” in 2014. He was a repeat winner of the honor in 2015.

In addition to his J.D. (Doctor of Jurisprudence) from South Texas College of Law, JD received a Master of Science and a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Texas Tech University. Prior to being elected County Attorney, Lambright owned and operated a private law practice for 13 years in Conroe.  During that time, he handled a broad variety of civil, family, criminal, and probate cases.

Lambright had worked for Shell Oil Company and Shell E&P Technology Company in Houston as a geophysicist and electrical engineer for 25 years before he went to law school. He had manager operations and research for Shell all over the world, including the continental United States, Alaska, South America, and Southeast Asia. During his last two years at Shell, he was a Business Interface Manager for Shell E&P Technology Company, the research division of Shell Oil Co.

He “re-engineered” himself by graduating from South Texas College of Law in May, 1997, and became a licensed attorney in Texas on November 3, 1998. The Lambrights moved to Montgomery County in 1993 before JD Lambright had retired from Shell.

JD Lambright served three terms on the Board of Directors of the Montgomery County Bar Association and for eleven years as a Director and General Counsel of the Montgomery County Dispute Resolution Center.  He was a 2010 graduate and former Board member of Leadership Montgomery County and a 2009 graduate of the Conroe Police Department Citizen Police Academy.  Lambright was a member of the Conroe Noon Lions Club where he previously served on the Board of Directors, and he was a Life Member of the Montgomery County Fair Association.

One of Lambright’s proudest accomplishments in his role as County Attorney was the successful murder prosecution for the 1998 murder by burning of Robbie Middleton. Lambright and his team obtained a conviction in Galveston County (after a venue transfer), even though the case was 15 years old when Lambright came into office.

JD Lambright consistently fought for openness and transparency in government. He hated corruption and clearly genuinely felt the citizens of Montgomery County had every right to serve robustly and vigorously at the top of government.

At the time of Lambright’s death, this newspaper reported, “Conservatives, reformers, and all 572,000 of the great people who form Montgomery County will sorely miss our wonderful friend, JD Lambright.”

Thanks for the great work of Governor Abbott, Representative Toth, Senator Creighton, Judge Keough, County Attorney Griffin, MCRP Vice Chairman Reed, MCRP Treasurer Wertz, MCRP Finance Chair Cook, and many others, the truth is that all 29 million citizens of Texas, the Greatest of all States, will remember the legacy of JD Lambright forever.

The ethics commission Resolution and Order follow.

RESOLUTION AND ORDER ESTABLISHING AND IMPLEMENTING THE MONTGOMERY COUNTY ETHICS COMMISSION

STATE OF TEXAS § COUNTY OF MONTGOMERY §

On the 8TH day of October, 2019, at a duly posted and called meeting of the Commissioners Court of Montgomery County, Texas (the “Commissioners Court”), there came for consideration and approval a motion for the Commissioners Court to approve, establish and implement creation of the Montgomery County Ethics Commission.

WHEREAS, pursuant to HB 1495 passed during the 86th Texas Legislative Session and Section 161.051 of the Texas Local Government Code, the Commissioners Court desires to establish a county ethics commission; and

WHEREAS, pursuant to Section 161.055 of the Local Government Code the Commissioners Court desires to designate the following entities to submit nominations for membership on the commission: the Montgomery County Civil Service Commission, the Montgomery County Bar Association, the Montgomery County Dispute Resolution Center, and the Society for Human Resources Management – Montgomery County (the “Designated Entities”); and

WHEREAS, the Commissioners Court desires to appoint County Judge Mark J. Keough to receive all nominations from the Designated Entities and members of the Commissioners Court, establish November 4, 2019, as the deadline for submittal of all nominations, and establish November 12, 2019, as the date to consider and appoint commission members; and

WHEREAS, the Commissioners Court further desires to establish January 6, 2020, as the first meeting date of the Montgomery County Ethics Commission.

Motion was made by Commissioner _____________________ and seconded by Commissioner _____________________ to establish and implement creation of the Montgomery County Ethics Commission as outlined herein.

Said Motion being put to a vote, it carried by a vote of _________ aye votes to ________nay votes.

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE COMMISSIONERS COURT OF MONTGOMERY COUNTY, TEXAS, the following:

1. The Montgomery County Ethics Commission is created.

2. The Commissioners Court designates the Montgomery County Civil Service Commission, the Montgomery County Bar Association, the Montgomery County Dispute Resolution Center, and the Society for Human Resources Management – Montgomery County, to submit nominations for appointment to the Montgomery County Ethics Commission.

3. Designates County Judge Mark J. Keough to receive all nominations, establishes November 4, 2019, as the deadline to submit nominations by the Designated Entities and members of the Commissioners Court, and set November 12, 2019, as the date to consider and appoint commission members.

4. Establish January 6, 2020, as the first meeting of the Montgomery County Ethics Commission.

PASSED AND APPROVED this 8th day of October, 2019.

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