Image: Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal (standing, far left) listens to State Representative Mark Keough, who is challenging for County Judge in the March 6, 2018, Republican Primary Election. Keough spoke about the need for ethics in the Montgomery County government after which Doyal misled concerning why he faces criminal indictment for alleged violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act.
The Woodlands, February 15 – Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal told the Woodlands Republican Women two major lies during a candidate forum on Wednesday, February 14, 2018. The challenger, State Representative Mark Keough, who is seeking to become the next Montgomery County Judge in the March 6, 2018, Republican Primary Election, noted that people from across the State of Texas have questioned why Montgomery County’s government is so corrupt.
In response, embattled County Judge Craig Doyal, who is under indictment for allegedly violating the Texas Open Meetings Act (“TOMA”) along with co-indictees Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley and corrupt local political boss and consultant Marc Davenport, misled the capacity crowd at the Woodlands Republican Women who held the candidate debate.
Doyal lied about his TOMA criminal indictment
Doyal, Riley, and Davenport all testified before the Montgomery County Grand Jury prior to the indictments.
Lie #1: “We haven’t had our date in court yet”
Doyal told the audience, “we haven’t had our date in court yet.” In fact that’s untrue. Last April, 2017, Doyal’s, Riley’s, and Davenport’s criminal case was set to go to trial. Instead, Doyal, Riley, and Davenport begged the visiting district judge to hear their complaints that TOMA is unconstitutional, because, they claimed, they couldn’t understand it and it violates their right to free speech.
In an opinion, which the Beaumont Court of Appeals rendered on February 7, 2018, the Court of Appeals denied Doyal’s argument that TOMA is unconstitutional and ordered the case to a full jury trial before a Montgomery County Jury. Doyal’s attempted delays would no longer work.
The unanimous ruling of Chief Justice Steve McKeithen, Justice Hollis Horton, and Justice Leanne Johnson of the Ninth Court of Appeals was:
“We conclude that section 551.143 [of the Texas Open Meetings Act] describes the criminal offense with sufficient specificity that ordinary people can understand what conduct is prohibited…The statute provides reasonable notice of the prohibited conduct…We conclude that the statute is reasonably related to the State’s legitimate interest in assuring transparency in public proceedings…”
Doyal, Riley, and Davenport had claimed in both the trial court and the Court of Appeals that they could not understand the prohibitions in the Texas Open Meetings Act (“TOMA”) because they claim the statute is vague. They also tried to argue that the statute is unconstitutional because it violates their rights of free political speech.
The Beaumont Court of Appeals rejected both of the criminal indictees’ arguments. The Court of Appeals ruled that TOMA merely regulates the time, place, and manner of the political speech of governmental officials so that the public may observe deliberations in a transparent manner. Of course, Doyal, Riley, and Davenport have vehemently fought against any such transparency and had fought to have TOMA deemed unconstitutional.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sided with the special prosecutors and intervened in the case. Houston criminal defense attorney Rusty Hardin, who has received the vast majority of Doyal’s political contributions as attorney fees, lost the appeal.
In reality, Doyal has had several “dates in court” but Doyal had hoped to delay as much as possible.
Lie #2: “the statute doesn’t exist in any other state”
Doyal told the audience that “the statute doesn’t exist in any other state,” referring to TOMA. In fact, every state in the United States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico all have open meetings statutes similar to TOMA.
Lie #3: “We just sat down with a group of private citizens…we didn’t hire a consultant”
Doyal told the audience, “After the 2015 bond issue failed, we just sat down with a group of private citizens. We put out a press release to negotiate a better bond issue…You voters voted on that bond issue…If I can’t sit down with a group of citizens, then it’s a serious problem…We didn’t hire a consultant.”
There’s nothing truthful about Doyal’s prevarication. Doyal was not indicted merely for sitting down with a group of private citizens. Rather, Doyal was indicted for meeting with Charlie Riley and then a third County Commissioner Court member, Jim Clark, in a number less than a quorum (three out of five) for the purpose of secret deliberations concerning the substance of a bond referendum. Where Doyal, Riley, and Davenport got into trouble was not in meeting with “a group of private citizens.” Instead, they got into trouble under the indictment by meeting amongst three members of the Commissioners Court – Doyal, Riley, and eventually Clark – for the purpose of conspiring to circumvent TOMA.
The indictment should speak for itself:
“THE GRAND JURY, for the County of Montgomery, State of Texas, duly selected, empaneled, sworn, charged, and organized as such by the 221st Judicial District Court for said County, upon their oaths present in and to said Court that Craig Doyal [and Charlie Riley and Marc Davenport] on or about August 11, 2015 and continuing through August 24, 2015, and before the presentment of this indictment, in the County and State aforesaid, did then and there as a member of a governmental body, to-wit: the Montgomery County Commissioner’s Court, knowingly conspire circumvent Title 5, Subtitle A Chapter 551 of the Texas Government Code (herein after referred to as the Texas Open Meetings Act) by meeting in a number less than a quorum for the purpose of secret deliberations in violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act, to-wit: by engaging in verbal exchange concerning an issue within the jurisdiction of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court, namely, the contents of the potential structure of a November 2015 Montgomery County Road Bond, Against the Peace and Dignity of the State.”
The Grand Jury indicted Doyal, Riley, and Davenport, for meeting in numbers of less than a Commissioners Court quorum (3 out of 5) for the purpose of secret deliberations in violation of TOMA to structure the resolution to set a November 2015 road bond referendum.
The indictment had nothing whatsoever with meeting with private citizens. Rather, Montgomery County’s Criminal District Attorney Brett Ligon initiated the Grand Jury investigation and brought the facts to support the indictments before the Grand Jury, which indicted Doyal, Riley, and Davenport in June, 2016.
Doyal, Riley, and Davenport face criminal charges for conspiring to circumvent the Texas Open Meetings Act’s Section 551.143 by meeting in a number less than a quorum for the purpose of secret deliberations in violations of TOMA. The desire for secrecy and to avoid public scrutiny is the problem with Doyal and Riley.
Doyal paid Davenport $5,000 to represent Doyal as a consultant in the road bond referendum negotiations. Riley paid Davenport $5,000 to represent Riley as a consultant in the road bond referendum negotiations.
Hiring Davenport for $10,000 total as a “consultant” would seem to constitute “hiring a consultant.”
Doyal lied about paying taxes
In his opening statement to the Republican Women, Doyal told the group, “My wife and I pay taxes just like everybody else.”
Doyal gives “leeway” to elected officials as a royal class in Commissioners Court meetings, as he announced on February 13, 2018, when elected official James Metts repeatedly disrupted the meeting by making cat calls from the back of the Courtroom and then violated Doyal’s policy of not making personal attacks or denigrating an individual. Doyal takes “leeway” as well as giving it to his elected royalty.
Doyal knows good and well that Doyal and his wife do not pay taxes “just like everybody else.”
The Montgomery Central Appraisal District and Doyal “got caught with their pants down” on April 19, 2017, when The Golden Hammer exposed the ridiculously low appraisal of Doyal’s brand new lakefront home into which he moved in early autumn of last year (2016), a valuation only showing the unimproved land valued at $110,000, even though King Doyal and his wife had moved into the home before the end of 2016. After The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper exposed the situation where “Doyal and his wife” received the special lower appraisal, the Montgomery Central Appraisal District announced April 20 that Doyal’s home appraisal had become $573,020.
Somehow, MCAD was able to re-appraise Doyal’s palatial home in the posh lakefront neighborhood at an appropriate value.