Conroe, February 22 – Montgomery County Building Maintenance Director Paul Case and County Judge Craig Doyal have joined forces to hide a serious asbestos “Health Risk to County employee and the public,” as a secret January 30, 2017, environmental report delineated. Doyal has consolidated all County departments under his supervision, taken oversight away from the entire County Commissioners Court, and imposed a veil of secrecy on County government operations with the help of County Attorney Jerry Don “Ice Man” Lambright who treats Doyal as his personal client.
A serious asbestos exposure problem occurred inside the older section of the Montgomery County Courthouse on December 30, 2016, during demolition of a wall in the old 221st District Court, which the Building Maintenance Department is remodeling to be 410th District Judge Jennifer Robin’s new Courtroom. Three County employees suffered from exposure to friable chrysoltile 6 asbestos during the demolition, although the County has now retaliated against one of them for filing a workers compensation claim. Even more disconcerting, however was the fact that an intake air-conditioning duct sucked the asbestos into the Courthouse duct system.
When The Golden Hammer interviewed Case concerning the matter, Case stated that the Court’s duct system had no connection to any parts of the Courthouse outside of the confines of the actual Courtroom and Court offices. Case’s assertion was false. In fact, the air intake connected to the public hallway where thousands of members of the public walk each week. Case failed to take any action to begin to abate the public asbestos exposure until a full week later.
Neither Case nor County Judge Craig Doyal who oversees the Building Maintenance Department disclosed any of the health risks to the citizens of Montgomery County. They took no action to protect the public from the asbestos within the duct system. Instead they conducted a secret “abatement” which failed to comply with Texas and federal law, because (1) they failed to notify the Texas State Department of Health Services to permit them to conduct an inspection of the building, and (2) they failed to conduct an asbestos survey, a City, state, and federal requirement for any building demolition (full or partial).
Doyal’s and Case’s efforts at secrecy, with Lambright’s assistance, continued prior to the February 14, 2017, Commissioners Court meeting. Lambright and Doyal carefully controlled the drafting of the Agenda for that meeting which included the following cryptic item:
“21. Building Maintenance. A. Consider and Discuss Options Regarding Abandoned Heaters in the Courthouse and, if appropriate, name a funding source.”
Doyal, Case, and Lambright failed to specify what the issue was concerning the heaters, why there might be a need for funding, or what the problem could be that required an examination of “options.” Furthermore, there was no backup provided to the public or even to the members of the Commissioners Court prior to the actual Commissioners Court meeting on February 14.
At the actual Court meeting, the secrecy and sneakiness continued. Neither Case nor Doyal mentioned the word “asbestos.” Instead, Case handed a black folder with a secret letter to each of the five members of the Commissioners Court. Only Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack dared mention the word “asbestos” during the discussion. The Golden Hammer has obtained the secret letter of Stephen R. “Randy” Wev, President and Director of Operations of Bay Environmental, Inc.
The secret environmental letter contained the following finding of fact:
“There is a concern that the asbestos identified associated with these [heater] units is a potential health risk to County employees and the public.”
The letter also contained a smoking cannon! Wev stated,
”Recent inspections and air monitoring within the courthouse have found no elevated levels of asbestos in the air (excluding the recent event in the 221st)”!
In other words, even Wev has acknowledged that there were elevated levels of asbestos in the air as a result of the “recent event in the 221st.”
Meanwhile, in order to try to keep him quiet, Case and Doyal suspended one of the three workers who came into harm’s way and filed a workers compensation claim against Montgomery County from the asbestos exposure. The Golden Hammer has obtained the paperwork relating to the worker’s suspension, which have revealed that, without any warning for any sort of wrongdoing, Case and Doyal have punished this employee for reporting this grave safety concern to one of the County government’s safety officers, Curtis Fitzgerald.
In a culture of secrecy and sneakiness, an employee reporting a safety concern to a safety officer does not receive a positive reception from Craig Doyal.
Despite the attempted coverup, it is clear there are health risks in the Montgomery County Courthouse that even Doyal, Lambright, and Case have not been able to cover up completely.