Image: Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal and Nathan Arrazate filming a political advertisement for Conroe City Councilman Duane Ham, Doyal’s political buddy, in Doyal’s Office in the Sadler Administration Building on October 31, 2016, another clear violation of Texas Election Code Section 255.003 and possibly Texas Penal Code Section 39.02. On Sunday, May 21, 2017, The Golden Hammer broke the story that Doyal and Arrazate had filmed a political advertisement for Doyal’s campaign in Doyal’s Office on Friday, May 19, 2017.
Conroe, May 26 – BREAKING NEWS STORY!
ERIC YOLLICK, The Golden Hammer
Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal violated the Texas Election Code and Texas Ethics Commission proscriptions with campaign advertisements he filmed from his County office on at least two recent occasions. Doyal filmed a political advertisement for himself on Friday, May 19, 2017, inside his County Office on the Fourth Floor of the Sadler Administration Building.
Doyal filmed another political advertisement for his political buddy Duane Ham, who was running for Conroe City Council at the time, on October 31, 2016. Filming the political advertisements in a County office is a violation of Section 255.003 of the Texas Election Code and of Texas Ethics Commission Opinion Number 443. Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon and Montgomery County Sheriff Rand Henderson are already investigating the 2017 video.
The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, broke the story about Doyal’s 2017 and 2014 political advertisements filmed in County offices on May 21 and 22, 2017, respectively.
2016 Political Advertisement Filmed in Doyal’s County Office
Doyal filmed a political advertisement for Duane Ham on October 31, 2016. Ham, a close friend and ally of Doyal, had worked with Doyal to form the Texas Conservative Tea Party Coalition in 2014 in order to confuse voters during the 2014 Republican Runoff Election with the real Tea Party group, the Texas Tea Party Patriots PAC. Another Tea Party organization, the Montgomery County Tea Party formed as a spinoff from the Patriots PAC.
Ham won a Council seat in May, 2016. Ham held a fundraiser on November 15, 2016, which was the subject of the political advertisement Doyal and Arrazate filmed in Doyal’s official County Judge Office. It appears from the film that Arrazate filmed the 2016 advertisement, just as he also filmed the 2017 advertisement which has already gotten Doyal in hot water.
Doyal has filmed at least one other political advertisement, a third, in which he staged scenes inside his County Office in Precinct 2 in 2014 when Doyal was running for County Judge. None of the three political advertisements – the two filmed in Doyal’s County Office and the Ham postcard – contain the political advertising disclaimers required under Texas law.
Class A Misdemeanor, State Ethics Guidelines
Section 255.003 of the Texas Election Code establishes a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail, for any officer or employee of a political subdivision who knowingly spends or authorizes the use of public funds for political advertising. The statute explicitly contemplates that the Texas Ethics Commission may render written opinions regarding conduct regulated under the Section.
In Texas Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion Number 443, the Texas Ethics Commission clarified that Section 255.003 specifically prohibits the use of facilities not open to the public for political advertising of the sort which Doyal filmed for the videos. Doyal’s office is not a public forum open to everyone, so it is clear that he violated the criminal statute by using his office for the advertisement.
Although Arrazate filmed the advertisements, it would seem that Arrazate, who is not a public servant or County employee, would not be subject to the criminal penalties, although it is possible that he might be culpable for aiding and abetting the commission of a crime.
Ligon and Henderson are also investigating Doyal for violating Section 39.02 of the Texas Penal Code, which makes it a crime entitled “abuse of office” for a public servant to obtain a benefit by misusing government property or any other thing of value belonging to the government that has come into the public servant’s custody or possession by virtue of the public servant’s office or employment. Doyal received his Fourth Floor County Office by virtue of his office.
Violation of Montgomery County’s new Code of Ethics
The Code of Ethics, which the Montgomery County Commissioners Court adopted earlier this year, provides:
“County Public Servants shall not utilize county equipment or supplies of any kind for political purposes.”
Doyal’s videos taken in a County office, sitting at County furniture, would seem to violate the Code of Ethics, Article XII, Paragraph 1. Doyal filmed the 2016 political advertisement prior to the passage of the Code of Ethics in 2017, but the 2017 political advertisement occurred when the Code of Ethics was already in place.
The actual video of Doyal’s October 31, 2016, political advertisement
Here’s the actual October 31, 2016, filmed political advertisement in Doyal’s County Office in the Sadler Administration Building.