WERE THESE ACTIONS A TRIBUTE TO ROBERT AXELROD’S “TIT FOR TAT STRATEGY”?
Conroe, February 28 – County Attorney Jerry Don Lambright sided with Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack in a disagreement that developed between Noack and Doyal contained in letters they wrote to each other earlier this month. Lambright correctly recited Texas law that, merely by cloaking a document in a Commissioners Court executive session does not somehow turn the document into a secret. Lambright’s ruling is surprising because he has consistently worked with Doyal to reduce openness and transparency in the Montgomery County government.
In a February 3, 2017, letter , which Doyal sent to Noack by email at 5:09 p.m. that day, Doyal accused Noack of violating the law regarding executive session discussions of Doyal’s “Hit List” of County officials he has targeted politically and County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport’s complaints about County Human Resources Director Dodi Shaw. Noack merely released documents that others had created outside of the executive session by which Doyal sought to cloak those documents from public view. Doyal wrote to Noack, “Of grave concern to me are the actions you took against the advice of the County Attorney’s Office to release information form executive session. Your questionable action creates potential liability for the county, is a violation of your oath of office, undermines trust and creates an ineffective working relationship with the rest of the court.”
Noack rapidly fired by a response to Doyal in an email at 5:16 p.m., February 3: “Thank you Judge. Rest assured I consulted with the County Attorney prior to releasing any information. The document you released was deemed ‘NOT’ privileged information.”
At 6:41 p.m., Lambright wrote to both Doyal and Noack in an email, “Yesterday Commissioner Noack presented us with the question ‘are there any legal impediments to sharing this letter [from County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport] with Mrs. Dodi Shaw – Human Resources Director and discussing the letter with her. ‘This letter’ was referring to a letter distributed in executive session. The response we conveyed, or at least attempted to convey, to each of you as as follows: The mere fact that documents are discussed or produced in executive session does not make them confidential. Documents are confidential or public based upon the nature of the document and exceptions provided by law, not their association with executive session.”
Three days later, on February 6, 2017, at 10:37 a.m., Doyal angrily responded to Lambright, “JD, While I appreciate your response, the letter from Stephanne Davenport was not truly the subject of my concern…The fact that discussions we had in executive session, in particular those about personnel, were released is what creates a much larger concern.”
Doyal has presented no evidence to Lambright or to anyone else that Noack shared any discussions, as opposed to documents, from the executive session with anyone else.
Readers undoubtedly immediate recall University of Michigan political scientist Robert Axelrod’s work on the theory of cooperation. Axelrod conducted thousands of iterations of the “prisoner’s dilemma” to study when individuals would choose between cooperation and competition. Out of Axelrod’s contest sprang the modern use of the phrase “Tit for Tat” to describe conduct which begins with cooperation and then regresses to do whatever the other person did on the previous move. “Tit for Tat” became a common term in the discussion of American nuclear strategy during the Cold War with the Soviet Union.