Conroe, September 14 – The Golden Hammer has obtained County Auditor Phyllis Martin’s secret budget request to the Board of District Judges which she presented to them on Monday, September 10, 2018. Martin’s secret budget request raises troubling questions about her job performance and her independence as an auditor.
Martin provided a 9-page submittal for her proposed budget of the County Auditor’s Department. While the County Auditor provided a copy of the proposal to the Board of District Judges, Court Administration Director Nate Jensen, and the Commissioners Court, she failed to make her budget proposal public on her County Auditor’s website. The analysis that follows perhaps some of the reasons why Martin didn’t want the public to see what she wants the District Judges to do.
The second page of Martin’s budget submittal clearly reflects her fundamental misunderstanding of her job as County Auditor after the creation of a Budget Office that is not a part of the County Auditor’s function any longer. When the Commissioners Court created the Budget Office, they carved out no exceptions whatsoever to the budget functions that the Budget Office would take. In fact, the clear purpose of the creation of a separate Budget Office was to remove the internal auditor from budget responsibilities altogether, so that the Auditor would no longer audit herself.
On page 2 of Martin’s secret budget submittal to the Board of District Judges, Martin continues to belabor under the fiction that she will remain responsible for “enforcement of the county budget.” As the County Auditor, Martin’s duties are to certify claims to the Commissioners Court prior to the Commissioners Court’s payment of those claims. That should be her sole function with respect to the County government budget. The Auditor should not be involved with:
- Forecasting revenues or monitoring the County Budget. Clearly, that is the responsibility of the Budget Office.
- Maintaining financial records for the Montgomery County Toll Road Authority. That would place the Auditor squarely into the position of auditing her own books.
- Likewise, there is no function for which the County Auditor must be “ensuring accuracy of modification to adopted budget.” That is the responsibility of a Budget Office Director.
The County Auditor has finally acknowledged that she is responsible to “assure substantial compliance with…law.” That will be a first for Martin as County Auditor. She has never done that previously. Rather, she’s looked the other way from conflicts of interest and nepotism that are rampant throughout the County government.
If the County Auditor is, in fact, responsible for assuring substantial compliance with the law, then there is a major question which Martin should answer to the Board of District Judges on Friday, September 14, 2018: WHO ARE THE OWNERS, INTERESTED PARTIES, AND FUND RECIPIENTS FOR THE THREE COMPANIES WHO ARE NAMED IN THE ENTERPRISE RESOURCE PLANNING CONTRACT? Has the County Auditor conducted any investigation to make that determination? If not, why not?
Similarly, when PHONOSCOPE was contracting with Montgomery County’s government to provide deep fiber optic cable systems in County buildings and installations, DID THE COUNTY AUDITOR INVESTIGATE AND DISCLOSE THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THAT COMPANY AND MARC DAVENPORT, THE HUSBAND OF THE COUNTY TREASURER STEPHANNE DAVENPORT, AND DID THE COUNTY AUDITOR DISCLOSE DAVENPORT’S BUSINESS PLANS TO SELL A NETWORK OF FIBER OPTIC CABLE THROUGH A REAL ESTATE INVESTMENT TRUST OUT OF THE COUNTY GOVERNMENT’S INSTALLATIONS?! (Marc Davenport admitted those plans in writing on social media, as The Golden Hammer has previously reported.)
The County Auditor, who served as the County’s Chief Budget Officer for twelve (12) years, should certainly have some skill at financial management. Why has the removal of the budget function from the County Auditor’s Office not saved the taxpayers even one penny in operating expenses? In fact, Martin’s proposed budget for her County Auditor’s Office actually increases her operational expense budget from the previous year.
The list of County Auditor Martin’s proposed department assistants is, indeed, very troubling. Besides Martin and her assistant Angela Blocker, there are only four other employees involved in actual auditing in the County Auditor’s Office, yet she seeks a total of 25 employees, down only by one (1) from last year when the County Auditor still conducted the budget function now removed from her office.
Shockingly, Martin is involved in grants accounting, the precise function which Montgomery County Attorney D.C. Jim Dozier prohibited the County Auditor from doing in his January 8, 1986, legal opinion, as this newspaper reported yesterday. The County Auditor has fifteen (15) accounting and bookkeeping employees whom the six audit employees IN THE SAME DEPARTMENT then audit!
The fifth page of Martin’s secret budget submittal reveals that her County Auditor Department’s Budget for salaries is similar to other counties. It’s important to note, however, that Martin failed to bring to the Board of District Judge’s attention that Montgomery County is the largest County in Texas that does not have an Auditor who is a Certified Public Accountant. Furthermore, Montgomery County is the largest County in Texas that does not have a Certified Public Accountant on its County Auditor’s staff at all.
The chart on page 6 reveals that County government spending is completely out of control, because County Auditor Martin failed in her job as a chief budget officer. Furthermore, it supports the proposal of County Attorney Dozier 32 years ago that the County Treasurer should handle accounts payable so that the County Auditor is no longer involved in County government operations.
This page repeats the County Auditor’s misunderstanding of the doctrine of “separation of powers” (that the County Auditor, as a judicial officer, should not involve herself in County government operations, which are a function of the Executive Branch of government) and that she is no longer involved with the County budget.
This page of County Auditor Martin’s submittal to the Board of District Judges raises a gigantic issue: WHEN DID THE BOARD OF DISTRICT JUDGES AUTHORIZE THE COUNTY AUDITOR TO BECOME INVOLVED IN THE FINANCIAL OPERATIONS OF THE MONTGOMERY COUNTY TOLL ROAD AUTHORITY?!
The last page is important. Martin chose a friend, Michele McCarter, to prepare a “salary survey.” Even McCarter made clear on this final page of Martin’s secret budget submittal that, in the County Auditor’s Office, “The County salaries are competitive overall…” McCarter also noted that even if some salaries are not as high as others in the market, “benefits tend to be richer working for the County increasing the total compensation.”
Martin’s County Auditor’s Department already has competitive salaries. None of the employees in the Department should receive higher compensation, especially since their benefits are “richer working for the County” and those benefits would increase along with salary increases. Somehow, Martin has completely failed to provide any benefit to the taxpayers of Montgomery County for the creation of a Budget Office and the removal of those functions from her bloated bureaucracy.
With only six (6) actual auditors in the entire Department of 25 people, the Board of District Judges should at least reduce the salaries by the $309,000 cost of the Budget Office.