Image: Richard Nixon began a strong presidency in 1969 but after months of paranoia inside the White House during the Watergate scandal and after Senator John Stennis (D-Mississippi), one of Nixon’s most ardent supporters, finally advised him to resign, Nixon left the Presidency by resignation on August 9, 1974, one night after he announced his resignation in a nationally-televised address.
Magnolia, November 15 – A “Nixonian” paranoia has swept through Montgomery County Commissioner Charlie Riley’s office, as he has retaliated against his perceived “enemies,” threatened individuals whom he believes have discussed his criminal legal troubles, sought to fire Montgomery County Human Resources Director Dodi Shaw (who has nothing to do with Riley’s problems), and even tried to menace Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon.
Renowned conservative Republican Precinct Chair and activist Ginger Russell, one of Riley’s constituents in Magnolia, told The Golden Hammer “Charlie is beginning to remind me of the Nixonian paranoia that, unfortunately, tarnished President Richard Nixon. President Nixon did some great things that I remember while I was growing up during his administration, but his reputation is forever ruined from his paranoia during his final months in the White House. I’m sad to see my friend Charlie falling into those same mistakes.”
Gregory Parker, the conservative icon who ran against Riley and almost beat him during the Republican Primary Election agreed: “Riley reminds me of President Nixon at his worst.”
Severe paranoia clearly has set into Riley’s Commissioner’s Office and his own actions. Riley’s bizarre actions include:
- On November 13, 2018, Riley confronted two employees in County government Departments, other than his own, to demand that they explain why they were discussing the pending criminal investigation against him. In response, at least one Department Director attempted to contact Riley to object to Riley’s strange conduct.
- At the urging of Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal, Riley put forward a Commissioners Court agenda item set for Tuesday, November 13, 2018, to terminate County Human Resources Director Dodi Shaw for her alleged discussion of the pending criminal proceedings against Riley before the Montgomery County Grand Jury. The Golden Hammer has confirmed that Shaw was unaware of those proceedings until this newspaper reported them on November 1, 2018, which was a date after the alleged discussion occurred. Riley was obviously enraged throughout most of the November 13 Commissioners Court meeting, after public pressure forced Riley to withdraw the agenda item.
- During the past three weeks, Riley has fired Phil Scott, a long-time mowing supervisor, and his son Rowdy Scott. The father, Phil, testified before the Montgomery County Grand Jury earlier this year. On Monday, October 29, Riley fired Chris Decuir, who also testified before the Grand Jury. Riley also fired Greg Patton, a heavy equipment operator. On Tuesday, October 30, Riley demoted Mason Ramsey, a shop employee. All of the fired and demoted employees supported Parker for County Commissioner in the Republican Runoff Election.
- Riley has made at least three telephone calls to Montgomery County government employees during which he’s stated that he’s “scared” he’ll have to spend more than “$200,000 in campaign funds for legal fees” to fight against the latest criminal allegations against him, according to the three individuals who are high-level County government employees and who requested anonymity.
- Riley has ordered the Montgomery County Building Maintenance Department and his own employees to construct a high-level security system, sets of locking doors, video security cameras, keycards only available to a select few, and additional security features in the suite of three offices of Riley, his Chief of Staff, and his Operations Manager in his Precinct 2 Office. A high-level employee inside Riley’s office, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal, Riley’s modus operandus, confirmed “Charlie wants to keep everyone out except himself, Bruce [Berger, Chief of Staff], and Don [Operations Manager] because he’s gone totally paranoid on us.”
- During an interview with The Golden Hammer on April 3, District Attorney Brett Ligon made the following points about Riley and Doyal:
“As a separate matter from the result of the criminal investigation, speaking for myself, the Commissioners Court appears to be bereft of a moral compass. ‘Chicanery’ is such a great word to describe them, because it deals with political obfuscation in dealing with the public. I join with MCLEA [the Montgomery County Law Enforcement Association] in believing it’s time for a change. They have a good County Attorney and they fail to listen to his advice. As long as their activity is constantly skirting the criminal law, they’re going to be investigated and their activity is going to be brought into question…”
Two weeks later, Ligon told an audience in Magnolia when speaking of Riley, “The reason I’m here is that I know that Commissioners shouldn’t threaten the DA. They shouldn’t say that they’ll take the scalp of the DA. County Commissioners shouldn’t threaten me.”
Criminal indictment under Texas Open Meetings Act
A Montgomery County Grand Jury criminally indicted Riley on June 24, 2016. Riley has spent over $100,000 of campaign funds to hire a team of attorneys for fight the criminal case pending against him. On February 7, 2018, the Ninth Court of Appeals at Beaumont reinstated the criminal indictment against Riley after Riley had tried to get the case dismissed against him because (1) he claimed he couldn’t understand the criminal charges against him because he claims the Texas Open Meetings Act (“TOMA”) is too vague, and (2) he believes he should have the right to free political speech in secret to conspire to circumvent TOMA’s open meetings requirements, even though federal and state courts, ruling on matters under the United States and Texas Constitutions, have made clear that time, place, and manner restrictions on where and how political speech may occur as long as they’re reasonable.
Riley is now appealing the criminal case pending against him to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the highest criminal court in Texas (tantamount to the Supreme Court but for criminal cases, such as Riley’s.) The Court of Criminal Appeals has set Riley’s criminal case for consideration on November 21, 2018, which means that the nine Judges will meet to decide preliminarily how they’ll rule and which member of the Court of Criminal Appeals will write the Opinion for the Court. It’s likely that Riley and the public won’t hear the result of his case for at least several months after the November 21 submission date.
Riley’s co-defendants, who are also under criminal indictment for alleged violations of TOMA, are local political boss Marc Davenport, whom Riley has used as his political consultant, and Craig Doyal, the lame duck Montgomery County Judge who will leave office on December 31, 2018, after the voters rejected his re-election in the March 6, 2018, Republican Primary Election.
Pending criminal investigation against Riley
While Riley has lied to his closest supporters that there is no pending criminal investigation against him, in fact the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office’s Public Integrity Division and a Montgomery County Grand Jury are conducting an investigation of Riley for conduct after he came into office as a Commissioner on January 1, 2015. While the investigation does not formally fall under the Sheriff’s Office, because the Sheriff’s Office Public Integrity Division handles different types of public integrity cases, some Deputy Sheriffs were involved in the initial stages of the investigation, as they have confirmed, under condition of anonymity, to this newspaper.
The Grand Jury has already begun to hear live testimony against Riley.
According to the current and former County government employees with whom The Golden Hammer spoke over the past two weeks, Riley continued much of his use of public property, employees, services, and funds for his own, his family’s, and some of his friends’ personal enjoyment after he came into office as a Commissioner. He had previously served as then-Commissioner Craig Doyal’s Operations Manager.
The current allegations against Riley include the following actions with respect to County government employees and property, which he allegedly took since he became a County Commissioner on January 1, 2015:
- Riley ordered his vehicle shop employees to work on a private boat and camper to provide repairs and upgraded equipment on them;
- Riley had his shop crew replace the front end of his recreational vehicle after he had smashed it one weekend;
- Riley ordered his vehicle technicians to do work on his and his wife Deanne Riley’s personal vehicles;
- Don Dean, the Operations Manager, took County mowing equipment to Dean’s ranch to use there;
- Riley had County employees install brand new County government tires on Riley’s personal truck;
- Riley ordered his shop crew to put brakes and a water pump on Riley’s personal truck;
- Riley arranged for his employees to do work on the four-wheelers of his children;
- During one County business day, Riley ordered Shop Foreman Chris Decuir, shop employee Mason Ramsey, and Riley’s nephew, who works for the County government in Riley’s Precinct Office, to change a tire on a political supporter’s horse trailer when her vehicle stopped off of Nichols Sawmill Road in the Heritage Point neighborhood;
- Riley’s nephew, Brady Copeland, whom many of the employees refer to as “Shady Brady,” took a County government tractor to his home for a week to do dirt work at Copeland’s property;
- Riley allowed Copeland to take a commercial recycling scale, used at the County’s Precinct 2 recycling facility, to Copeland’s home for several months to weigh his children’s pigs as they raised them for the local fair competitions;
- Riley permitted one of his supervisory employees, Allen Fleming, to take home chain saws and tires for Fleming’s boat and recreational vehicle;
- Riley ordered his County employees to install a stack on a barbecue cooker, which was either Riley’s or former Sheriff (and Riley’s best friend) Tommy Gage’s;
- Riley ordered his shop foreman to go to Riley’s home to remove an exercise machine from the house and put it outside so that some company could haul the machine away;
- Riley ordered his crew to work on his garage door at his house;
- Riley permitted Copeland, his nephew, to take street signs and copper to scrap dealers to sell so he could have the cash;
- Riley permitted Copeland to take an aluminum guardrail to sell for cash at a scrap yard in Magnolia for cash.
Two of the current County employees who provided confidential interviews for this newspaper separately estimated the value of the foregoing property and services Riley allegedly took from the County since he came into office on January 1, 2015, in the range of $20,000.
The one practice that got Riley and Doyal in the most trouble during the early 2018 criminal investigation, which investigators determined suffered from a statute of limitations problem because it mostly involved conduct prior to 2014, was using County employees and property for their political campaigns. Several of the employees described how Riley ordered the employees to assemble political materials and leaflets utilizing Copeland’s sign department office tables as a staging area. Apparently, that practice stopped after Doyal became County Judge and Riley became the Commissioner.
Riley appears to suffer from the pressure of the situation he has created. He did not respond to requests for comment.