Image: Top of letter ruling from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton who has ordered Montgomery County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport to stop withholding from the public her office procedures manual. Paxton issued the ruling on February 28, 2018.
Conroe, March 1- Attorney General of Texas Ken Paxton has ordered Montgomery County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport to stop withholding her public office procedures manual from the public in violation of the Texas Open Records/Texas Public Information Act. After Conroe ISD Board President Melanie Pryor Bush and one other requestor requested Davenport’s Treasurer’s Office procedures manual on December 1, 2017, Davenport desperately sought to hide the manual from the public and claimed that it contained private information, such as individual’s private information such as employees’ date of birth and social security number information. Although Bush and the other requestor made clear that she didn’t care if Davenport redacted that information, Davenport still refused to provide her procedures manual for public scrutiny.
Davenport has gone so far as to instruct Montgomery County Attorney J.D. Lambright to file suit against the State of Texas to keep her procedures manual hidden, regardless of whether the employee information is redacted from the disclosures or not. Lambright has refused to represent Davenport in hiding the procedures manual, because Lambright does not believe it is exempt from the public disclosure requirements of the Open Records Act.
Similarly, former County Treasurer Martha Gustavsen, who, of course, is very familiar with how the Treasurer’s Office should run has sided with Bush and Lambright that Davenport should release her office procedures so that the general public may scrutinize her, especially as Davenport is seeking re-election in the March 6, 2018, Republican Primary Election.
Paxton accepted none of Davenport’s arguments and ordered Davenport to release her procedures manual to Bush and to the public for scrutiny. Other than the personal employee information that Bush wasn’t even seeking, and which Gustavsen and others have said should not even be within an office procedures manual, Paxton ordered, “The treasurer’s office must release the remaining information.”
On January 4, 2018, Davenport admitted in a written statement that the County Treasurer Office procedures manual that she’s hiding from the public contains “step by step instructions on how to manipulate the county finance system.” Therefore, The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper asked her predecessor Martha Gustavsen whether having such a methodology – to manipulate the county finance system – would ever be within the job duties or functions of the County Treasurer.
Gustavsen’s answer was unequivocal: “Never. Linda Breazeale had been county auditor only about six months when I took office. She was hard to work with at times but I always felt she tried to do the right and honest thing. She had worked for Marilyn and gone through the Weldon and Marilyn debacle so Linda was a straight shooter. Linda watched the finance system like a hawk as I did.”
Nothing in the duties of a County Treasurer under the Texas Constitution or under Chapter 83 of the Texas Local Government Code, which establishes the Treasurer’s statutory duties, includes manipulating the county finance system. The Texas Association of Counties (TAC) provides guidance to county treasurers with respect to their job duties. Nothing in the TAC literature includes manipulating the county finance system among the duties of a County Treasurer. Similarly, the Texas County Treasurers’ Association (TCTA) has published a 96-page Resource Guide for its members to explain their job duties and functions. Absolutely nothing in the TCTA Resource Guide includes anything remotely close to manipulation of a county’s finance system among the job duties of a County Treasurer.
Davenport is married to corrupt local political boss Marc Davenport. It has become apparent that the County Treasurer allows her husband to dictate the Treasurer’s Office’s policies and that he has even reviewed the policy and procedures manual that the County Treasurer has claimed should be exempt from public disclosure.