Image: The room inside the Bull Sallas Fairgrounds in East Montgomery County where Precinct 4 Montgomery County Commissioner James Metts held a campaign fundraiser and directed Montgomery County government employees to set up and clean after the March 20, 2019, event.
New Caney, May 22 – Instead of tending to their duties as County employees to maintain the parks and facilities of the Montgomery County government, a crew of the parks division of Precinct 4 Montgomery County Commissioner James Metts devoted substantial County government time on Tuesday, May 21, 2019, to cleaning up the Montgomery County East Montgomery County Fair Grounds facility for Metts’ personal political campaign fundraiser, as two crew members and one other Montgomery County employee confirmed to this newspaper on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.
Metts held a private political campaign fundraiser at the Fair Grounds facility on Monday, May 20. According to an additional source inside of Metts’ Precinct 4 office, who also requested anonymity, Metts failed to make arrangements to pay for the Fair Grounds facility. This newspaper has confirmed, through a review of Campaign Finance Reports, that former Precinct 4 Montgomery County Commissioner Jim Clark always paid the County government for use of the Fair Grounds facility when he held political campaign events at that location.
The Metts crew members also confirmed that Metts ordered them to set up the facility for his campaign fundraiser as well, a task which they had never previously done for a private event held at the Fair Grounds. Metts ordered the County government employees to tend to his campaign clean up and had also involved several County government employees – on County government time – to set up the campaign event.
Metts’ actions would appear to violate Section 39.02 of the Texas Penal Code, which provides: “A public servant commits an offense if, with intent to obtain a benefit or with intent to harm or defraud another, he intentionally or knowingly…misuses government property, services, personnel, 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.” The Penal Code provision provides that the violation is:
- a Class C misdemeanor if the value of the use of the thing misused is less than $20;
- a Class B misdemeanor if the value of the use of the thing misused is $20 or more but less than $500;
- a Class A misdemeanor if the value of the use of the thing misused is $500 or more but less than $1,500;
- a state jail felony if the value of the use of the thing misused is $1,500 or more but less than $20,000;
- a felony of the third degree if the value of the use of the thing misused is $20,000 or more but less than $100,000;
- a felony of the second degree if the value of the use of the thing misused is $100,000 or more but less than $200,000; or
- a felony of the first degree if the value of the use of the thing misused is $200,000 or more.
Therefore, cases under Section 39.02 of the Penal Code often involve substantial evidence with respect to the “value of the use of the thing misused…” In the case involving the conviction of Liberty County Commissioner Mike McCarty, who was convicted and removed from office on April 24, 2017, the jury spent most of the trial hearing evidence on the value of the property, equipment, and services McCarty misused.
Metts has focused the first five months of his tenure in office as a County Commissioner on personal perquisites for himself and his family members and close friends. Metts’ live-in girlfriend, Diane Rogers, receives $81,357.64 per year as salary, plus approximately $32,787.13 in benefits, for total taxpayer-funded payments of $114,144.77. Rogers only works part-time, so that she may manage their jointly-owned business, “Sweetie Pie’s,” a restaurant and flower shop in Splendora.
Metts has also put his first cousin, Jane Landers, his close friend convicted felon Greg Long, and other close friends on the County government payroll. Of course, Metts also hired terminated and disgraced former County Auditor Phyllis Martin as his chief of staff.