Image: Left to right, lobbyist Rob Eissler and Precinct 3 Montgomery County Commissioner James Noack.
Conroe, June 21 – Precinct 3 Montgomery County Commissioner James Noack has placed on the agenda for the Tuesday, June 25, 2019, meeting of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court a proposal to cancel the taxpayer-funded lobbying contract with Rob Eissler. At first, Noack didn’t place the item on the agenda, although he had informed constituents three nights ago that he would do so.
Noack did not return telephone calls requesting an explanation of his position on whether the Eissler contract should continue or not.
On July 24, 2018, Noack had placed the $48,000 per year contract on the secretive “consent agenda” after Noack and Eissler had negotiated the terms of the contract over several months.
Strangely enough, former disgraced Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal, an advocate for government secrecy, forced Noack to move the item from the consent agenda to discuss the matter in the open during the July 24 meeting last year. At first the item failed to pass. Later in the July 24 meeting, after Noack had two private discussions with Doyal, Noack raised the Eissler issue again and offered to pay Eissler’s entire $48,000 contract out of Noack’s Precinct 3 Commissioners budget, since Noack wanted Eissler to work on lobbying the Texas Department of Transportation to widen and repair Interstate 45, lobby for other highway dollars, and lobby for state and federal flood mitigation funds.
Eventually, late in the same meeting, the Commissioners Court passed the Eissler taxpayer-funded lobbying contract with Noack paying half of the contract out of his Commissioner Precinct budget and Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley paying the other half.
Over the past year, Eissler has received $44,000 in payments from Montgomery County taxpayers for his lobbying services. Eissler has done nothing or very little under the lobbying contract.
When the issue of the Texas Department of Transportation’s (TxDOT) position on maintenance of the State Highway 242 flyovers came before the Commissioners Court on April 9, 2019, in relation to County Judge Mark Keough’s effort to remove the flyover tolls, it became apparent that neither Riley nor Noack had asked Eissler to find out the agency’s position during the almost full year of Eissler’s contract specifically intended for the purpose of communications with TxDOT. Instead, this newspaper and Riley independently pushed TxDOT to declare their position. TxDOT eventually agreed to assume the maintenance for the flyovers, which TxDOT owned all along anyway.
The Republican Party Platform opposes taxpayer-funded lobbying. A proposal to ban taxpayer-funded lobbying statewide passed the Texas Senate during the 86th Legislative Session but failed to pass in the Texas House when it went down to defeat on a 58 to 85 vote. The main opponents of a ban on taxpayer-funded lobbying are the taxpayer-funded lobbyists, Texas Municipal League, Texas Association of Counties, and Texas Association of School Boards.
Eissler, also known as “Geronimo” for the fact that he has more Native American ancestry in his deoxyribonucleic acid than does Elizabeth “Pocahontas” Warren, is an accomplished lobbyist. Eissler had agreed not to lobby against statewide property tax reform as a part of his contract with Montgomery County. Eissler fulfilled his part of that bargain. Eissler was also very supportive of House Bill 1495 and Senate Bill 710, both of which sought to provide county governments with enforceability behind their ethics codes. House Bill 1495 passed the Legislature and is applicable to Montgomery and Chambers Counties.
Interestingly, House Bill 1495 also included a disclosure requirement for all taxpayer funded lobbying contracts of counties, cities, and other local government entities. Governor Greg Abbott signed the bill into law on Friday, June 14, 2019. Therefore, the ostensible cancellation of the Eissler-Montgomery County contract comes just before the County government would have to provide disclosures of Eissler’s lobbying activities and the terms of his contract to the public. (Of course, those activities and terms are public, because this newspaper has reported on them.)