Conroe, February 20 – Although he was a minority of one on several spending initiatives in front of the January 29, 2019, meeting of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court, Precinct 3 County Commissioner successfully defeated a bureaucratic initiative of the do-nothing Department of Emergency Management to add an additional salaried “Deputy Director” for $137,000 per year taken from Disaster Recovery funds earmarked for disaster buyouts. It took Noack two tries to defeat the measure, which Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough sponsored, in which Noack lost the first vote 1 to 4 but won the second vote 3 to 1.
The Golden Hammer‘s rating system follows the Platform of the Republican Party of Texas.
The Golden Hammer‘s ratings measure Commissioners Court votes that affect spending in comparison to the provisions of the Republican Party of Texas Platform. Points are good. The number of points depends upon the amount of money involved in each vote.
The Commissioners Court, all of whom claim to be Republicans, violated the Republican Party Platform on almost every vote during the January 29 meeting. They violated Plank 144 in particular, which provides:
“144. Government Spending: Government Spending is out of control at the federal, state, and local levels, and action is needed.”
The editorial staff of this newspaper sincerely hopes that Plank 144 is simple enough that even the members of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court might understand it.
Commissioners Court meeting, January 29, 2019, 9:30 a.m. All Court members were physically present.
Vote #1: Emergency Management’s bureaucratic victory
The Montgomery County Department of Emergency Management has severe management problems under the current attempted leadership of Darren Hess. Hess instigated many of the problems with odd relationships with his employees.
Towards the end of the agenda at the January 29 meeting, Hess went to the podium to announce that he was withdrawing a grant application to the Texas Department of Emergency Management to pay for a Deputy Director position in the Emergency Management Department, because the grant would require Montgomery County to spring for 50% of the $137,000 the position would cost.
Immediately after pulling that agenda item, however, Hess then proceeded to propose to the Commissioners Court to take the entire $137,000 from Community Development Block Grant -Disaster Recovery funds earmarked for disaster relief in grants from the 2016 floods and possibly even from grants for Tropical Storm Harvey relief. The full amount of the proposed bureaucratic position would be $137,601, which includes a $105,101 salary and benefits.
Noack immediately objected to the proposal, “That money is for buyouts!” Hess acknowledged Noack’s concern but explained he really wanted a Deputy Director. Keough supported Hess’ bureaucratic grab of funds away from disaster victims.
Despite Noack’s argument that taking those funds earmarked for disaster recovery was illegal, the Commissioners Court voted 4 (Keough, Meador, Riley, Metts) to 1 (Noack) in favor of using the funds in that manner. It was a major vote. 100 points. The proper vote was (obviously) “NO.”
Vote #2: Emergency Management snatched defeat from the jaws of victory
After an executive session involving other issues, and after citizen comments from three individuals, Noack asked the Commissioners Court to “vacate” the previous vote in favor of add to the Emergency Management Department’s bureaucracy. Riley explained that he felt the Commissioners Court should wait to get a legal opinion from County Attorney J.D. Lambright before using the funds for the Deputy Director position, which Hess wanted.
Keough vehemently argued in favor of adding the new position still, even though it had become apparent the Commissioners Court viewed the legality of the move with skepticism. Meador never returned from the executive session. It was a major vote. 100 points. The proper vote was (obviously) “NO.” Noack’s motion to vacate the previous vote passed (!) 3 (Noack, Riley, Metts) to 1 (Keough).
Noack’s persistence resulted in a great endgame for the taxpayers and for disaster victims. For that, Noack receives a 250 point bonus.
Vote #3: Budget amendments
There was only one budget amendment for the previous Fiscal Year in the amount of $734,000. The proper vote was “No.” 10 points. It passed unanimously.
Votes #4 to 31: Purchasing
There were 31 votes on purchasing decisions totaling more than $11.9 million. There was no discussion, no deliberation, and no oversight. There was no examination of whether the County government even attempted to procure the lowest possible prices. The proper vote under those circumstances was “No” for each one. 5 points each.
Votes #32 to 36: Montgomery County Ethics Committee
Five votes occurred for the Ethics Committee. Based upon recommendations of the Auditor, the Commissioners Court re-elected Dale Inman to the Ethics Committee, of the Human Resources Department, they elected Matthew Koppelman, and of the Purchasing Department, they elected Kelly Conor. Then Keough recommended the election of Larry Foerster, which the Commissioners Court approved unanimously. Judge Keough then recommended the election of Montgomery County Republican Party Vice Chairman Reagan Reed. The vote in favor of electing Reed was 3 (Keough, Noack, Metts (!)) to 2 (Meador, Riley). The proper vote for all five was “Yes.” The first four votes were 10 points each. The Reed vote was a major vote and 100 points.
Vote #37: Vacancies
Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack moved to eliminate all positions that have been vacant on the County government payroll for more than 90 days. The motion died for lack of a second. Noack receives 50 points for trying.
Vote #38: Renovation of Woodlands Tax Office
This matter passed unanimously on a 5 to 0 vote to do some construction to make a government office look nicer. What a waste of tax dollars! 5 points. “No” vote appropriate. Passed unanimously.
Vote #39: Payment of Accounts
Keough has apparently permanently placed the payment of accounts on the open agenda. For that, he deserves a 25 point bonus. Unfortunately, there was no oversight whatsoever for $14,416,916.32 in payments, which included over $20,000 paid to Graves Humphries law firm for the terrible collection services for the JP courts, over $130,000 paid on the County government’s credit card (!), retail prices for Sherwin Williams Paint and O’Reilly Auto Parts, and more than $17,000 paid to engineer John Holzwarth who is duplicating the work of the salaried County Engineer. Only one $1,800 payment to Halff Associates, the engineering firm with close ties to former County Judge Craig Doyal. 25 points. Major vote. “No” was the proper vote. Passed unanimously.
Vote #40: Animal Shelter lack of oversight of additional revenues
The taxpayers dodged a small bullet (a bee bee?) when the Animal Shelter sought to add its monthly revenue to a general carryover expense account 6331.7997. Whenever you see the “7997” suffix, taxpayers should watch out! Those funds would not receive proper allocation and oversight. There was no reason for the Commissioners Court to allow that to occur. Noack moved to defer that item, which passed unanimously. 5 points. “Yes” vote appropriate. Passed unanimously.
Vote #41: Meador saving money???!
Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador moved some positions in his Precinct 1 Office around and actually saved some money, which he transferred to his asphalt (!!!) account. “Yes” vote appropriate. 5 points. Passed unanimously.
Vote #42: Metts’ craziness
It’s genuinely shocking that the Commissioners Court is just letting Metts get away which this craziness in his Precinct 4 Office. He gave a raise to terminated County Auditor Phyllis Martin whom Metts hired as his Chief of Staff. He hired Jamie Nash, the full-time manager of the Montgomery County Police Reporter blog, as a public relations assistant to receive public tax dollars to pay her for putting together her private for-profit blog (which, of course, runs favorable posts about Metts and his closest political ally Precinct 4 Constable Rowdy Hayden). Metts made other job transfers as well. Metts took the funds for all of these new positions out of the asphalt and road materials account, so the citizens of Precinct 4 in East Montgomery County will not get the road work they so desperately need. Metts plundered $296,691.76 from the asphalt account. The entire Commissioners Court looked the other way, voted unanimously to let Metts have his way, and take those funds from the citizens. Major vote. 100 points. “No” vote appropriate. No one on the Commissioners Court had the political courage. Passed unanimously.
Vote #43: Metts spending asphalt money to remodel his office for $45,000
Metts is spending $45,000 from his asphalt account to remodel his office, which was already quite opulent. Major vote. 100 points. “No” vote appropriate. No one on the Commissioners Court had the political courage. Passed unanimously.
Vote #44: Terminating IT Director Marshall Shirley, hiring Cobb, Powell as Co-Directors
The Commissioners Court voted to terminate IT Director Marshall Shirley during the executive session and replace him with Chuck Cobb (Precinct 3) and Bobby Powell (IT) as Co-Directors. Cobb will also continue his duties as the NorthStar Director in Precinct 3. 25 points. “Yes” vote appropriate. Passed unanimously, except Meador who didn’t vote and wasn’t in the Courtroom for the final vote.
Vote #45: Tollroad audit funds
The Commissioners Court voted to spend money on auditing the tollroad to support Riley’s and Doyal’s dream tollroad, the $100 million TX 249 Tollway, also known as the Decimation of Hope Highway. 5 points. “No” vote appropriate. Passed 4 to 1 (Noack).
Ratings for Commissioners Court meeting, January 2, 2019:
KEOUGH 175/810. Grade F.
MEADOR 80/810. Grade F.
RILEY 165/810. Grade F.
NOACK 680/810. Grade B.
METTS 235/810. Grade F.
The following are the cumulative scores for Fiscal Year 2019, which began October 1, 2018.
KEOUGH 875/1,040. Grade B.
MEADOR -435/2,255. Grade F.
RILEY -1,305/2,255. Grade F.
NOACK 810/2,255. Grade F.
METTS 135/1,040. Grade F.
The citizens must remain vigilant.