Conroe, February 12 – The final installment of what The Golden Hammer had intended would be a three-part exploration of the most expensive County Attorney in Texas history, Jerry Don “J.D.” Lambright, focuses on the abusive decisions he has made in providing poor legal advice to the Montgomery County government, which have cost the County – and taxpayers – tens of millions of dollars. Lambright needs to refocus, come to a quick understanding that his duty is to serve the citizens, and learn that helping the County Judge and the Commissioners get away with doing whatever they want is unacceptable, both as an attorney and as a person in public office.
Lambright’s “Look the Other Way” Legal Opinion About Doyal, Halff Associates, Inc., and Bobby Adams
Lambright provided a legal opinion to County Judge Craig Doyal on January 16, 2015, that Doyal would not need to abstain from voting on Halff Associate, Inc., contracts with Montgomery County, in an obvious effort to please Doyal. Since the legal opinion concerned Doyal’s individual actions, even as an elected official, Doyal should have sought an opinion from private legal counsel. Lambright works for the County and his ethical obligations are to the County and the citizens, not to an individual elected official.
Section 176.003 of the Texas Local Government Code defines conflicts of interest to include the agent of a vendor who has a business relationship with an elected official considering a contract with the vendor. In this instance, Doyal is a co-owner and business partner with Bobby J. Adams in a company named W.S. & G, L.L.C. Lambright knew about that relationship between Doyal and Adams. Adams is a Vice President of Halff Associates, Inc., an engineering firm for which Adams manages their Montgomery County regional office. Lambright knew about that relationship as well. W.S.&G. enters into government contracts and subcontracts with various governmental entities. It is unclear whether Lambright knew all of the facts with respect to W.S. & G.’s business operations.
Lambright did know, however, that Doyal wanted to vote in favor of a $1,987,000 contract in which Adams’ Halff would provide a completely unnecessary service of managing the $100 million Tx-249 “Decimation of Hope Highway” project that Tx-DOT would have funded anyway. Doyal and Commissioner Charlie Riley have pushed Montgomery County funding forward of that engineer and contractor boondoggle, so that their major financial backers could enjoy the massive revenue the project is generating at the far southwest edge of Montgomery County.
In Lambright’s personal opinion letter to Doyal, Lambright seemed to accept, explicitly, Doyal’s promise that he was not interested in the Halff contracts with the county. At the December 13, 2016, Commissioners Court meeting, Halff’s James Baker confirmed in open court that Doyal was receiving funds for Doyal’s legal defense from Halff although Baker did not know how much Doyal’s legal defense fund had received.
As a result, Doyal pushed through the Halff contract, additional Halff contracts with Montgomery County, and the entire Tx-249 road extension project. The $100 million project is a complete waste of money. TxDOT would construct the highway on its own anyway. Even if it didn’t do so, that massive amount of County money would be better spent on road projects that provide sorely-need mobility to Montgomery County.
Lambright has enabled the expenditure of approximately $12 million of County general funds to date on the Decimation of Hope Highway project, while Doyal and Riley have made clear that another $88 million of expenditures will soon follow.
It all sprang from Lambright’s irresponsible legal opinion that was both wrong and completely outside of the legal duty of a County Attorney who should be working for the County and the citizens, not the private business interests of one elected official.
Slowing Down Budget-Cutting with Opacity
Where Lambright has gotten the biggest “attaboys” from County Judge Doyal and his freespending allies is in Lambright’s abusive tactics to prevent the disclosure of County information to citizens who request documents and information under the Texas Public Information Act/Open Records Act. A little background is necessary.
Lambright’s immediate predecessor as County Attorney was David Walker. Before Walker was County Attorney Frank Bass. Both Bass and Walker operated the County Attorney’s Office with utmost integrity, independence, and the citizens’ interests in mind.
Lambright, however, has overseen some important policies to slow down government reform inside Montgomery County. Not only has he condoned the locked doors and thick walls shielding County employees from citizens who have inquiries, but also Lambright has made Open Records requests far more difficult. Previously, a citizen who provided an Open Records request to Walker would receive the documents and the County’s response, even if the request involved many different County departments. Lambright, however, has instituted two policies to make it more difficult to obtain County information for citizen budget-cutting proposals or otherwise.
First, Lambright has now shifted the central repository of Open Records requests to the County Judge’s Office. The problem, however, is that the County Judge, Doyal, has refused to fulfill his duties as the chief administrative officer for the purpose of handling Open Records requests. Instead Doyal has joined Lambright’s second “game.”
Second, Lambright now requires citizens to send Open Records requests to each County Department that might have the responsive documents. That creates several problems. Citizens must guess which County Department would have the documents. Citizens must guess how to contact County Departments which are often quite unresponsive under Doyal’s management schemes. Citizens must guess what documents they’re actually seeking, because Lambright has fostered an anti-citizen attitude across several County Departments who receive his direction behind-the-scenes on Open Records matters.
An interesting issue which has arisen regarding Open Records requests is that the Courier blog, The Golden Hammer’s publisher Eric Yollick, and others have requested text messages between County Commissioners Court members concerning County business. The Court members regularly text-message each other, because they know that Lambright has and will continue to run interference and prevent the production of those messages. Lambright has claimed a “general right to privacy” as an exception to the Open Records Act. Texas courts have made clear that there simply is no such exception to the production of County documents.
It’s a mess which Lambright has created. Frank Bass and David Walker enforced the policy of “openness” under Texas law. Lambright seeks to circumvent that policy and help Doyal do so as well.
Although Jim Clark and Todd “Boss” Hayden caused most of the Animal Shelter problems which occurred in at the Montgomery County Animal Shelter during 2015 and 2016, Lambright definitely assisted them. First, at Clark’s request, Lambright continuously opposed and advised against permitting private funding for the Animal Shelter, even in the face of offers of millions of dollars in private contributions to support the County-funded operation.
Second, Lambright and encouraged “Boss” Hayden’s bizarre partial disclosure and then hiding an alleged 26-page report that Hayden claimed showed “dogs sold for cash” profits in previous years at the Animal Shelter. Lambright worked very hard to help Hayden prevent disclosure of the report. Disclosure would have been very important to the animal-caring community and to taxpayers. After Hayden claimed to provide the report to a young ABC-13 reporter, and claimed that he was a “law enforcement officer” to that same reporter, Lambright fought to prevent the disclosure of the report which would have brought the mischaracterizations and lies of Hayden to a screeching halt. Meanwhile, hundreds of dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens died in Hayden’s euthanasia chamber, while Lambright helped Hayden and Clark hide Animal Shelter documents.
Third, bizarrely, when a group of citizens met with Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack at the Animal Shelter to tour the facility and provide comments and suggestions to Noack how to reform the Shelter rapidly and end the animal cruelty and waste of tax dollars, Lambright sent Assistant County Attorney B.D. Griffin to intimidate the citizens during the tour. Several citizens complained about Griffin’s odd behavior that seemed more to act as a spy of their activities than to assist them in making the Shelter a better place.
The Golden Hammer’s three-part series on Lambright became a 6-part adventure when County employee tips, reader input, and documents revealed so much more to the Lambright debacle. The following is a synopsis of the five previous articles.
“J.D. Lambright, Most Expensive County Attorney in Texas History, Part 1 of 3” (February 1, 2017) – Lambright has the highest salary of any elected official in the entire State of Texas, well over $196,144.57, more than the Governor, Attorney General, and U.S. Senators make. He misunderstands that his “client” is Montgomery County, not the individuals who are County employees. There’s a big difference.
“County Attorney J.D. Lambright, Part 2: Slime in the Ice Machine” (February 2, 2017) – Lambright’s expenditure of $4,114 for a state-of-the-restaurant ice machine inside his office is a giant symbol (holding 523 pounds of ice!) of government waste and anti-citizen attitudes. He has also wasted many tens of thousands of public dollars on decorating his office. His Departmental budget is out of control and exploding at a massive rate of increase.
“State Bar Reprimands County Attorney Lambright For Dismissing Wrongful Death Lawsuit Without Telling His Client About It” (February 3, 2017) – The State Bar of Texas reprimanded Lambright for dismissing a wrongful death lawsuit without telling his client, so that he wouldn’t appear to have a conflict of interest with Montgomery County while running for public office. The reprimand was in 2014, while Lambright served as Montgomery County Attorney.
“Lambright Employees’ Comments About ‘Ice in the Slime Machine’ Display Terrible Anti-Citizen Culture He’s Engendered” (February 5, 2017) – Lambright has fostered an anti-citizen, pro-spending culture inside of his County Attorney’s Office.
“County Attorney Lambright Ghost-Edits, Partly Writes Fake News Story in Courier Blog to Slam Critic Yollick; Agador Spartacus Exposed” (February 10, 2017) – Lambright spent County time and used County resources to ghost-write a fake news article about the publisher of this newspaper. The Courier’s Catherine Dominguez lent her byline to the ghost-writing. After the article came out, Lambright either used or worked closely with the person using a fake Facebook account under the name “Agador Spartacus” (a gay butler) to make an attack so vicious against the publisher that even the Courier blog’s editor took down the repeated posts.
There’s actually a lot more to the Lambright failure. The Golden Hammer will continue to investigate and report on the “most expensive County Attorney in Texas history.”
Lambright needs to control his anger, clean up his act, and work for the citizens.