Conroe, March 8 – Montgomery County Attorney J.D. Lambright spoke with The Golden Hammer about the meaning citizens should take from the results of the March 6, 2018, Republican Primary Election, and how his office has treated issues involved in County politics. Lambright has been instrumental in fighting for ethics reform and for openness and transparency in the County government, although his clients have not always cooperated with him or taken his advice.
Lambright observed about Tuesday’s election, “Collectively our voters delivered a resounding message to our elected leaders and to those that want to lead us in the future. Their message was clear and concise. Our voters are insisting on full and complete transparency and openness; they want honest and integrity to be at the forefront of all of our dealings with the public and with the multitude of County vendors; and they want to have full trust in our County government. Anything less is a disservice to those who elected us.”
County Attorney J.D. Lambright: “…voters…message was clear and concise…our voters are insisting on full and complete transparency and openness…”
Lambright and his staff in the County Attorney’s Office drafted a Code of Ethics which the Commissioners Court eventually adopted in March, 2017, after the Texas Department of Transportation threatened to pull road and bridge funding from the State of Texas, since the County government lacked an ethics policy. Although the Code of Ethics lacks any substantial enforcement power, Lambright’s team of attorneys did at least provide a first step in moving the County government towards ethical behavior.
Lambright stood to defend the Code of Ethics after Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley attempted to place his former campaign manager and close political supporter Linda Stuckey and his best friend Tommy Gage on the ethics enforcement committee. Lambright convinced the Commissioners Court to move away from such politically-motivated individuals, although he was unable to convince the Court to reject the nomination of Dale Inman, an individual who has made known his intention to run for political office in the near future.
Lambright explained, “During my campaign for County Attorney in 2012, I stated very simply on many occasions, ‘do the right thing, in the right way, and for the right reasons.’ Over the past 5 years that I have been in office, I have often repeated that same phrase. In fact, I take it so seriously that those words are emblazoned on the front page of our official County Attorney webpage. The voting public wants ethics to take center stage throughout our County government, rather than treating it like it is a four letter word not to be said in public.”
Lambright confronted Montgomery County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport when she attempted to hide her office procedures manual from the public in early December, 2017, after two individuals requested the document under the Texas Public Information Act. Lambright advised Davenport that she should turn the procedures manual over to the public as an “open record,” while Davenport insisted that the County government take the position that the manual is a secret excepted from disclosure. Davenport even went so far as to request the Commissioners Court to declare that the manual was a proprietary document and confidential, although the Commissioners Court declined to do so.
The County Attorney sent this message to the newly-elected individuals who will become public servants in County offices on January 1, 2019: “My staff of fifteen outstanding lawyers and legal support staff is comprised of subject matter experts in every area of the law. I urge our elected leaders, those that will soon be taking office, and our department heads to seek out and follow our legal advice and counsel at every opportunity. We look forward to working with each and every one of them, and we stand ready to serve in any way we can.”