IMAGE: Montgomery County Information Technology Director Marshall Shirley.
Conroe, March 9 – The Golden Hammer caught County officials red-handed attempting to cover up a major sabotage of the County Budget presentation on the County’s so-called website (www.mctx.org). Some time around the morning of Tuesday, March 8, 2017, the Fiscal Year 2017 Montgomery County Budget transmogrified from a $381,269,079 budget to a new $377,354,857 budget. No County officials announced or explained the change.
In the course of investigating the County’s Annual Budget, The Golden Hammer has gathered hard copies of the entire County Budget document. A story in this newspaper on Tuesday, March 7, 2017, entitled “Pro-Government Spending Associations Issue Deceptive Report About County Spending; County Judges, Commissioners Attempt to Blame Everyone Else,” required investigation and review of the County’s presentation on its website. The Budget remained at $381,269,079 until some time during Tuesday morning, March 8, 2017, when the $377,354,857 budget appeared online.
What’s frightening about the secret change on the County’s website is that County Judge Craig Doyal, “chief of staff” jim fredricks who oversees two secretaries in Doyal’s office, and the County Commissioners have all relied upon and even publicly quoted the $381 million figure, revealing that they too worked off of the incorrect budget which the County Information Technology Department showed on the County website.
The County’s IT Department is clearly a complete mess. The new County website, which County IT Director Marshall Shirley and his massive staff developed under the intimate direction of fredricks and Doyal, neither of whom have any IT background or experience, has done little more than obfuscate attempts by citizens and County employees to garner information about the Montgomery County government. For several days in December, whenever a person attempted to access the Montgomery Central Appraisal District, which is supposed to be a separate governmental entity, the Internet user went directly to the www.mctx.org’s website. The Montgomery County District Clerk’s portal on the new County website still experiences major difficulties. Many attorneys and judges could not access court files for several weeks after the fredricks-Doyal-directed disaster came online late in 2016. There are several other problems with links, movement around the site, and other features.
County Auditor Phyllis Martin confirmed the problem to The Golden Hammer late during the afternoon of March 8. Martin explained that “shortly after the 2017 budget was approved, the incorrect file with the $381 million amount was inadvertently posted to the website.” Martin confirmed that the Auditor’s Office realized that the Budget was not correct, had numbers that did not total properly, and had other errors.
The County Auditor explained that her office took the wrong budget down quickly after the October 1, 2016, beginning of Fiscal Year 2017, but, when the new fredricks-Doyal-Shirley website went live in December, 2016, the incorrect file showed up in place of the correct one. Martin confirmed that “they have removed the incorrect file several times since then because it keeps showing up somehow on the County’s website.”
Martin further explained that the difference between the two budget totals reflects the funds taken out of the budget from the capital improvements budget (Non-Departmental Account 409 for budget nerds). At the last minute during their hasty budget “hearing” on September 6, 2016, County Judge Doyal and the Commissioners Court took those funds out of the capital improvements fund (roads, bridges, and other necessary capital improvements) in order to fund the three percent (3%) pay raise Doyal and the Commissioners gave themselves, the three percent (3%) pay raise for County Attorney Jerry Don “Ice Man” Lambright, and the long-deserved pay raises for other County employees as well.
Haste makes waste.