Image: Typical Montgomery County government employee in Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal’s perfect world, as he envisions it.
Conroe, June 9 – The Golden Hammer has confirmed that Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal and his “chief of staff” jim fredricks have instructed County Department Directors not to provide information to or participate in the deliberations of the Citizens Budget Committee with possible discipline or loss of their jobs as a threat. Several County employees and four elected officials, all of whom have requested anonymity for fear of reprisal in their jobs or with their budgets during the upcoming County government budget process, have confirmed that Doyal and fredricks have made it very clear that County employees absolutely shall not provide information to the Citizens Budget Committee.
Furthermore, Doyal and fredricks, particularly the latter, have instructed County employees to wait the full 10 days before responding to any request under the Texas Public Information Act/Open Records Act for information pertaining to Montgomery County government spending or the budget. Doyal and fredricks oppose any citizen oversight of County government spending or the budget process. Like last year, they hope to exclude citizen participation as much as possible and, hopefully, totally.
fredricks has engaged in very frank discussions with new Budget Office Director Amanda Carter that she is not, under any circumstances, to work with or cooperate with the Citizens Budget Committee or its members. Carter has denied that, however. On Saturday, June 9, 2018, Carter issued the following statement:
“I am currently waiting on a response from the County Attorney’s Office on some clarification on the request. Once I get a response from them I will move forward to fulfill your request.“Also for clarification and transparency I have not been told by Judge Doyal or Jim not to engage with the Citizens Budget Commitee. My door and phone lines are always available for feedback and citizen comments or concerns. I am interested to see what the Citizens Budget Committee recommends and how it compares to the preliminary budget.“Thanks for your time and cooperation.“Sincerely,Amanda CarterBudget Officer”
On Monday, June 4, 2018, the Citizens Budget Committee invited 16 Department Directors to attend the Committee meeting this past week to discuss their proposed budgets. With the exception of Montgomery County Attorney J.D. Lambright, who had actually requested an invitation to speak to the Committee even before the Committee invited him, none of the other Department Directors appeared. Some Department Directors politely decline the invitation. Some Department Directors ignored the invitation altogether. Head Janitor Lorena Garcia, who during the 2017 budget hearings, complained that the Citizens Budget Committee had not invited her to speak to them, declined the invitation this year.
Several County Department Directors have provided their proposed budgets to the Citizens Budget Committee but the vast majority have not. Carter still has not responded to the Public Information Act/Open Records Act request for all of the proposed budgets and organizational charts for all County Departments.
A highly secretive budget process during 2017 appears headed for even greater secrecy during the 2018 budget process.
Last year, Doyal and fredricks discouraged several Department heads to work with the Citizens Budget Committee but did not threaten them or order them not to work with the Committee. The problem for Doyal and fredricks, however, is that the Citizens Budget Committee and its members have far greater detailed knowledge of the County government budget – and its workings – than do Doyal and fredricks. Therefore, the intransigence of Doyal and fredricks last year backfired. The Committee provided its final report on the first day of the budget hearings. By the end of the budget process, it became clear that Doyal, Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley, and Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador had very little knowledge about the budget they sought to pass. On September 5, 2017, the day for the final vote on the adoption of the Fiscal Year 2018 Budget, the Citizens Budget Committee raised several major problems with the proposed budget. In response Riley shouted the name of the Lord in vain several times, Doyal shook his head and agreed with Riley, and Meador was to sound asleep to pay attention. Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack decided to go along with the other three, as he is angling for a major salary boost this year. The mess of a Fiscal Year 2018 Budget passed on a 4 to 1 vote.
This year, the budget process looks worse. The new Budget Officer Director has little knowledge of the County government, so she’ll have no material ability to proposed any reductions of wasteful spending. Doyal and Riley have instructed County Department directors that they intend to increase County government spending by more than $45 million this year. Therefore, the Budget Office Director is little more than a cheerleader for baseline budgeting and increased government spending.
Doyal and fredricks do not want citizen oversight or participation in the budget process. They’re willing to engage in trench warfare to stop the advance of information to the Citizens Budget Committee and its members. Interestingly, this year the citizens seem willing to continue fighting to advance their interests as well.