Image: A very serious Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough looked out for citizen interests in many respects during the February 26, 2019, Commissioners Court meeting.
Conroe, March 12 – Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough has begun to show great conservative leadership on the Montgomery County Commissioners Court, despite the pro-Big-Government leanings of a majority of the Commissioners Court. At the February 26, 2019, Commissioners Court meeting, Keough consistently voted the right way on the big issues.
It’s a refreshing change from the corruption and extreme liberalism of former County Judge Craig Doyal and his henchman Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley, both lifetime democrats who run as Republicans only so they could have a chance of winning elections in Montgomery County.
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, February 26, 2019, 9:30 a.m. All Court members were physically present.
Vote #1 Budget Amendments for the current Fiscal Year 2019. This method of budget amendment is a gigantic step forward for the Montgomery County government. Rather than trying to use the pretense of an “emergency” expenditure, which Doyal and Riley regularly used to try to dodge the public hearing and comment provisions of the Texas Local Government Code, Keough has insisted upon legal compliance. With the help of the late Montgomery County Attorney, JD Lambright, Keough has implemented a new procedure budget amendments which actually complies with Texas law. Mere transfers from one already-approved expenditure line to another do not require public hearing and comment.
Nevertheless, there is still a problem. The problem is that money from previous budget years does not fall within the exception to the public hearing and comment provisions of the Texas Local Government Code. Therefore, when the Commissioners Court moves so-called “carryover” funds from previous budget years into this year’s budget to allow spending of those amounts, the Commissioners Court is actually increasing this year’s budget. As a result, the Commissioners Court would need to comply with the public hearing and comment provisions of the Texas Local Government Code.
Even with that remaining problem with the manner in which these budget amendments occur, Keough has implemented changes, with the help of Budget Director Amanda Carter and Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack, which have brought the process of budget amendments much closer to legal compliance. The budget amendments during the February 26 meeting totaled approximately $15,404,989. Major vote worth 25 points. A “No” vote was appropriate, but the measure passed unanimously. Judge Keough gets a 100 point bonus for moving this process in the right direction.
Votes #2 through #12 – Various Purchasing decisions on consent calendar. These issues need to be the subject of open discussion. For example, an request for proposal on the County’s Deferreed Compensation Program is a big deal. It’s an issue the Commissioners Court should discuss, so the public can hear where they’re headed with the citizens’ money. Under the circumstances, a “No” vote is appropriate. Each vote is worth 5 points and yet they voted unanimously to spend the citizens’ money without deliberation. On this issue, Riley, who never prepares for Commissioners Court meetings, obviously didn’t even know for what he had voted.
Vote #13 – The Commissioners Court blindly approved the Payroll Changes. This practice needs to come to an end. 5 points. “No” vote appropriate. Passed unanimously.
Vote #14 – The Commissioners Court blindly approved spending $2,510.18 out of the Justice of the Peace Technology Fund. While that’s an earmarked fund, you would think the Court would exercise some oversight. 1 point. “No” vote appropriate. Passed unanimously.
Vote #15 – The Commissioners Court correctly approved spending $28,100 out of the same Technology Fund as above for JP Precinct 4. The difference, however, is the Justice of the Peace Jason Dunn actually disclosed on the agenda precisely for what he wanted to spend the funds. That’s precisely how this process should work. 1 point. “Yes” vote appropriate. Passed unanimously.
Vote #16 – Precinct 3 Constable Ryan Gable wanted to standardize salaries for all Constable Chief Deputies and Captains across all five precincts. Commissioner Metts correctly expressed some reservations with respect to this proposal. Noack moved to defer this item until the budget process in the summer. 5 points. “Yes” vote appropriate on deferring this item. Passed unanimously.
Votes #17 and #18 – Reappointing Barkley Spikes and Gary Yount to the Airport Advisory Board. An irrelevant vote for a useless Board. 1 point. “Yes” vote is okay. Passed unanimously.
Vote #19 – Metts appointed his political crony Stephanne Davenport, the disgraced former County Treasurer who lost re-election by a 1 to 2 margin against challenger Melanie Pryor Bush in 2018. Davenport is a member of the Davenport Ring, the corrupt group of elected officials beholden to corrupt local political boss Marc Davenport. A “No” vote was appropriate. It passed three (Metts, Riley, Meador) to one (Keough) with Noack timidly abstaining. A “No” vote was appropriate. 100 points.
Votes #20, 21, and 22 – The Commissioners Court approved three tax abatement agreements, which clearly do nothing to spur economic development and interfere with free markets. 25 points each. “No” vote appropriate. Passed unanimously.
Vote #23 – Jeri Williams, the mean-spirited Library Director, wanted more money for her budget to fill some long vacant positions. Clearly, this spending was spending for the sake of spending, a purely bureaucratic power grab. 25 points. “No” vote appropriate. Passed three (Riley, Metts, Meador) to two (Keough, Noack). Keough and Noack each receive 100 point bonuses for standing up to the liberal library bureaucracy.
Vote #24 – The Commissioners Court blindly approved $15,678,077.92 without oversight, discussion, deliberation, or even eyeballing. That’s disgusting. 25 points. “No” vote appropriate. Passed unanimously.
Vote #25 – The Risk Management Department doesn’t want to do its job of adjusting claims against the County for property and casualty damages. Therefore, they wanted the Commissioners Court to approve paying a hefty sum, over $189,000 for a third party administrator to handle those matters instead. The Risk Management Department has terrible management, but the citizens already pay them for doing this work. Therefore, n the motion of Commissioner Noack, the County merely continued to use third party administration of workers compensation claims and turned down the proposal to include property and casualty claims. 25 points. “Yes” vote appropriate. Passed 3 (Noack, Keough, Metts) to 1 (Riley).
Vote #26 – There was a proposal to allow individual Commissioners to open and close various Operator positions within their budgets, as long as the Budget Office approves those changes. That’s a common sense solution. 5 points. “Yes” vote appropriate.
Ratings for Commissioners Court meeting, February 26, 2019:
KEOUGH 363/349. Grade A+.
MEADOR 13/349. Grade F.
RILEY 13/349. Grade F.
NOACK 163/349. Grade F.
METTS 38/349. Grade C.
The following are the cumulative scores for Fiscal Year 2019, which began October 1, 2018.
KEOUGH 1,594/1,720. Grade A-.
MEADOR -366/2,935. Grade F.
RILEY -1,136/2,935. Grade F.
NOACK 1,334/2,935. Grade F.
METTS 429/1,720. Grade F.
The citizens must remain vigilant.