Image: One of the pages of information County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport withheld from public view, claiming that it was a trade secret, proprietary information, and a key to how to “manipulate” the County finance system.
Conroe, March 9 – After Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton ordered her to do so, Montgomery County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport finally released her office procedures manual at 4:37 p.m., by email on Thursday March 8, 2018. Davenport had claimed the office procedures manual required withholding from public view after two individuals – Conroe ISD Board President Melanie Pryor Bush and Justin Pulliam – requested the document from her, pursuant to the Texas Public Information/Open Records Act. Davenport claimed that the office procedures manual was a trade secret, proprietary, and contained the key to how to “manipulate” the County finance system, which Davenport claimed she does routinely.
Davenport even went so far as to request that the Montgomery County Commissioners Court declare her procedures manual a trade secret to justify her withholding the information at the December 12, 2017, Commissioners Court meeting. The Commissioners Court declined to do so without a vote. Meanwhile, former County Treasurer Martha Gustavsen, Davenport’s beloved predecessor who retired in June, 2013, made clear that there was nothing in the procedures manual that could be a secret.
Yesterday, Gustavsen’s call that the procedures manual contained nothing secretive or proprietary proved correct. In fact, the office procedures manual, according to Attorney General Ken Paxton, was only to be redacted with some personnel names and identifying numbers. Davenport carelessly released the office procedures manual to the family of convicted felons in East Montgomery County who have worked closely with Davenport during the Primary Election campaign with the social security numbers of certain County employees still emblazoned inside of it! Last night, at a few minutes after 10 p.m., Melanie Pryor Bush, who won the Republican nomination for County Treasurer on Tuesday, March 6, worked frantically with County Attorney J.D. Lambright to claw back the procedures manual in order to redact the social security numbers to protect the employees whose identifying information Davenport had carelessly left in the document she produced to the public.
It’s unclear whether the family of convicted felons has returned the manual that Davenport released to them containing more than 15 County employee social security numbers. (This occasion was not the first when Davenport released legally-protected confidential personnel information to unauthorized individuals.)
In reality, the procedures manual was a bunch of junk. A supermajority of the pages were copies of policies the Commissioners Court had previously passed in open Commissioners Court meetings.
It’s very clear that the real reason Davenport held the manual back so that voters could not see it before the March 6 Republican Primary Election was that there is nothing of substance contained within her entire 800 page manual.
Beware! The remainder of this article contains top secret information that you absolutely may not read
Among the pages that Davenport claimed were top secret and should not be subject to public view were pages discussing how to recognize United States currency, including the following super secret information:
- The $1 bill has a portrait of George Washington on it.
- The $5 bill has a portrait of Abraham Lincoln on it.
- “The value amount of each bill is numerically posted in all four corners on both sides.”
- “The signature of the Treasurer of the United States appears on the bottom left of the face of the bill.”
The top secret page containing the foregoing secrets is at the top of this article.
Davenport also provided guidance to her County government employee staff, which includes County Judge Craig Doyal’s daughter, with respect to the method of “counting coins.” Davenport divulged the following information when she released her procedures manual:
“Seven kinds of U.S. coins are issued,” Davenport secretly confided in her office staff. A coin with a $0.01 value is named a “penny.” A coin with a $0.05 value is named a “nickel.” A coin with a $0.25 value is named a “Quarter.”
As you celebrate the fact that some County employee spent time writing such a policy, and others spent time reading it, please note that Davenport’s manual also included the following directions: “Count the pile [of money] twice…If your totals do not agree, repeat the count until they do.”
If identifying the name of the paper currency with a portrait of Benjamin Franklin on it and the number “100” in all four corners is a “policy” and “procedure” of the County Treasurer that requires an 800-page manual, then there’s not a lot of surprise that the Montgomery County government squanders $328 million on approximately half of that in services each year.