Conroe, February 23 – Corrupt incumbent County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport, the fourth or fifth wife of corrupt local political boss Marc Davenport depending upon how one counts, finds herself in an uphill battle for re-election in the March 6, 2018, Republican Primary Election. Even Martha Gustavsen, the beloved former Montgomery County Treasurer whose retirement in 2013 resulted in the appointment of Stephanne Davenport as County Treasurer, has endorsed Davenport’s opponent, CISD Board President and successful businesswoman Melanie Pryor Bush.
It’s not her marriage that is the problem. Rather, it’s Stephanne Davenport’s personal viciousness towards those who dare disagree with her that has become the issue. Her open dependence upon Marc Davenport to write her speeches, speak on her behalf when communicating to the news media, and set her Treasurer’s Office policies have not helped her make the argument that she deserves more time in the Treasurer’s job.
Stephanne Davenport’s lack of transparency as County Treasurer
On December 1, 2017, Bush made an Open Records Act request to Davenport for her procedures manual and accounting procedures as well as some other government records. Bush is running against Davenport for County Treasurer as a reformer in the March 6, 2018, Republican Primary Election.
Almost immediately, Davenport contacted the County Attorney’s Office to seek help in keeping her County Treasurer procedures manual and accounting procedures secret. Assistant County Attorney John McKinney contacted Bush and told her verbally that Davenport would only allow Bush to view the procedures manual at the Sadler Administration Building but would not allow Bush to have copies of the open records. Bush told McKinney that she would agree to the procedure initially but reserved the right to receive copies.
Meanwhile, McKinney informed the Texas Attorney General’s Open Records Division of the proposed procedure. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s Office immediately informed McKinney that the procedure of only allowing viewing of the documents but not copying, was not compliant with the Texas Open Records Act. McKinney told Davenport on Wednesday, December 13, 2017, who then instructed the County Attorney’s Office to withhold the procedures manual and accounting procedures entirely.
On Thursday, December 14, 2017, McKinney sent Bush a letter on behalf of Davenport formally to respond to Bush’s Open Records Act request. Davenport, through McKinney, told Bush that the County Treasurer’s Office accounting procedures and procedures manual would not be disclosed. Davenport has instructed McKinney to seek a formal opinion from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on whether she must withhold the documents. Davenport has also already instructed McKinney and the County Attorney’s Office to sue Paxton in the likely event that Paxton will rule that Davenport must turn over the documents!
Clearly, Davenport knows that Texas Attorney General Paxton will rule against her, but she doesn’t want the public or Bush to see her accounting procedures (or lack thereof) or her procedures manual (or lack thereof) prior to the March 6, 2018, Republican Primary Election.
The Golden Hammer broke the story concerning Davenport’s efforts to hide her office policies from Bush and the public on December 16. Please see “Montgomery County Treasurer Davenport To Violate Texas Open Records Act, Texas Open Meetings Act In Attempt At Government Secrecy,” The Golden Hammer, December 16, 2017.
During the December 19 Commissioners Court meeting, Davenport asked the Commissioners Court to declare office procedures confidential, but the Court refused. Davenport told the Commissioners Court that this situation is “the Melanie and Eric show,” referring to Bush and to the Publisher of Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper. In reality, Davenport wanted the Commissioners Court of Montgomery County somehow to overrule Texas law by superseding the Texas Public Information Act/Open Records Act. Davenport’s attempt to get the Commissioners Court to override Texas law to protect her politically would seem more to constitute “the Stephanne and Marc show,” referring, of course, to Davenport and her husband corrupt political boss Marc Davenport who attended the Commissioners Court with her to cheer for his wife’s bizarre actions.
Davenport’s attempt to get the Commissioners Court to override Texas law to protect her politically would seem more to constitute “the Stephanne and Marc show,” referring, of course, to Davenport and her husband corrupt political boss Marc Davenport who attended the Commissioners Court with her to cheer for his wife’s bizarre actions.
During the Commissioners Court meeting, Lambright, who has reviewed the County Treasurer’s office procedures manual himself, made clear that he would not condone Davenport’s wrongful withholding of the documents from Bush and the general public. Lambright also said that neither he nor his assistant county attorneys would help Davenport hide the documents or try to convince the Attorney General that she should do so.
On December 22, Davenport sent a poorly written letter to Attorney General Paxton on her own behalf in which she begged the Attorney General to rule that her office procedures somehow constituted “credit card, debit card, charge card, and access device numbers.” (Emphasis added.) An office procedures manual is just that: a manual of office procedures, not account numbers. Bush has made clear she didn’t request any account numbers.
In fact, it’s highly questionable why Davenport would include credit card, debit card, charge card, or access device numbers in an office procedure manual. Perhaps, what Davenport also seeks to hide is her willingness to subject the Montgomery County government to a security breach by including account numbers in an operating procedure manual.
Desperately, Davenport also claimed that Attorney General Paxton should find that her Treasurer’s Office procedure manual somehow “constitutes security or infrastructure issues for computers.” Once again, Davenport clearly suffers from confusion. While her husband, corrupt political boss Marc Davenport, has attempted to take charge of the County’s Information Technology Department – please see, for example, “Montgomery County Government ‘For Sale’ (Part 11): Marc Davenport’s In Charge,” The Golden Hammer, December 5, 2017 – there is no indication whatsoever that County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport has either competence or has in actuality prepared procedures for security or infrastructure issues for computers. That’s what the Information Technology Department of the County government should and, mostly, does do.
In her December 22, 2017, letter to Attorney General Paxton, Davenport tried to argue that her Treasurer’s Office procedure manual should be confidential, because other documents that have nothing whatsoever with the information Bush requested should be confidential.
Bush’s December 27 letter to Attorney General Paxton
Bush responded to Davenport’s December 22 letter to Attorney General Paxton with a letter of her own.
Bush noted that neither she nor the general public have requested any account numbers nor have she or the public sought information technology network security information.
Instead, Bush made clear,
“The reason for Bush’s open records request is simple – to examine the adequacy and efficiency of how the Treasurer’s Office accounts for taxpayer funds. The procedure manual should explain the Treasurer’s accounting procedures. Evaluating those procedures goes straight to the merits of election the best candidate.”
Bush concluded her detailed discussion of the Texas Public Information Act (“PIA”)/Open Records Act with the following:
“In her letter’s conclusion, Davenport recites a list of the frauds she believes could be perpetrated against Montgomery County should her accounting procedures manual fall into the wrong hands. But the Texas Legislature has already weighed her concerns – against our state’s overriding public policy of open government. Any concerns that outweigh the policy of governing in the daylight are reflected in the PIA’s exemptions. But none apply here.”
Bush requested that Attorney General Paxton render “a reasonably prompt opinion” well before the March 6, 2018, Republican Primary Election. Of course, Davenport will likely file suit to make sure the document doesn’t see the light of day prior to the election.
Nepotism and outright dishonesty
Montgomery County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport lied to the Commissioners Court and to the public on at least two counts with respect to her “reorganization” of her 6-person County Department which the Commissioners Court approved on a 3 to 1 vote (Noack absent) on March 14, 2017.
After Montgomery County Human Resources (HR) Director Dodi Shaw finally broke her silence and spoke with The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, this newspaper confirmed that County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport lied (1) when she told the Commissioners Court on March 14, 2017, that someone in her Treasurer’s department had made a “mistake” in preparing a Personnel Description Questionnaire (PDQ) showing that the County Judge’s daughter would receive a substantial promotion to Assistant County Treasurer with a substantial raise as part of the “reorganization,” and (2) when Davenport repeatedly told numerous citizens who asked that promoting the County Judge’s daughter was never part of the proposed reorganization.
September 26, 2016, meeting between Davenport, the HR directors, and the County Judge’s daughter
On September 26, 2016, Davenport brought the County Judge’s daughter, who is a payroll assistant in her department, to a meeting with HR Director Dodi Shaw and HR Assistant Director Kathy Flowers in the conference room of the HR Department. Davenport requested the meeting to discuss a proposed “reorganization” of the 6-person County Treasurer’s Department.
Shaw and Flowers have confirmed precisely where each of the meeting participants sat during the meeting and appear to have a vivid recollection of the events which transpired. Flowers and Shaw have explained that they sat on the north side of the conference table with Davenport and Judge Doyal’s daughter on the south side.
The meeting began with Davenport trying to seek assurance, wrongfully, that “all conversations within this room [would be] kept confidential” as Davenport herself admitted in a letter she wrote to jim fredricks, Doyal’s “chief of staff” on January 9, 2017. The State of Texas has a policy of “open government” and “transparency.” Davenport’s attempt at secrecy started the meeting badly. In her January 9, 2017, memorandum, Davenport admitted that “I presented Dodi [Shaw, HR Director] with PDQs [Position Description Questionnaires] for 6 full-time positions and 1 part-time position.” Shaw, in her February 13, 2017, letter rebutting several accusations Davenport made against her, agreed with that portion of Davenport’s description of the meeting.
But where the events got a bit hazy was in the origin of the PDQs. Davenport has refused to disclose who actually prepared the PDQs.
Since Shaw and Flowers have now disclosed that Davenport physically handed the PDQs to Flowers across the conference room table during the September 26 meeting, it’s quite difficult for Davenport not to claim authorship or for Davenport to attempt to shift the blame for the content of the PDQs to someone else in her Treasurer’s Department or otherwise.
The September 6 PDQ stated it was “PREPARED BY STEPHANNE DAVENPORT, MONTGOMERY COUNTY TREASURER.” The September 6 PDQ proposed a promotion of County Judge Craig Doyal’s daughter to the position of “ASSISTANT COUNTY TREASURER.” There’s no subtlety about that.
Since we now know that Davenport physically handed the PDQs to Flowers at the beginning of the meeting and the first page of the PDQs contained those statements about their preparation and the promotion for Doyal’s daughter, it’s all now very clear.
Autumn 2016 machinations
In an exclusive interview with The Golden Hammer, Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack explained that “During a break in a Tuesday Commissioners Court meeting in late September or early October, 2016, Judge Doyal asked me whether I’d support a promotion of his daughter Lindsey Doyal to the position of County Treasurer. I told him that he’d have to explain that rationale for that promotion to the entire Commissioners Court before I decided anything like that.”
The Publisher of The Golden Hammer received more than two dozen tips during October and November, 2016, from multiple County employees that Davenport intended to promote the County Judge’s daughter as part of her departmental “reorganization.” When the Publisher asked Davenport and her husband, they both denied that there was any proposal to promote the Judge’s daughter. (Of course, during that time frame, The Golden Hammer did not yet exist and the Publisher hadn’t seen the actual September 26 PDQs.)
Both Davenports lied about whether a proposal to promote Lindsey Doyal was on the table.
March 14, 2017, Commissioners Court meeting
During her fiery presentation to the Commissioners Court, on March 14, 2017, which she read entirely from a prepared statement, Stephanne Davenport accused Shaw and the entire HR Department of a “huge lack of integrity.” Davenport then proceeded to tell the shocked room full of people that she does not “exploit” or “magnify” mistakes. Davenport told the Commissioners Court that the draft PDQs were “mistakes” but she refused to identify who drafted the document, which states “PREPARED BY STEPHANNE DAVENPORT” which she physically handed to Flowers during the September 26 meeting. Davenport told the Commissioners Court that she refused to disclose the document author because “mistakes are not exploited or magnified in my Department.”
Stephanne Davenport, County Judge Doyal, and Doyal’s daughter are close friends. Davenport and Doyal’s daughter have traveled together and gone on vacation together. Doyal contributes substantial funds to Davenport’s political campaigns. Doyal paid Marc Davenport $5,000 as a fee to represent Doyal in negotiations for a November 2015 road bond referendum.
In an exclusive interview with The Golden Hammer on February 19, 2017, Stephanne Davenport stated, “By definition, nepotism is an abuse of power. Nepotism does not occur in my department. Yes, I house the daughter of the County Judge. However, the County Judge does not interfere with the day to day operations of my employees.”
Despite recognizing that nepotism “is an abuse of power,” Davenport has pushed her political career forward with nepotism as an engine. It’s important to recall that Davenport’s friendship with Doyal’s daughter was an important reason Doyal, then as Precinct 2 County Commissioner, pushed Davenport as the appointee to replace Gustavsen.
Hatefulness towards those outside of Davenport Ring – “Hit List,” Ham texts, McRae
Stephanne Davenport went around the small group of people who attended County Judge Craig Doyal’s June 20, 2017, fundraiser (for his legal defense) and confronted those individuals who have “liked” or “friended” on Facebook her electoral opponent, Melanie Pryor Bush. During each confrontation, Davenport told several of her targeted ones that she was “taking notes” and “keeping a list” of who those people are and when they dare to show friendship or liking towards Bush.
Davenport’s “Hit List” included the chief of staff of one of Montgomery County’s members in the Texas House of Representatives, a local photographer and event promoter, and several other individuals. One of the anonymous sources commented to The Golden Hammer, “Stephanne Davenport must think she’s back in the 7th grade with these antics.”
Sadly, Davenport is not a 7th grader. Rather, she is the Montgomery County Treasurer who is responsible for the inflow and outflow of a half a billion County tax dollars each year and not someone who should engage in childish retributions.
The Davenports’ modus operandi
Both Davenports threaten elected officials, such as Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal and City Councilman Duane Ham, who dare even to socialize or communicate with people the Davenports don’t like. Those people whom the Davenports don’t like are, in their view, the “haters” to use Stephanne Davenport’s terminology.
A second method which Stephanne and Marc Davenports utilize to attempt to compete as consultants and politicians is far more disruptive to the operations and management of the Montgomery County government, however. In his own words, Marc Davenport, who sent a lengthy and very threatening email to the husband of one of his public relations competitors (with name of competitor changed to “PR Consultant” to protect the victim) on January 3, 2015, included the following threat:
“Stephanne and I have no social conflicts personally or professionally with PR Consultant and want none, as of right now we know of no conflicts or at least not with anyone close to PR Consultant. So if that develops PR Consultant caused it. People in government know you, not her. My clients will not work with her clients on any level or they will not be my clients. None currently exist that create this conflict. As long as she does not attempt to disrupt or insert herself, there should be no conflicts.”
Stephanne Davenport didn’t like what she saw on May 25, 2017, when Ham dared to appear at a community event with some people Stephanne Davenport doesn’t like. She also didn’t like some other comments which she attributed to Ham, who dared to criticize the Davenports. At 7:17 p.m. that evening, Stephanne Davenport sent a text message to Ham in which she drew a line in the sand in order to express her hatred towards Schoettle and Mrs. X (name changed to protect her), and Ham:
“So Duane, Melanie and…[Mrs. X] walk into a bar. Dead. To. Me. Steph”
“Ok Steph I’m taking it your mad at me! You call with a problem I try to fix the problem and your pissed at me? Duane”
Montgomery County Treasurer Davenport finally replied,
“Not mad. Done. You can call Marc if you need. Our team doesn’t roll with those who roll with the haters. Steph”
Later that evening, Thursday, May 25, Marc Davenport spoke with Ham by telephone. The conversation did not progress too well. During the telephone conversation, Davenport began screaming at Ham and accused Ham of colluding with Marc and Stephanne Davenport’s political enemies. Ham responded, “Well, you talk to Yollick.” Ham accused Davenport of “blackmail.” At that point in time Marc Davenport screamed a phrase described below and hung up. Davenport text messaged Ham and described the entire conversation,
“You [Ham] accused me [Marc Davenport] of collusion with yollick. I told you to go f–k your self and hung up. If you don’t take pictures of you f–king yourself and send them to me there will be nothing to blackmail you with. Melanie [Schoettle], Nathan [Arrazate], Margie [Taylor, a public relations consultant], Gary [Henson, a GOP activist and friend of Ham’s], Kristin [Leggett] are a constant source of undermining. You feeding these people and empowering them to continue to try to weaken is the issue. If you act like one of them you will be treated like one of them. Mark”
As a public servant, County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport does not understand that she must follow Texas public policy regarding openness in government, that candor is a fundamental part of openness, that nepotism is an abuse of power, and that it simply is not her place as a servant to determine with which other public servants she chooses to work.
In contrast, her challenger Melanie Pryor Bush’s tenure as President of the Conroe ISD Board of Trustees revealed that Bush had no patience for secret backroom deals when other Board members and the District administration sought to kill much-needed tax reappraisals for Tropical Storm Harvey victims. Bush wouldn’t put up with such corruption. She fought for the taxpayers and got the job done in the open, in an open meeting, with open discussion.
(In secrecy, the reappraisals would have died, but in the open Bush’s colleagues were afraid to vote against the proposal.)