Image: Patricia Reaves, Montgomery County Treasurer’s Office.
Conroe, March 26 – The Golden Hammer has obtained documents that reveal more on the full story about why Montgomery County Treasurer’s Office employee Patricia Reaves suffered a demotion on January 10, 2014, which County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport closely followed with hiring County Judge Craig Doyal’s daughter, Lindsey Doyal, into her Department with a major promotion and raise. The truth about Reaves’ demotion shows how dangerous nepotistic hiring can be, since Doyal was hired on the heels of a serious problem inside the County government which County leaders should have addressed with careful posting, selection, and hiring of an experienced Payroll Coordinator rather than a precipitous hire of the County Judge’s daughter into a job for which she was unqualified. (At the time Craig Doyal was the Precinct 2 County Commissioner running for County Judge.)
In addition to obtaining the documents showing precisely what happened with Reaves, Doyal, Doyal, and Davenport, seven County employees spoke with The Golden Hammer on condition of anonymity for fear of their jobs and the “toxic secretive workplace” (to quote one of them) where the County Judge and others hound employees who dare provide information to the public. In recent months, at least one employee lost her job in the County Auditor’s Office for speaking to a private citizen. Additionally, County Judge Craig Doyal terminated the Director of Purchasing, Darlou Zenor, after she made the “mistake” of providing a public document to a private citizen pursuant to the Texas Open Records Act.
In addition to Craig Doyal’s “Hit List” which clearly drives many County employment, management, and operational decisions (see the most recent example in The Golden Hammer‘s March 25, 2017, article, “Montgomery County’s latest scandal: Pin-Gate, the ‘Hit List’ rears its ugly head”) Doyal has worked with his County Attorney Jerry Don “Ice Man” Lambright to slow down responses to Public Information Act/Open Records Act requests, to intimidate employees so that they will not provide information to the public, to lock down County offices, and to keep openness and transparency as far away from the County government as possible.
The giant calamity which struck the County’s bank account remained hidden. No elected official or County employee ever divulged the truth to the citizens.
Reaves’ Terrible Mistake; The Catastrophe Hidden from the Commissioners Court and the Citizens
By all accounts, Patricia Reaves is a very nice lady, highly qualified, and extremely competent. Numerous County employees have reported to The Golden Hammer that Reaves, whom Davenport promoted to “Bail Bond Assistant/Deputy Treasurer” within the County Treasurer’s Department on December 7, 2016, has prepared and managed the County’s biweekly payroll, despite her official demotion as a result of the events of January 9, 2014. Here’s what happened.
Her background is important. Reaves is an experienced payroll professional. She graduated from Van Vleck High School in Van Vleck, Matagorda County, in 1970. She worked as a Payroll Clerk for Whataburger Corporation, a Special Projects Assistant to Chicago Bridge & Iron Corporation, a Regional Manager for Primerica Financial Services, a payroll assistant and manager for Michael L. Hamilton, Inc., and a Tax Professional for H&R Block prior to beginning her work for Montgomery County in the Treasurer’s Department in 2006.
Reaves was the Payroll Coordinator who prepared Montgomery County’s biweekly payroll and worked directly with the County’s various banks and other financial institutions to ensure that the payroll occurred accurately and efficiently. The County does its payroll by direct deposit into employees’ checking or other designated accounts. It’s a complex job because many County employees have wage withholding, child support garnishments, tax levies, or other liens or encumbrances on their paychecks.
There appears to be some disagreement between Reaves and her boss, Davenport, over precisely what occurred on January 9 and 10, 2014, but here are the basic facts. Payday was Friday, January 10, 2014, for that biweekly payroll period. Early in the morning on Thursday, January 9, 2014, Davenport, the County Treasurer who did not check the payroll herself, discovered that one of the County’s bank accounts had a negative balance, also known as an “overdraft,” of $2,525,203.37.
What had happened was that Woodforest National Bank had somehow received an instruction from the County Treasurer’s Office to direct deposit the entire Montgomery County payroll one day early, at 8 a.m., January 9, rather than the correct date of Friday, January 10. Davenport initially discovered the problem not from the $-2,525,203.37 balance in the County’s checking account but rather when one County department head sent an email to Davenport at 8:57 a.m. inquiring why her paycheck was direct-deposited into her Wells Fargo checking account one day early.
Davenport recounted in the written file that “At this point, I knew an unfunded payroll had been released a day early.” After that major discovery, Davenport confronted Reaves and there is a substantial disagreement between them over what happened next in their communications.
Later that day, without disclosing the major problem to the entire County Commissioners Court, which has a Constitutional duty to oversee all County operations and departments, Davenport imposed a “third-level discipline” on Reaves and demoted her from Payroll Coordinator to the position of Administrative Assistant I with a substantial reduction in Reaves’ rate of pay. Davenport noted in Reaves’ file that “the severity of the offense is so serious that this level of discipline is appropriate.” Reaves’ demotion took effect on Friday, January 10, 2014.
Reaves’ error in the payroll revealed how important it was not only to transmit proper instructions to the County’s financial institutions but also how important it was for the County Treasurer herself and for the Payroll Coordinator to check those instructions and to coordinate the transfer of funds into the appropriate County checking account in order to cover the County’s payroll obligations.
The Golden Hammer confirmed with two members of the County Commissioners Court at the time that they never received any notification of this major problem which occurred in the County Treasurer’s Department.
It turns out that one person, however, knew what was happening. Precinct 2 County Commissioner Craig Doyal, the father of Lindsey Doyal, a young administrative assistant who had worked in the County Treasurer’s Department but then obtained a promotion by transferring to the County Infrastructure Department working under its Director, Mark Bosma, in July, 2013. That job transfer didn’t work out so well, because Bosma was a workaholic who expected his employees to work hard with him. It got even worse for Lindsey Doyal when, on October 11, 2013, Bosma announced that he was running for County Judge against Lindsey Doyal’s father in the 2014 Republican Primary Election.
Lindsey Doyal’s Promotion
With the demotion of Reaves, a nice job opened for Lindsey Doyal with a promotion and a raise. Treasurer Davenport hired Lindsey Doyal into the position without formal job posting, without interviewing any experienced payroll professionals for the Payroll Coordinator position, and without any notice to the Commissioners Court of the severity of the problem which arose in the payroll function of the Treasurer’s Office.
On January 27, 2014, Craig Doyal second and voted for a motion in the County Commissioner’s Court to increase his daughter’s salary again and promote her to the position of Payroll Coordinator from which Doyal and Davenport had removed Reaves. This major promotion occurred even though Lindsey Doyal was a young and inexperienced employee. Today, Lindsey Doyal remains the Payroll Coordinator, but numerous County employees have confirmed that Reaves actually performs the payroll functions for Montgomery County.
After a $2.5 million problem, obviously a major one, neither County Judge Craig Doyal or Treasurer Davenport shared the importance of having a seasoned, experienced, and qualified Payroll Coordinator with the County Commissioners Court or the citizens of Montgomery County who are clearly entitled to that information under the State of Texas’s public policy of openness and transparency, which the Texas Legislature has mandated for all local governments.
To quote Davenport herself, “By definition, nepotism is an abuse of power.”
More Nepotism Coming?
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, 2013, 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.”
At the March 14, 2017, Commissioners Court meeting, however, Davenport claims that Lindsey Doyal has indicated that she does not wish to be “associated” with the position of Assistant County Treasurer or any promotion arising out of the County Treasurer’s “reorganization” which the Commissioners Court approved on a 3 to 1 vote, with Precinct 4 Commissioner Jim Clark dissenting. Doyal and Commissioners Charlie Riley and Mike Meador voted in favor of the Departmentmental “reorganization.”