Conroe, April 13 – The Courier blog, a decent newspaper many years ago, embarrassed itself yesterday – again – with a misleading headline for an article which two members of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court instigated in order to cover up their failures to obtain information from the Texas Department of Transportation with respect to the State Highway 242 flyovers.
The headline read, “Commission: Keough ‘misled’ court” but there was nothing in the entire article about any sort of commission. This newspaper confirmed that the Texas Ethics Commission, the Texas Transportation Commission, and a host of other state and federal “commissions” have no interest in any matters pertaining to the bizarre article in which two members of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court, Charlie Riley and James Noack, who are responsible for communications with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), tried to blame Montgomery County Judge Keough for his and his Chief of Staff Jason Millsaps’ reading of a contract between TxDOT and the Montgomery County government. The issue arose when Keough moved to remove the State Highway 242 flyover tolls, since the County government had paid off the debt for those two road structures in January, 2018.
Keough ran on a platform that he would not support tollroads, unless voters had approved the specific tollroad project first, when he defeated disgraced former County Judge Craig Doyal and won by a landslide in the March 2018 Republican Primary Election. Keough has also made clear that he believes the SH 242 flyovers should no longer be tollroads, because the County’s taxpayers have paid off the debt.
Riley tried to argue that the County government should not remove the tolls from the flyovers, because it is unclear whether TxDOT will take over the tiny maintenance expenses for those two roads under the contract between the County government and TxDOT.
During the discussion of this issue on Tuesday, April 9, 2019, Keough specifically asked Riley, who is the head of the Montgomery County Toll Road Authority, and the other Commissioners, “You’ve been the chair of this committee. How come do we not know the answer to this by now? We have moved to take the tolls off the road how many times? Many times, and we still don’t know the answer to that question, which tells me that they just don’t want to do it or we just don’t care, because we want to keep this toll going, because it’s an additional source of income, which is an additional tax.”
In order to cover up their own failure to obtain information from TxDOT with respect to the flyovers since January, 2018, almost a year before Keough even took office as Montgomery County Judge, Riley and Noack went on the attack against Keough and accused that Keough “misled” the Commissioners Court.
People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, however.
On July 24, 2018, the Commissioners Court, on the motion of Noack and the second of Riley, approved the hiring of Rob “Geronimo” Eissler, a former State Representative who is a full-time lobbyist, as a taxpayer-funded lobbyist for Montgomery County. The minutes of the July 24 meeting reflect Eissler’s responsibilities under the taxpayer-funded lobbying contract and the fact that Riley and Noack are his bosses.
Specifically, Riley and Noack are to oversee Eissler’s lobbying efforts and communications with the Texas Department of Transportation “concerning I-45, and state roads, and flood related issues.” Since the flyovers are state roads and Interstate 45 is Interstate 45, the SH 242 flyover maintenance issue would seem to fall squarely within the jurisdiction of Eissler’s $4,000 per month contract and Riley’s and Noack’s oversight responsibilities.
The Golden Hammer, which has reviewed Eissler’s lobbying contract as well, confirmed yesterday that neither Riley nor Noack ever asked Eissler to determine whether TxDOT would assume the maintenance expenses for the SH 242 flyovers, if the County government were to remove the tolls.
The Courier blog article – misleadingly – failed to mention Eissler’s lobbying contract in the April 12 article or the fact that Riley and Noack were to oversee Eissler’s services specifically with respect to communications with TxDOT.
Neither the Courier blog, Riley, nor Noack mentioned the fact that Riley is also the Transportation Policy Council representative of Montgomery County. TxDOT representatives – Quincy Allen, P.E., and Tucker Ferguson, P.E. – sit on the Transportation Policy Council with Riley and regularly attend the Council’s meetings.
Therefore, in addition to the lobbying contact through Eissler, Riley and Noack have direct access to TxDOT themselves on a regular basis.
Apparently, some fictitious Commission determined that Keough “misled” somebody. Clearly, the Courier blog, Riley, and another misled everybody and have failed to take the precise action necessary to remove the flyover tolls from the State Highway 242 flyovers.