Conroe, February 3 – On Thursday, February 1, 2018, the Montgomery County Eagle Forum held a candidate debate for the Precinct 2 Montgomery County Commissioners Court race for the March 6, 2018, Republican Primary Election. Challengers Gregory Parker and Brian Dawson participated in a lively debate during which a crowded audience asked the candidates questions while moderator Paul Gebolys, a Republican Area Chairman and Precinct Chairman, presided.
Beleaguered Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley skipped the debate for fear of facing his constituents’ questions and chose to attend the Lake Conroe Area Republican Women’s candidate forum outside of Precinct 2 instead. Unfortunately for Riley, the Republican Women confronted him with a very serious question that Riley refused to answer as well: “comment on your pending Texas Open Meetings Act criminal indictment.”
The criminal indictment, endorsements, salaries, and roads were the major issues confronting the three candidates for Precinct 2 County Commissioner in the two simultaneous events.
Riley at Lake Conroe Area Republican Women, Lone Star Convention Center, Montgomery
The Lake Conroe Area Republican Women confronted Riley with three questions during their candidate forum at the Lone Star Convention Center during the evening of February 1, 2018. One of the questions asked Riley to comment about the pending Texas Open Meetings Act criminal indictment against him and his co-defendants Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal and local political boss Marc Davenport, the husband of County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport, who faces considerable controversy herself.
Riley flatly refused to answer the Republican Women’s question about his pending criminal indictment and instead gave a four-minute stump speech.
The indictment speaks for itself:
“THE GRAND JURY, for the County of Montgomery, State of Texas, duly selected, empaneled, sworn, charged, and organized as such by the 221st Judicial District Court for said County, upon their oaths present in and to said Court that Charlie Riley [and Craig Doyal and Marc Davenport] on or about August 11, 2015 and continuing through August 24, 2015, and before the presentment of this indictment, in the County and State aforesaid, did then and there as a member of a governmental body, to-wit: the Montgomery County Commissioner’s Court, knowingly conspire circumvent Title 5, Subtitle A Chapter 551 of the Texas Government Code (herein after referred to as the Texas Open Meetings Act) by meeting in a number less than a quorum for the purpose of secret deliberations in violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act, to-wit: by engaging in verbal exchange concerning an issue within the jurisdiction of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court, namely, the contents of the potential structure of a November 2015 Montgomery County Road Bond, Against the Peace and Dignity of the State.”
The Grand Jury indicted Doyal, Riley, and Davenport, for meeting in numbers of less than a Commissioners Court quorum (3 out of 5) for the purpose of secret deliberations in violation of TOMA to structure the resolution to set a November 2015 road bond referendum.
Doyal, Riley, and Davenport continue to face criminal charges, now in the Beaumont Court of Appeals for conspiring to circumvent the Texas Open Meetings Act’s Section 551.143 by meeting in a number less than a quorum for the purpose of secret deliberations in violations of TOMA.
The desire for secrecy and to avoid public scrutiny is the problem with Doyal and Riley. Riley and Doyal each paid Davenport $5,000 to represent them in the negotiations over the road bond referendum. Davenport and a member of the corrupt elected officials and politicians of the Davenport Ring, JP James Metts, have held Davenport out as a “sworn deputy” and County government employee.
Parker does not face any criminal indictments.
Dawson does not face any criminal indictments.
Endorsements were a major issue during the candidate debate and forum Thursday night. Riley has not received any serious endorsements, although he did pay $10,000 for an endorsement mailout sent to senior citizens in Montgomery County claiming that “Conservative Republicans of Texas” endorsed Riley and Riley’s political allies. Riley’s mailout in which he essentially paid to endorse himself is a classic “Pay for Play” political fraud.
Riley followed the disgusting piece with telephone calls to senior citizens urging them to send in “vote-by-mail” ballots with Riley’s name on them. For full coverage, please see “Montgomery County Precinct 2 Commissioner Riley Pays $10,000 For Fake Endorsement Mailout, Followup Calls,” The Golden Hammer, February 2, 2018.
Parker received the “Recommendation” of the Texas Patriots Tea Party PAC, one of the largest and most successfully Super PACs in the United States which is headquartered in Montgomery County under the leadership of Dr. Julie Turner, Jon Bauman, and Bill O’Sullivan. Parker also received the most support of the three Commissioner candidates from the Montgomery County Tea Party under the leadership of President Pat Tibbs and Vetting Committee Chairman John Hill Wertz. The Montgomery County Tea Party has excellent discussion of their endorsements on usvotesmart.com.
The Montgomery County Law Enforcement Association, the largest law enforcement association in Montgomery County, endorsed Parker in the Precinct 2 County Commissioner contest. Parker served two terms as a County Commissioner in Comal County (New Braunfels is the county seat) where he had a very strong pro-law enforcement record.
On Thursday, February 1, Dawson also received a major endorsement. The Woodlands Professional Firefighters Association endorsed the Conroe businessman and longtime Republican Party activist.
The salaries of Montgomery County Commissioners has become a major issue, because Montgomery County Commissioner receive the highest salaries of the top 15 counties in the Lone Star State.
The Montgomery County Judge, currently Craig Doyal, receives the third highest salary for a county judge in Texas, only behind Harris and Dallas counties. Montgomery County Commissioners are the highest paid County Commissioners in Texas, according to data from the Texas Association of Counties, as shown above.
Montgomery County Commissioners make the highest salaries in Texas and more than $57,000 per year above the average of County Commissioner salaries for the top 15 counties in Texas. County Judge Craig Doyal’s salary is less than only the Harris County Judge and the Dallas County Judge. The County Judges in Tarrant, Bexar, Travis, Collin, Hidalgo, El Paso, Denton, and Fort Bend counties all make substantially less than Doyal, even though those counties are quite a bit larger than Montgomery County. The counties to which Montgomery County is usually compared – Collin, Denton, Fort Bend, and Williamson – all have county judges and county commissioners who make a lot less in salaries than the out-of-control Montgomery County government.
County Judge Doyal and the four Montgomery County Commissioners claim a higher salary than the Governor of Texas ($150,000 per year) and the Texas Attorney General ($150,000 per year). In contrast, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton supervises over 4,000 employees, in eighteen divisions. Doyal supervises a staff of three while the County Commissioners each supervise approximately 20 people in their departments.
All of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court salary increases appear to constitute little more than “money grabs,” because there is no reason to them whatsoever. Even when a Salary Study Committee, which former County Human Resources Director Diane Bass chaired, recommended no salary increases in August, 2016, because the salaries were already way too high, Riley and his colleagues on the Commissioners Court voted unanimously to give themselves a 3.00% pay raise.
Not surprisingly, Riley didn’t address the salaries issue on Thursday night, although Parker and Dawson did.
In response to a question from the audience about Montgomery County Commissioners Court salaries reform, Parker answered,
“I want to listen to the will of the people. I am firmly committed to reducing salaries of the Commissioners and the County Department heads. I will align myself with County Judge candidate Mark Keough who said he wants a 12% salary reduction. Commissioners don’t need to be paid more than the Governor. I’ll give you a lot more Commissioner for a lot less money.”
Dawson made clear that he would not vote to reduce County Commissioner salaries:
“That’s treating the symptom, not the cause. I support spending reductions. I don’t think salaries have a dramatic effect on taxpayers. No, I won’t agree to reduce the salary, but I’ll work really hard and I’ll be worth more than the salary you pay.”
All three candidates addressed the terrible traffic congestion in Precinct 2, southwest Montgomery County.
Dawson pointed out that, when Riley ran for Commissioner four years ago, Riley assured voters that he’d have the problem of congestion on F.M. 2978 solved before the end of his first term. Dawson said, “With regards to 2978, it’s been a debacle. Riley said ‘elect me, I can make this happen.’ Riley is not moving it faster.”
Dawson also criticized Riley’s terrible management of F.M. 1488. “Nothing’s happening. It’s a state road but there are a lot of things our County Commissioner could have done,” Dawson said.
Parker was also very critical of Riley’s road and bridge work, or lack thereof. “I know what it means to do mobility planning, because I’ve done it.”
Both Dawson and Parker argued for a Precinct 2 mobility plan, which Riley has failed to implement during his term in office.