Image: Montgomery County Treasurer Melanie Bush (right) presides over the $16 million Enterprise Resource Planning software disaster of the Montgomery County government. Precinct 2 Montgomery County Commissioner Charlie Riley, disgraced former County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport, and terminated former County Auditor Phyllis Martin “gifted” the boondoggle to Bush and to Purchasing Director Gilbert Jalomo (shown at left). They spoke to an empty Commissioners Court room on November 30, 2020, during a secretive “special session” of the Commissioners Court.
The Golden Hammer Staff Reports
Conroe, February 9 – When the Montgomery County Commissioners Court held a secretive meeting on Monday, November 30, 2020, it became clear the primary purpose of the “special session” was to meet away from the shining light of public scrutiny to discuss the $16 million Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software disaster which Precinct 2 Montgomery County Commissioner Charlie Riley, disgraced former County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport, and terminated former County Auditor Phyllis Martin dropped, like a bomb, on the County government at the end of 2018.
Riley is the only member of the current Commissioners Court who voted for the disastrous software, which the County government had intended to use to replace some outdated accounting software. Instead of spending approximately $200,000 on an advanced version of QuickBooks, as Tax Assessor-Collector Tammy McRae had recommended, Riley, Davenport, and Martin demanded, cajoled, lobbied, and eventually won the votes on Commissioners Court for the $16 million software program, which is so complex no one in the Montgomery County government can even figure out how it works. The application is too large to fix and too complicated to train Montgomery County’s overpaid government employees.
It’s nothing short of a disaster, which is precisely what poor County Treasurer Melanie Bush bemoaned during the secret November 30 Commissioners Court meeting.
Why was it a “secret” meeting? County Judge Mark Keough and his Chief of Staff Jason Millsaps knew there were certain topics they didn’t want the public to hear. Therefore, they arranged for the meeting to occur on the Monday after the Thanksgiving weekend outside of any regularly-scheduled Commissioners Court date. They didn’t post the agenda for the meeting until late in the afternoon of Wednesday, November 25, so that the public wouldn’t notice the gravity of what they intended to discuss or that they would meet at all.
Sure enough, the Commissioners Courtroom was empty on Monday, November 30, as secrecy is an effective veil for corruption. Interestingly, the County Judge’s staff lists the secret “special session” as a “regular meeting” of the Commissioners Court on the County government’s “destinyhosted” website in another apparent effort to cover up the outlandishly secretive nature of the session.
The agenda included the following seemingly innocuous item: “Take appropriate action on Change Order #4 from INFOR Public Sector, Inc., pursuant to Project 2016-0038 for phase 2 consultants not to exceed $100,000. Funding IT.”
Riley immediately joined with Mike Meador to adopt the change order at the November 30 meeting.
Precinct 3 Montgomery County Commissioner James Noack raised the enormous cost issue immediately when he began the discussion, “What happened to the cost savings that Infor saved by not having to travel as frequently to us as they were planning during COVID…which I understand is well into the six figures?” In response, Montgomery County Purchasing Director Gilbert Jalomo let out the bombshell:
“The Infor contract is not a time and materials contract but a fixed fee contract. Whatever it costs it costs.”
In other words, thanks to the COVID disaster, Infor’s profit on the $16 million debacle has grown exponentially during taxpayer suffering in the China Virus crisis.
Jalomo continued, “They bill us based on milestones.” That, of course, seems rather ironic, since the ERP software has wholly been a disaster. Jalomo expressed his hope that the change order for Infor’s payroll will be in the range of $70,000.
Riley tried to defend the terrible contract negotiation initially and tried to wipe away memory of that poor negotiation through argument that the expensive change order is on a “time and materials” basis rather than a fixed fee.
Noack said, “Infor has not done a good job. Everybody knows it. We’re not anywhere where we need to be. Most people don’t even know how to use the dang thing. This is a $16 million debacle!”
“This is a $16 million debacle.” – – – Precinct 3 Montgomery County Commissioner James Noack, November 30, 2020, speaking of the Enterprise Resource Planning software, which Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley, disgraced former County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport, and terminated County Auditor Phyllis Martin dropped, like a bomb, on the County government.
Noack continued, “It’s wrong. We should not be throwing more money at this issue.”
Bush tried to defend herself that she “came into this office with this issue…There’s nothing we can do because of the way the contract was previously written.”
Keough expressed, “COVID was a windfall for them [Infor].”
Riley tried to defend the expenditure and the contract. “We can’t tell these folks ‘no,'” Riley said.
County Attorney B.D. Griffin came to the defense of Infor, which would seem to be the taxpayers’ adversary, “There is wrong on both sides.”
IT Director Bobby Powell added, “We’re paying $55,000 a month, whether we use the system or not.”
“It blows my mind what goes on at these meetings,” Riley quipped.
“It blows my mind what goes on at these meetings.” – – – Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley, November 30, 2020.
The Commissioners Court voted 3 (Riley, Meador, Metts) to 2 (Noack, Keough) to give Infor $100,000 in more tax dollars.
Prior to this article, no media source reported the secretive Commissioners Court decision.