Image: Purchasing Director Gilbert Jalomo, Jr., CPPB, dared go against the wishes of the Davenport Ring, the corrupt group of elected officials and County employees, who follow the direction of corrupt local political boss Marc Davenport, when Jalomo deferred the proposed $15 to $20 million Enterprise Resource Planning software that was on the August 14, 2018, Montgomery County Commissioners Court agenda.
Conroe, August 26 – While the Davenport Ring – the corrupt group of elected officials and County employees who following the direction of corrupt local political boss Marc Davenport – stands on its last legs, the Ring is pushing the Montgomery County government to purchase a $15-20 million Enterprise Resource Planning (“ERP”) software system as quickly as possible before unpopular County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport, lame duck County Judge Craig Doyal, and embattled County Auditor Phyllis Martin leave office. On August 14, 2018, the Davenport Ring’s spokesperson, a lady who is a disgraced accountant who lost her CPA license before she began her federal prison sentence as a convicted felon, appeared before the Montgomery County Commissioners Court to urge them to buy the ERP system as soon as possible
When the Commissioners Court instead deferred purchase of the gigantically-expensive software at the recommendation of Purchasing Director Gilbert Jalomo, both Jalomo and County Judge Craig Doyal caught mighty Hades from Davenport and Martin in a secret meeting in Doyal’s office immediately after the Commissioners Court meeting on August 14. Davenport and Martin expressed their fury towards Jalomo and Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack, who has expressed concerns about the cost and necessity of the ERP software as opposed merely to purchasing a less expensive accounting software, such as the most advanced version of Quickbooks.
Montgomery County Tax Assessor-Collector Tammy McRae utilizes six (6) annual licenses of the most advanced version of Quickbooks designed for major companies and large governmental entities. McRae pays $2,500 total in annual license fees for the six licenses. The Golden Hammer has confirmed that the County government could purchase 500 licenses for Quickbooks to cover the 80 County departments for $200,000 per year with little to no phase-in other than a possible data migration, which would likely cost County taxpayers another $200,000 to $300,000.
Instead, Davenport and Martin are demanding that the County government purchase the ERP software system before the end of this calendar year with a price tag of between $15-20 million and annual fees exceeding $1 million per year. They’ve already taken a massive space inside the Sadler Administration building for the team of 20 software engineers who would work there to implement the gigantic database. The enormous room on the third floor of the Sadler Administration building includes a large conference room as well as two huge private rooms and a break room. Noack voted against authorizing the expenditure for the ridiculous waste of County office space.
Davenport and Martin have already cost County taxpayers over $200,000 in consultant and construction fees for their efforts to get the County government to waste money on this ERP software. While it’s clear the County needs a new finance and accounting system, such as Quickbooks, the ERP software goes far beyond those capabilities to give the County government the ability to engage in financial and capital planning at a level that most major oil companies would require in their planning departments as opposed to a governmental entity that should be looking, instead, for ways to save tax dollars.
Davenport and Martin have remained extremely secretive about the actual cost of the ERP software, although it does appear they’ve shared that information with the lady who is the convicted felon who acts as the new spokesperson for the Davenport Ring. The August 28, 2018, Commissioners Court agenda includes the following cryptic line under Purchasing: “Take all appropriate action to approve the award for Project 2016-0038 RFP-ERP Software and Implementation Services for Various Departments.” There is no contract or pricing attached to the agenda. The Golden Hammer has confirmed that the Davenport Ring has not provided any proposed pricing or contract to the Commissioners Court as of the date of publication of this article.
At this point in time, the people who are pushing for the ERP purchase will not or may not even be in office at all after December 31, 2018:
- County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport has lost re-election and will not be the County Treasurer after December 31, 2018. Republican Nominee for County Treasurer Melanie Pryor Bush will likely be the next County Treasurer. Davenport has not consulted with Bush, who has a strong finance and accounting background (as opposed to Davenport), about the EPR software.
- County Auditor Phyllis Martin’s contract is up for renewal this year. The Board of District Judges has raised serious questions about Martin’s job performance. The Board hired the independent accounting firm of Postlethwaite and Netterville to perform an External Assessment of Martin’s job performance. The External Assessment was not very complimentary of Martin’s work. Martin is not a Certified Public Accountant, meaning that Montgomery County is the largest County government in Texas without a CPA as the County Auditor. Martin’s poor job performance and the inappropriate nature of her involvement in policy matters reflect Martin’s refusal to abide by Generally Accepted Auditing Standards.
- County Judge Craig Doyal will leave office on December 31, 2018. Doyal has not consulted with likely incoming County Judge Mark Keough about the ERP.
- Two other members of the Commissioners Court – Jim Clark and Mike Meador – will be leaving the Commissioners Court by the end of 2020 (Clark by the end of 2018). Therefore, the opposition of Noack is a matter the entire Commissioners Court should take seriously, since Noack and Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley will be the two remaining Court members who will have to deal with the ERP, if the County Commissioners were to saddle the taxpayers, Noack, and Riley with that expenditure.
Noack told The Golden Hammer yesterday, “This purchase will be one of the most costly items considered in my tenure on the court. While I believe we have need for a new accounting/finance system, installing an ERP would bring about enormous costs and delays. I’m concerned about the timing and the cost of this transaction.”
“This purchase will be one of the most costly items considered in my tenure on the court. While I believe we have need for a new accounting/finance system, installing an ERP would bring about enormous costs and delays. I’m concerned about the timing and the cost of this transaction.” – – Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack, August 25, 2018.
During a Thursday, January 18, 2018, candidate forum, which the Montgomery County Eagle Forum sponsored, the Publisher of The Golden Hammer asked, “To both candidates [Davenport and her challenger in the Republican Primary Election, Melanie Pryor Bush], how much do you anticipate the Enterprise Resource Planning system will cost and what will be the financial benefit in dollars that you anticipate for the County’s taxpayers?”
Davenport responded with an attempt to shroud the massive expenditure in secrecy, “I can’t give a lot of detail. By statute, we can’t discuss vendor negotiations until a contract is awarded. We fall short in technolgoy. My department has implemented processes to shorten the time to do the payroll. We do an annual payroll workshop. It’s constantly looking at ways to innovate.” Sadly, Davenport didn’t even come close to answering the question and instead tried to blame the law for her secrecy. (Her legal excuse was total bunk.)
Davenport’s opponent, Melanie Pryor Bush, is not a part of the Montgomery County government yet, so she is a victim of Davenport’s secrecy as are all citizens of this community. Nevertheless, Bush answered, “I’ve heard. We won’t know the cost until they tell us. They’re in the process to build out space next to the County Attorney’s Office to house the implementation team. They’re estimating 26 months to implement the system, when in other counties the implementation takes longer than that. They haven’t factored in the staff time for implementation into costs.”
Obviously, neither Davenport nor Bush anwered the question. With an expenditure as massive as the proposed ERP, citizens ought to expect that Davenport would know an estimate cost and the precise financial benefit to the purchase of the system to the taxpayers.
At the May 9, 2017, Commissioners Court meeting, County Auditor Phyllis Martin and a consultant who received over $149,000 for a completely worthless collection of euphemisms which Martin and the consultant called a “report,” provided an “update” about the Enterprise Resource Planning system they and Doyal propose for the Montgomery County government.
ERPs are often utilized in business enterprises – ones seeking “profits” unlike the government which just spends – to bring together different financial functions, such as payroll, contracting, purchasing, and insurance, so that the various users of such information are able to communicate with each other online easily.
The Golden Hammer spoke with Mark Ward, a renowned business and technical consultant from the Tampa, Florida, area, who reviewed the ERP presentation of the County as well as its operations and budget and provided this newspaper with two major conclusions. First, Ward noted that a governmental entity should only implement an ERP “if it can reduce employee staffing needs by 10% or more.” Second, Ward estimated that the high end of an ERP’s annual cost for use by an approximately 2300 employee County government should be in the range of $90,000 per year for licensing fees with no up-front costs other than ensuring network compatibility (such as implementing a Windows or other appropriate operating system).
Unfortunately, with the out of touch bureaucrats – Davenport and County Auditor Martin – studying the County’s proposed ERP and with Plante Moran, a consulting firm greatly profiting from making the process of purchasing an ERP as complex as possible to gin more consulting fees, the cost estimates which Martin provided the Commissioners Court were through the stratosphere. There are no estimates whatsoever of any financial benefits to the taxpayers.
Martin and Plante Moran estimated that the up-front costs of purchasing an ERP for the County would be between $6 and 10 million with licensing fees costing the County between $10 and 15 million over the next 20 years!
Despite all of that money Doyal, Riley, and Martin want the County to shell out, Martin admitted that there would be no savings whatsoever in the number of employee salaries necessary in the County government. Therefore, Ward’s first goal for an ERP will fail. Second, the cost of this ERP system will be approximately 8 times the annual cost it should be as well as an infinite times the startup cost (which should be 0). Finally, as crazy as this proposal seems, it’s even worse. Martin told the Commissioners Court that it will take over 2 years to implement the system!
Bush has made clear that the 2-year estimate for implementation of the software behemoth is far too aggressive.