Conroe, January 23 – Has the dawn of a new era in Montgomery County, known as “most corrupt County in Texas,” begun? Did the citizens work to elect Mark Keough pay off? (The answer is at the bottom of this article.)
Citizens worked mightily to bring reform to Montgomery County during the 2018 election cycle. There was no one for whom reform-minded conservative activists worked harder than for the new County Judge.
On January 8, 2019, brand new Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough presided over his first Commissioners Court meeting. It was also the first Commissioners Court meeting at which Precinct 4 County Commissioner James Metts attended. The Commissioners Court as of January 1, 2019, consists of:
- County Judge Mark Keough (replaced Craig Doyal)
- Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador;
- Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley;
- Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack;
- Precinct 4 County Commissioner James Metts (replaced Jim Clark).
The highlights of the meeting were Keough’s and his Chief of Staff Jason Millsaps’ setting an important symbolic example by substantially reducing their salaries and Keough’s and Noack’s stand against Metts’ nepotism and corruption in their minority vote against taking approximately $30,000 out of contingency funds to pay retiring employees of Metts, one who is his cousin and one who is the mother of his closest political buddy and another elected official (Precinct 4 Constable Rowdy Hayden).
One of the reasons Montgomery County has such a reputation for corruption is the fact that it has seemed to become “family affair.” At present:
- Meador’s granddaughter works for the Juvenile Probation Department;
- Riley’s wife works as a receptionist for the Precinct 5 Constable in a job Riley created for her;
- Riley’s nephew works for Riley; and
- Metts’ live-in girlfriend and business partner works for him in the Precinct 4 Commissioners Office.
There are many other elected officials and department heads who have hired family members. Constable Hayden’s wife and mother both had County government jobs until December 31. In the Building Maintenance Department, there is one supervisor who supervises his wife and son.
The Golden Hammer‘s rating system follows the Platform of the Republican Party of Texas.
The Golden Hammer‘s ratings measure Commissioners Court votes that affect spending in comparison to the provisions of the Republican Party of Texas Platform. Points are good. The number of points depends upon the amount of money involved in each vote.
The Commissioners Court, all of whom claim to be Republicans, violated the Republican Party Platform on almost every vote during the December 11 meeting. They violated Plank 144 in particular, which provides:
“144. Government Spending: Government Spending is out of control at the federal, state, and local levels, and action is needed.”
The editorial staff of this newspaper sincerely hopes that Plank 144 is simple enough that even the members of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court might understand it.
Commissioners Court meeting, January 8, 2019, 9:30 a.m. All Court members were physically present.
Vote #1: Keough salary reduction
Fulfilling a campaign promise, Keough reduced his salary by 12%! It was historic belt-tightening. Keough receives a 500 point bonus for this great act of leadership. Sadly, right before the Commissioners Court meeting Metts and his new employee, fired County Auditory Phyllis Martin, who lied to him to tell him they needed all of Keough’s salary reduction and the salary reduction of Chief of Staff Jason Millsaps put into the Precinct 4 Commissioner’s asphalt account, because Metts’ predecessor, Jim Clark, had transferred $30,000 out of the asphalt account to make up a shortfall in the County Judge’s supplies budget. Former County Judge Craig Doyal had purposefully left Keough without sufficient funds to operate the Office of Montgomery County Judge. Keough fell for Metts’ trick. It was a trick, because Metts has over $1 million in additional funds in a carryover account which he could have used for the asphalt instead.
Sadly, the taxpayers reaped no financial benefit from Keough’s act of leadership. Nevertheless, it was important symbolically.
The members of the Commissioners Court voted unanimously in favor of Keough’s salary reduction. Major vote. 25 points. A proper vote was “Yes.”
Vote #2: Millsaps salary reduction
Keough’s Chief of Staff Jason Millsaps also took an $11,186 reduction in his compensation. Major vote. 25 points. Unanimous in favor. A proper vote was “Yes.”
Vote #3: Appoint new officers and directors of Montgomery County Toll Road Authority
Keough wanted Noack to become the President of the Montgomery County Toll Road Authority (MCTRA) precisely because Noack is the most anti-tollroad of the members of the Commissioners Court. Noack didn’t want the job. Meador nominated Riley as President of the MCTRA and himself as Vice President. Rather than appointing citizens to the MCTRA, the Commissioners Court members satisfied their power and money lust and kept themselves on it.
Keough stood up for the citizens and voted “No.” Everyone else voted for Meador’s self-serving motion. Major vote. 25 points. Keough showed some courage by standing up to the corruption and its faces Riley, Metts, and Meador. Noack’s vote was disappointing. Keough receives a 100 point bonus.
Vote #4: Payment of Accounts
The agenda included one line “Payment of Accounts” which includes a 99 page report of single-spaced lines of payments totaling $12,289,850.91. Since the item is on the secretive consent agenda, it’s likely that there will be no discussion, review, or deliberation of any of those payments, which include:
- $9,272.34 to Graves Humphries law firm, the collection firm foisted on the taxpayers by Precinct 4 County Commissioner James Metts and his political boss Marc Davenport. The taxpayers are losing approximately $1 million per year in fee and fine collections as a result of the poor collection work they’re doing.
- Approximately $250,000 in full retail prices for construction materials and office supplies.
- $8,000 to taxpayer-funded lobbyist Robert “Geronimo” Eissler.
- $800.57 for library books in Chinese.
- Over $78,000 in unsubstantiated credit card charges.
- $20,658.60 to LJA Engineering (Jeff Cannon’s company), which contributes mightily to the members of the Commissioners Court for work in Precinct 4 County Commissioner James Metts’ Precinct.
Major vote. A proper vote was “No.” 25 points. Unanimously in favor.
Vote #5: Paying $30,000 approximately in comp time and accumulated overtime to Metts nepotism and cronymism
Metts scammed the Commissioners Court into paying $30,000 out of contingency funds restricted for genuine emergencies to pay off the overtime and comp time of his first cousin and Rowdy Hayden’s mother, who were among his JP 4 employees who rarely worked. The funds were easily available from the salary of Jamie Nash, who does nothing but public relations and write the Montgomery County Police Reporter for Metts. Instead, Metts got the money taken out of contingency. It was shameful. Please see “Davenport Ring’s Metts-Dunn Plea For Salary Money Scammed Commissioners Court All Way Around Without Disclosure Of Nash Money,” The Golden Hammer, January 22, 2019, for the full details.
Major vote. A proper vote as “No.” 25 points. 2 (Keough, Noack) against, with 3 (Riley, Meador, Metts) for. Metts also receives a 100 point deduction because, ethically, he shouldn’t have voted to give his cousin money and should have recused himself from the vote.
Vote #6: Still cleaning up last year’s budget
The agenda included cleaning up more than $863,000 of continuing mess from last year’s poor budgeting with budget amendments.
The new County Auditor, Rakesh Pandey, C.P.A., should put his foot down and not permit the continuation of these fraudulent budget amendments wherein the Commissioners Court falsely declares that they must adopt the amendments as an “emergency expenditure” “due to grave public necessity.” The entire purpose of those false declarations is to circumvent the public hearing process required for budget amendments.
Pandey needs to bring this practice to a swift end. While it’s possible that his staff in the Auditor’s Office led him astray on this one occasion, when he has only been in office for four (4) days before the posting of the Commissioners Court agenda, Pandey shouldn’t allow these actions to occur in the future, and neither should Keough.
Major vote. A proper vote was “No.” 25 points. Unanimously in favor.
Vote #7: Audit Reports Which the new County Auditor somehow has approved!
Pandey should never have blessed audit reports after only being in office for four days. Pandey or Keough should have pulled this item off of the consent agenda, so that Pandey could explain the procedure for his approving this report so hastily. That didn’t happen. Instead, it was unanimous to approve the report. 10 points. “No” vote proper. Passed unanimously.
Vote #8: Blind purchasing
The Commissioners Court spent more than $300,000 on purchasing items without discussion, oversight, or deliberation. 10 points. “No” vote proper. Unanimous in favor.
Vote #9: Payroll changes for “Sweetie Pie” and the felon
Unfortunately, approval for Metts hiring his live-in girlfried and doubling of her salary as well as hiring convicted felon Greg Long as a “foreman.” Long is nothing but a political supporter of Metts. Major vote. 25 points. “No” vote appropriate. Passed unanimously.
Vote #10: Spending $3,600 out of the Justice Court Technology Fund for “Supplies/Other”
They spent $3,600 out of the Justice Court Technology Fund for Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Jason Dunn which is a lot of money. It’s unacceptable to provide no explanation other than “Supplies/Other” for this expenditure. That’s the secrecy and obfuscation that defined Craig Doyal. Keough shouldn’t allow secretive County employees to define him. 5 points. “No” vote appropriate. Passed unanimously.
Vote #11: Riley promoted a political supporter
Agenda Item 17A1 sought approval of a promotion for George Herzog, a political supporter, since Riley fired Christopher Decuir who was in the same position. 5 points. “No” vote appropriate. Passed unanimously.
Vote #12: Paying $3,583 out of contingency to pay for retired employee from Precinct 5 Justice of the Peace Matt Masden
Precinct 5 Justice of the Peace Matt Masden had an employee who retired who was due $3,583 in comp time. She was NOT a nepotistic hire. The problem, however, is that Riley and Meador sought once again to pay the funds out of “contingency” so that Masden could proceed to hire a new employee rather than waiting to pay the owed funds out of the salary line for the retired employee as her salary and benefits would otherwise accrue.
Keough and Noack voted “No” correctly because they took a stand against using “contingency” funds for items which the department heads should have budgeted originally. 25 points. Major vote. “No” was the correct vote. Passed 3 (Metts, Meador, Riley) to 2 (Keough, Noack).
In summary, Keough had a very strong first outing as Montgomery County Judge.
Ratings for Commissioners Court meeting, January 8, 2019:
KEOUGH 700/230. Grade A+++!!!
MEADOR 50/230. Grade F.
RILEY 50/230. Grade F.
NOACK 100/230. Grade F.
METTS -100/230. Grade F.
Since the calendar year begins in the middle of Fiscal Year 2019, Meador, Riley, and Noack, already have cumulative ratings.
The following are the cumulative scores for Fiscal Year 2019, which began October 1, 2018.
KEOUGH 700/230. Grade A+.
MEADOR -515/1,445. Grade F.
RILEY -1,470/1,445. Grade F.
NOACK 130/1,445. Grade F.
METTS -100/230. Grade F.
The citizens must remain vigilant. Nevertheless, the citizens should also celebrate Mark Keough as Montgomery County Judge!