Image: Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal appearing in campaign ad filed at a conference table inside the County’s Sadler Administration Building. The ad began to air on social media on May 21, 2017.
ERIC YOLLICK, The Golden Hammer
Conroe, May 21 – Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal violated the Texas Election Code and Texas Ethics Commission proscriptions with a campaign video he filmed from his County office. Filming the political advertisement in a County office is a violation of Section 255.003 of the Texas Election Code and of Texas Ethics Commission Opinion Number 443.
Doyal began to circulate the video advertisement on Saturday morning, May 20, 2017. In the advertisement, Doyal solicited money for his political campaign for re-election as County Judge and discussed how he anticipates a hotly contested race during the 2018 election.
During the video advertisement, Doyal is seated at a table inside of his office on the fourth floor of the Sadler Administration Building. The photograph of Doyal during the commercial (above) shows Doyal during the video advertisement.
Class A Misdemeanor, State Ethics Guidelines
Section 255.003 of the Texas Election Code establishes a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail, for any officer or employee of a political subdivision who knowingly spends or authorizes the use of public funds for political advertising. The statute explicitly contemplates that the Texas Ethics Commission may render written opinions regarding conduct regulated under the Section.
In Texas Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion Number 443, the Texas Ethics Commission clarified that Section 255.003 specifically prohibits the use of facilities not open to the public for political advertising of the sort which Doyal filmed for the video. Doyal’s office is not a public forum open to everyone, so it is clear that he violated the criminal statute by using his office for the advertisement.
In Ethics Opinion 443, the Commission discussed the use of a teachers’ lounge in a school for the filming of a political advertisement and determined that such use of the lounge was prohibited and a violation of the penal law. Several Ethics Commission opinions have later supported the conclusion of Opinion 443 that political advertising in a non-public forum, such as a private office, within a public facility is clearly a violation of the Texas Election Code.
Nathan Arrazate filmed the video for Doyal.
Violation of Montgomery County’s new Code of Ethics
The Code of Ethics, which the Montgomery County Commissioners Court adopted earlier this year, provides:
“County Public Servants shall not utilize county equipment or supplies of any kind for political purposes.”
Doyal’s video taken in a County office, sitting at County furniture, would seem to violate the Code of Ethics, Article XII, Paragraph 1.
Doyal’s video, criminal indictment necessitate his upcoming fundraiser
Doyal really better get that fundraiser going quickly. His legal bills are likely to start mounting between his reckless behavior and the already-pending criminal case in which he, Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley, and local political consultant Marc Davenport were indicted for violating Section 551.143 of the Texas Open Meetings Act.
Additionally, in the Goetz-Gate scandal, former County employee Melissa Goetz accused Doyal when he was the Precinct 2 County Commissioner in 2012 and his then-Operations Manager Riley of using County employees, equipment, and facilities for Doyal’s political campaigns. Liberty County Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike McCarty was convicted and removed from office for similar conduct on April 25, 2017.
Rumors coming out of Precinct 1 County Commissioner’s Office suggest that he’s raising money so that he can contribute a large chunk of it to Doyal’s legal defense and re-election fund. Doyal likely needs all the help he can get.