Image: When government acts, it usually messes things up. On November 14, 2017, the Montgomery County Commissioners Court considered at least five items about which they had no idea what they were discussing.
Conroe, November 19 – The November 14, 2017, Montgomery County Commissioners Court meeting was ugly. At least five times during the meeting, County Judge Craig Doyal and his colleagues voted and discussed matters about which they literally had no idea what was before them. Considering that they have a constitutional duty to manage and oversee the County government with a $328 million annual budget, almost 2,500 employees, and the duty to protect the community’s public safety, one should expect they’d take a bit more care.
At least five times during the one-and-a-half hour meeting, not including the entire “consent agenda” about which the Commissioners Court usually knows nothing, there were proposals on which the Court “deliberated” or voted where they clearly didn’t have a clue.
Information Technology settlement agreement with Xerox Corporation. The Commissioners Court voted 5 to 0 to approve a settlement agreement with Xerox Corporation over a dispute involving some copiers. The settlement agreement resolved a lease agreement to which it referred as the Schedule contained in Exhibit A to the settlement agreement. Neither the Schedule nor the Exhibit A were within the settlement agreement in the Commissioners Court backup material.
In other words, Doyal and colleagues had no idea which departments were involved in the dispute, how many copiers were involved, what the terms of the copier agreement were, what the dispute concerned, or how much money the County had overpaid Xerox Corporation. Without any of that information before them, the Commissioners Court voted to approve the settlement.
The settlement agreement recited that it involved a $24,469.28 amount in dispute. The five Commissioners Court members will never know, because they never saw the actual Schedule or Exhibit A.
Purchasing 20 new vehicles. At the recommendation of Gilbert Jalomo, the Director of Purchasing who only a few minutes earlier had revealed his complete lack of preparation to recommend the purchase of five motorcycles, the Commissioners Court blindly voted to purchase twenty (20) new County vehicles of various types for approximately $475,000.
The 5 to 0 vote came after almost no discussion at all. Jalomo never identified the County departments for which the vehicle purchases were to occur.
As a result, the Commissioners Court never reviewed whether the vehicles were appropriate for the County’s purposes or whether the prices were appropriate at all. The five members just blindly accepted the vehicle purchases and voted to spend nearly half a million dollars of taxpayer funds.
Tx-249 Tollway. No one ever explained why Jones & Carter engineers, a major political and criminal legal defense fund contributor to Doyal and Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley, needed an additional $54,390 as a change order under its contract.
At least on this agenda item, Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack complained that the contract documents should be a part of the agenda, so that the Commissioners Court members may review them prior to the meeting. Neither Doyal nor any of Noack’s other colleagues gave any assurance that they would append future contract proposals to the agenda backup.
Without any explanation, discussion, or deliberation, the Commissioners Court voted to spend $54,390 more of taxpayer money. Noack and Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark voted against the proposal. Doyal, Riley, and Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador blindly voted more tax dollars for their disgusting Tx-249 Tollway.
Motorcycles. Jalomo, the Purchasing Director, was never able to explain why the County should spend $10,000 more per motorcycle for BMWs rather than Harley Davidsons for five vehicles. Anyone who has read Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” will have some familiarity with the fact that BMWs require less maintenance than Harleys. Nevertheless, there was no backup to support the increased $10,000 per vehicle expenditure. Spending $10,000 on motorcycle maintenance would seem awfully high.
At the beginning of his presentation, Jalomo didn’t even know which County departments were seeking the motorcycles. It turns out all five are for the Sheriff’s Office.
At the beginning of his presentation, Jalomo didn’t even know the number of motorcycles at issue.
Business as usual in the Montgomery County government has made presenters during Commissioners Court used to the concept that the Commissioners Court will blindly approve any spending proposal placed before them. It seriously tripped up the Purchasing and Sheriff’s departments when Noack and Clark dared to ask some questions. Fortunately, Jalomo’s inability to provide all of the information resulted in a deferral of this item until a later date.
Transgender adoptions. While Montgomery County CPS President Terri Jaggers has apologized for placing a resolution before the Commissioners Court that included language supporting child adoptions by transgender individuals, the person who ought to be doing the apologizing is Doyal. He placed the item on the agenda without reading it. Doyal signed the Proclamation without reading it.
Doyal then made his close friend and political supporter fall on her sword over the issue rather than taking the responsibility himself. All around, approving such a Proclamation revealed the complete inattention Doyal and his colleagues give to County business.
The citizens of Montgomery County deserve a lot better than five Commissioners Court members who sleep during the consideration of County business. The citizens must be vigilant. They have no choice, because their servants aren’t doing their assigned jobs.