Editorial: As citizens gain power again, we must watch the actions of all public servants, even those whom we like (e.g. Noack)

Eric Yollick, The Golden Hammer

As citizens regain power, we must watch the actions of all public servants, even those whom we like.

Yesterday afternoon, this newspaper discovered serendipitously through four different sources that Precinct 3 Montgomery County Commissioner James Noack made a purely political decision to hire Courier blog editor Andy Dubois as his Operations Manager to replace the extraordinarily-gifted Matthew Beasley who will likely become Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace in January. Dubois will start work as a County employee on Monday, May 14, 2018.

Noack had clearly told no one about the hire and didn’t consult with any of his conservative allies. (The Commissioners Court voted to approve the hiring of Dubois in the most disgusting fashion possible. Under the secretive “consent agenda,” there was an item “Approve Payroll Change Request Forms” with no backup attached to the Commissioners Court agenda. The public could obtain the backup showing the hiring of Dubois only by an Open Records request which would take several days to receive. This newspaper confirmed that three members of the Commissioners Court didn’t even know about the Dubois hiring when they voted in favor of the full “consent agenda.” Noack tucked the item on the secretive consent agenda in defiance of every open government principle. In other words, the Commissioners Court voted to approve the hiring of the Courier blog as a County government employee without knowing they took that action!)

For approximately a year, Noack has shifted to the left. He voted for a bloated Fiscal Year 2018 Budget. He’s gone along with almost every spending proposal from lame duck County Judge Craig Doyal. Noack has made it very clear that his mission is to increase his salary as a County Commissioner during the upcoming budget process for Fiscal Year 2019. Noack’s failure to reduce the budget office portion of the County Auditor’s Department budget is nothing short of political gamesmanship.

Noack seems to have shifted away from representing the governed to devoting his primary allegiance to the governors (i.e., those who are actually servants who are supposed to work for the citizens.) While Noack has continued his excellent work as a project manager for Precinct 3 road and bridge projects, he’s lost his way with respect to County government policy (except on the issue of tollroads where he maintains a spotless voting record.)

The Dubois hiring is disturbing on several fronts. First, as nice as Dubois is on a personal level, and let’s also be clear that he is a very intelligent man, he has overseen a strongly pro-establishment newspaper that clearly has acted to serve the governors rather than the governed. One need only look at the content in the articles in the Courier blog. Only government officials have any voice. All political coverage comes from the perspective of the elected officials whom the Courier blog has ordained. The Courier blog rarely questions the judgment or the factual presentation of the “establishment,” which in Montgomery County finds its embodiment in men such as Craig Doyal, Charlie Riley, James Metts, and now James Noack.

Second, Dubois has no experience in construction, roads, or bridges. Noack’s hiring of Dubois clearly is to advance Noack’s ambitious political career. Now, there’s nothing wrong with someone having ambition. Nevertheless, we live in the United States of America, where the fundamental concept of American power is that the people are the power. In America, government is by the people. When elected servants use our tax dollars to manipulate the citizens politically with taxpayer-funded public relations employees, they’re working against us.

Third, Noack made clear that he is excited about Dubois’ connections with the political establishment in Montgomery County. Dubois will be Noack’s ambassador to the precise group of people who lost the March 6 Republican Primary Election. There’s nothing wrong with Dubois acting as an ambassador but both Noack and Dubois need to ensure that he works for all.

At the same time, the fundamental purpose of government in the American system – at least as the Founding Fathers envisioned government – is to fill those gaps where private conduct doesn’t solve societal problems. Government doesn’t exist to serve a “political class.” Noack has had one employee who does little more than public relations on his payroll for quite a while. Now, Noack has hired an Operations Manager for his public relations background rather than his merit as a road and bridge manager.

Very clearly, citizens will need to watch like hawks the Fiscal Year 2019 Budget process in the Montgomery County government. There is a projection that with substantially higher appraisals – thanks to the policies of Montgomery Central Appraisal District Directors including Charlie Riley and Mike Meador – without a substantial tax rate reduction, the County government will have more than 4.5% more funds to spend. The word inside Precinct 3 and the remainder of the County government is that Noack, Doyal, Riley, and Meador intend to spend those funds, increase County government spending, give themselves and others substantial salary increases, and commit Montgomery County’s government to numerous long-term capital spending projects before reform County Judge Mark Keough can even come into office on January 1.

Under what circumstance would James Noack actually justify his massive $168,000 per year salary, plus bloated employee benefits? If Noack actually delivered the budget the citizens clearly want. Remember, the Montgomery County Republican Party Executive Committee formally endorsed in 2017 the goals of the Citizens Budget Committee to reduce – over 4 years – County government spending by $100 million while increasing law enforcement spending by $20 million and establishing a $20 million capital fund.

It’s a lot more than rumor that Noack is trying to install his political ally, Timothy Stewart, as the new head of the Building Maintenance Department. So far, there has been no official posting for the position. But the behind-the-scenes politicking has already occurred and it’s been intense. That’s politics over merit. That’s politics over appropriate process. That’s anti-citizen.

If all Noack, Doyal, Riley, and Meador do is go through the budget hearings, continue to compliment and thank all of the County Department heads for doing a “great job,” and boost spending to fill that 4.5% appraisal tax increase, then they will have proven that they are not worth anything close to the salaries they already receive. If Noack, Doyal, Riley, and Meador appoint County Department heads based upon political maneuvers, then they are not worth anything close to the salaries they already receive. If they want to make the giant salaries, they need to deliver the giant policy changes that the citizens of this community so clearly demand.

Noack’s political maneuver to following Craig Doyal in hiring a Courier blog staffer shows, once again, that his focus is upon amassing political power rather than doing the people’s work. Let’s hope that he’ll reverse course and resume his work as the conservative leader we came to respect.

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