Image: Embattled Montgomery County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport (right) stands in the Precinct 4 Justice Court with JP James Metts (left) on one of the rare occasions when Metts actually entered the courtroom.
Conroe, March 28 – Embattled Montgomery County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport’s unlawful release of County government employee names, dates of birth, and social security numbers, when she made public her office procedures manual on March 8, 2018, at 4:37 p.m., will cost the taxpayers a fortunate in employee mitigation expenses. There’s a catch, however, to the mitigation the County government is offering to provide to the employees who are the victims of Davenport’s reckless disregard for their privacy rights.
The issue of how to reduce the harm to Davenport’s victims (other than the taxpayers generally) came before the Tuesday, March 27, 2018, meeting of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court, after Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack placed the matter on the agenda. Specifically, Noack asked the Commissioners Court to “consider, discuss, and take appropriate action regarding credit monitoring services for employees affected by the release of personal information.”
The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, had suggested the idea of utilizing a credit protection software package, such as LifeLock, as a means of mitigating the harm Davenport caused to the seventy current and former County employees when she released their names, dates of birth, and social security numbers along with her office procedures manual, even though both Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Montgomery County Attorney J.D. Lambright had instructed her not to do so. Of course, Davenport has still never explained why she would even have that personal information in an office procedures manual in the first place.
79 employee names, dates of birth, and social security numbers were in Davenport’s public release of her procedures manual. Of those 79, 9 are deceased and 12 are retired as County employees. 58 current Montgomery County government employees are among the names, dates of birth, and social security numbers Davenport released.
One of the deceased employees whose name, date of birth, and social security number were in the office procedures manual was Marie Moore, the extremely popular Administrator of Commissioners Precinct 4 who died in 2017. There would have been no reason for Moore’s information to be within that procedures manual. Since Davenport and her husband, corrupt local political boss Marc Davenport, considered Moore their political enemy, the inclusion of Moore’s information, when Moore conducted no business whatsoever with the County Treasurer’s Department other than to pick up departmental paychecks, might suggest vindictive motives behind the inclusion of her name in the manual. Both of the Davenports and their close political ally Wayne Mack have had a fixation on their hatred of Moore for several years.
Commissioners Court action
Lambright recommended that the County government pay up to $400 per employee for credit protection services for the 70 employees who are Davenport’s victims. That means, of course, that Montgomery County taxpayers will have to pay $28,000 just in the first year alone for that mitigation of the harm Davenport caused.
The Commissioners Court approved the proposal on a 5 to 0 vote, with Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark making the motion and Noack seconding it.
The problem comes with the catch, which Lambright recommended to the Commissioners Court. In order to get the $400 per employee mitigation, the employee must sign a full and final release of the Montgomery County government and, presumably, its agents which would include Davenport. That may be the deal-breaker for many employees, particularly since receiving $400 is nothing compared to the potential loss of credit reputation or identity.
How it all happened
Montgomery County Attorney J.D. Lambright had advised Davenport to release her policy and procedures manual with redactions of employee names, dates of birth, social security numbers, and other private information back in early December, 2017, after two citizens – Conroe ISD Board President Melanie Pryor Bush and Justin Pulliam – had requested the document. Davenport refused to release the document and even ordered Assistant County Attorney John McKinney to file suit against the Texas Attorney General to keep the document hidden from public view.
On December 19, 2017, Davenport also requested the Commissioners Court to come to her aid by declaring her policy manual a “trade secret” and “proprietary information.” In fact, after the Attorney General ordered Davenport to release the document, it turns out that a majority of the approximately 700 pages of Davenport’s manual are actually just pages from public documents that were backup material published as part of earlier Commissioners Court agendas. For example, Davenport claimed that a County Investment Policy was a “trade secret” even though it had been published on the Internet as part of the backup material in 2016 when the County Commissioners Court voted to adopt the policy.
Davenport had earlier claimed that the procedure and policy manual “contained step by step instructions on how to manipulate the county finance system.” Former County Treasurer Martha Gustavsen responded that manipulation of the county finance system is not a job duty of the County Treasurer.
In reality, the procedures manual was a bunch of junk. A supermajority of the pages were copies of policies the Commissioners Court had previously passed in open Commissioners Court meetings. It’s very clear that the real reason Davenport held the manual back so that voters could not see it before the March 6 Republican Primary Election was that there is nothing of substance contained within her entire 800 page manual.
On Thursday, March 1, 2018, Paxton ordered Davenport to release the procedures manual to the public under the Texas Open Records Act but he also made clear that Davenport should redact personal information, including names, dates of birth, and social security numbers from the document. Of course, it remains unclear why Davenport even included such information in a procedures manual of the County Treasurer’s Office. Davenport waited to release the procedures manual for one week until March 8, 2018.
Instead of following Attorney General Paxton’s direction to redact the personal information and release the remainder of the document to the public, Davenport released the document without redactions of the seventy-nine employees’ names, dates of birth, and social security numbers.
On the other hand, among the pages that Davenport claimed were top secret and should not be subject to public view were pages discussing how to recognize United States currency, including the following super secret information:
- The $1 bill has a portrait of George Washington on it.
- The $5 bill has a portrait of Abraham Lincoln on it.
- “The value amount of each bill is numerically posted in all four corners on both sides.”
- “The signature of the Treasurer of the United States appears on the bottom left of the face of the bill.”
Davenport also provided guidance to her County government employee staff, which includes County Judge Craig Doyal’s daughter, with respect to the method of “counting coins.” Davenport divulged the following information when she released her procedures manual: “Seven kinds of U.S. coins are issued,” Davenport secretly confided in her office staff. A coin with a $0.01 value is named a “penny.” A coin with a $0.05 value is named a “nickel.” A coin with a $0.25 value is named a “Quarter.”
Lambright told this newspaper, “I hope we’ll discuss where does this situation leave us and the issues and concerns among the affected County employees. The County Commissioners Court needs to know the countless hours we’ve spent in the County Attorney’s Office going through the more than 700 page document, because the County Treasurer failed to redact names and other personal information in numerous places throughout the document.”
Davenport lost her re-election bid in the March 6, 2018, Republican Primary Election to Bush. Since then, Davenport has rarely shown up for work.