Image: County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport.
Conroe, March 11 – The embattled departmental “reorganization” of County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport, which has caused an outbreak of substantial feuding between her department and Dodi Shaw’s Human Resources Department is one of the highlights of the March 14, 2017, Commissioners Court agenda. Agenda Item 16A under “County Treasurer” might appear somewhat mundane but it belies months of in-fighting, nepotism concerns, and questions about the proper function of Davenport’s and other County departments.
First Concern: Middle of the Fiscal Year wrong time for a reorganization
Three fundamental concerns arise regarding Davenport’s proposed reorganization. The first concern is the question why Davenport seeks to do the reorganization in the middle of the Fiscal Year, particularly this Fiscal Year.
The Commissioners Court has repeatedly denied Departmental attempts to reorganize their employment structure in the middle of the Fiscal Year. The most recent denial occurred when Precinct 2 Constable Gene De Forest attempted to reorganize his department at the February 14, 2017, Commissioners Court meeting. The Commissioners Court unanimously rejected the attempt. De Forest, who explained to The Golden Hammer that he is a member of County Judge Craig Doyal’s “Hit List” of County employees who did not support him for his election to his position in the March, 2014, Republican Primary Election and the May, 2014, Republican Runoff Election. (“Constable De Forest (A Doyal ‘Hit List’ Member) Calls For Greater Commissioners Court Support For Law Enforcement,” The Golden Hammer, February 24, 2017).
Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Meador voted against a proposed reorganization of Precinct 3 Constable Ryan Gable’s office in December, 2016, for the same rationale: department reorganizations should occur at the time of the budget hearings when the Commissioners Court should carefully study each department from the top to the bottom and vice-versa.
There does not seem to be any reason that Davenport could not wait to propose the reorganization of her Department until the period of Budget hearings when the Court should carefully, deliberatively, and publicly examine the organization of every County Department.
Second Concern: Discussions occurring regarding proper role of Treasurer’s and Auditor’s offices
The second concern is that Davenport’s proposed reorganization seems hasty in light of serious discussions concerning the role of the appropriate roles of the Treasurer’s and Auditor’s offices within the County’s operational structure. Presently, the County Auditor acts as the chief budget officer, the chief bookkeeper, the chief financial statement preparer, and the chief auditor. Since she audits her own books, she lacks the independence that Government Accounting Standards, promulgated by the United States Government Accountability Office, require. Since the County does not engage an outside auditor to conduct a full examination audit, Montgomery County never receives a full outside and independent audit.
Discussions are underway among the Citizens Budget Committee members and others whether the functions of the County Auditor should divide partly to the County Treasurer. Similarly, there are many functions which the County Treasurer performs which would more appropriately fall under the duties of an auditor.
These concerns support waiting to reorganize the County Treasurer’s Department until the Commissioners Court and the citizens address these issues carefully during the County Budget hearings.
Third Concern: Nepotism
When the County Treasurer’s Department initially prepared the paperwork for the proposed reorganization on September 6, 2016, and submitted those documents to the Human Resources Department a few weeks later, the Position Description Questionnaires (PDQs) showed that the reorganization created a new position entitled “Assistant County Treasurer” for Lindsey Doyal, the daughter of County Judge Craig Doyal, which would provide Lindsey Doyal a substantial promotion and raise. Davenport claims that she was unaware of the placement of Lindsey Doyal’s name in the PDQs which her department submitted to the Human Resources Department for review.
During the next several months, substantial animosity and tension broke out between Davenport and the Human Resources Department of Director Dodi Shaw. These tensions broke into public view when The Golden Hammer obtained a letter from Shaw to the County Commissioners on February 16, 2017, in which she complained about nepotism, her disagreements with Davenport over the reorganization, and her concerns that she is also a member of County Judge Craig Doyal’s “Hit List” because Shaw allegedly supported Mark Bosma for County Judge against Doyal in the 2014 election cycle. (“Breaking News: HR Director Dodi Shaw Fears For Her Job, Pledges Loyalty In Complaint Letter To County Judge Craig Doyal,” The Golden Hammer, February 18, 2017.)
The bulk of Shaw’s 5-page, single-spaced letter, dated February 13, 2017, addresses Shaw’s claimed confrontations with County Treasurer Davenport and with Doyal’s “chief of staff” jim fredricks over Shaw’s concerns regarding Davenport’s proposed “reorganization” of her 8-person department, which includes Lindsey Doyal, County Judge Craig Doyal’s daughter. Judge Craig Doyal has repeatedly voted for the budgets of the County Treasurer’s Department even though the Department engages in the nepotistic practice of employing his daughter as the payroll coordinator.
Shaw made clear in her letter that most of her confrontations with Davenport arose, because Davenport and fredricks sought to promote and elevate Lindsey Doyal to the position of “Assistant County Treasurer.” Shaw provided a lengthy and detailed timeline concerning her alleged confrontations with Davenport over these issues.
In her letter, Shaw described an October 31, 2016, meeting where Shaw suggested that Lindsey Doyal might be “uncomfortable” participating in the meeting with Shaw, Deputy HR Director Kathy Flowers, and Davenport, because the primary subject of the meeting was Lindsey Doyal. Nevertheless, Lindsey Doyal declined to leave the meeting. During the meeting, Shaw described,
“Stephanne stated she did not think an employee should not be considered for a position based on their last name. Kathy stated that some people felt that Lindsey was in her current position [as payroll coordinator] because of her last name…” Davenport suggested that the HR Department was delaying approval for the reorganization because “’it might be another reason’.”
After The Golden Hammer obtained and disclosed Shaw’s letter, there were several terse letters back and forth between County Judge Doyal, Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack, and Shaw.
Clearly, County Judge Craig Doyal, through his “chief of staff” fredricks, injected themselves into human resources issues that directly involved Judge Doyal’s daughter, Lindsey Doyal. That problem arose both as a result of the clear nepotism trouble in this situation where two Doyals, father and daughter, are intricately involved in a Departmental reorganization.
(Craig) Doyal wrote a letter in response to Shaw on February 22. In the letter addressed to “Mrs. Shaw,” Doyal chided the County Human Resources Director as follows: “While I appreciate your detailed accounting of the steps taken by your office [in the County Treasurer reorganization process], your memo still does not address the main concern of our office – an elected official attempting to restructure her office who believes that she was not being fully supported by Human Resources, or even worse, was being purposefully obstructed by Human Resources. Your memo does not adequately explain why it took more than four months and the task was still not complete. Please provide any additional information or explanation for the delay…It is my duty to provide appropriate oversight to all department heads who report to this office. It is also my responsibility o listen to concerns of elected officials and department heads concerning the performance of the offices of which my office has oversight. I full intend to exercise that responsibility.” (Emphasis added.)
Clearly, whether (Craig) Doyal directly injected himself into County decisions involving (Lindsey) Doyal was of no consequence to either of the Doyals who wanted Davenport’s Department reorganization to proceed.
On February 22, 2017, (Craig) Doyal asked Shaw to meet with him on Friday, February 24. In response, Shaw requested that Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack participate in the meeting between Doyal and Shaw.
In a February 1, 2017, letter to Doyal, Noack had requested that “When you address your concerns with Mrs. Shaw, and give her the opportunity to respond to the allegations Mrs. Davenport’s [January 9] letter, I request to be included in the meeting.”
In response by email on February 23, Doyal dropped the impediment to Noack’s participation, “Let’s plan on meeting at 2 p.m. Friday in my office. I had already invited Commissioner Meador to join us, so we cannot have a third commissioner participate.”
Noack wrote a letter to Craig Doyal on February 1, 2017, partly quoted above. In that letter, Noack accused Doyal of creating “an environment where it is difficult for Mrs. Shaw to succeed as the Human Resources Director for Montgomery County. I do not believe it is coincidence that the name Dodi Shaw was a name on the ‘hit list’ you denied having in a Commissioners Court meeting in 2015. I am referring to the ‘hit list’ you are rumored to have created during your 2014 campaign. The list is said to include the following county employees: Mark Bosma – terminated, Darlou Zenor – no longer employed by Montgomery County, Dodi Shaw, Don Carpenter.”
Davenport’s agenda item 16A to “consider and approve the following position changes…” is far from mundane and raises numerous issues concerning the County’s operations, management, and ethics. Clearly, County Judge Craig Doyal should recuse himself from voting concerning a County Department where his daughter Lindsey works and with respect to a reorganization that she advocated directly in meetings with County Department heads.
The political pressure for Shaw to approve Davenport’s PDQs for Davenport’s proposed “reorganization,” Lindsey Doyal’s refusal to leave the October 31 meeting where Department heads addressed these issues, fredricks’ and Craig Doyal’s inappropriate political injection into a human resources matter, and bad timing to reorganize this particular County Department all suggest that the wise course would be to defer these matters until the summer budget season. There’s simply no reason to hurry.