Image: Precinct 2 Montgomery County Commissioner Charlie Riley is at the center of the Goetz-Gate scandal along with County Judge Craig Doyal
Conroe, August 12 – After several months of investigation, the full ugly story behind the “Goetz-Gate” scandal has come to the fore. The facts reveal a lot about Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley, who was the Precinct 2 Operations Manager for his boss, then-County Commissioner Craig Doyal. The facts also reveal quite a bit about Doyal.
Much of this scandal erupted when former Precinct 2 employee Melissa Goetz’s son, Brian Goetz, gained a release from the Montgomery County Jail on November 21, 2016, after serving two weeks of a six-month sentence for driving while intoxicated after an October 26, 2012, accident in which two of Goetz’s passengers died in an horrific accident on Nichols Sawmill Road. Montgomery County Sheriff Tommy Gage, who also happens to be Riley’s best friend, claimed that the Sheriff’s Office had made a “mistake” in releasing Goetz from jail after only two weeks.
A jury had acquitted Goetz of intoxication manslaughter after Riley, as the star defense witness, testified at trial that road conditions could have made the road unsafe, which became the primary theme of Goetz’s lawyer’s closing argument at the conclusion of the criminal trial.
While the facts of the case initially made Riley appear the victim, the full facts reveal that Riley is anything but a victim. He should be nowhere near positions of public – or private – trust.
How it all began
On March 13, 2012, Precinct 2 Operations Manager (now Commissioner) Charlie Riley terminated Goetz as an administrative assistant after his wife, Deanne Riley, insisted that it was time for Goetz to go. Goetz had been a long time associate and employee of Riley, having served with him as a founding director and officer of the Magnolia Education Foundation. Riley had always liked and respected Goetz and enjoyed working with her in Precinct 2. His wife Deanne, however, had very different feelings about Goetz. Deanne told several County employees that she felt Goetz was a serious threat to Riley’s career, because Goetz was intensely political and also because she supposedly carried on some inappropriate relationships with Riley’s co-workers in Precinct 2 as well as with Riley’s boss.
Riley didn’t want to fire Goetz, but his wife Deanne called the shots. Goetz lost her job without any prior disciplinary warnings. Riley terminated Goetz for taking home some County office equipment, including a computer and a printer, so that Goetz could work on Doyal’s campaign from home.
During the afternoon after Riley terminated Goetz, he received a telephone call from his boss, County Commissioner (now Judge) Craig Doyal who summoned Riley out to his truck parked in front of the Commissioner’s barn. Doyal and Riley engaged in a heated argument during which Riley told Doyal that he would resign as an employee of Montgomery County. Riley then left.
The next morning Doyal convinced Riley to change his mind when Doyal agreed to sign the termination as Goetz’s official boss. Officially, Riley and Doyal terminated Goetz on March 14, 2012, as follows: “…the severity of the offense is so serious that this level of discipline [termination] is appropriate…It just came to my attention that on or about January 9, 2012, you returned a [county] printer to the office which you admitted using to prepare campaign materials [for Doyal’s political campaign!]…”
The County never charged Goetz formally, although three individuals inside of District Attorney Brett Ligon’s Office have confirmed that Ligon investigated the circumstances and interviewed Riley. Riley initially cooperated with Ligon and had begun to negotiate an agreement to testify against Goetz and possibly even Doyal in return for transactional immunity from prosecution.
On April 17, 2012, Melissa Goetz send a letter to Commissioner Doyal that recounted that:
- Under Doyal’s personal direction, Melissa Goetz regularly prepared his campaign reports at the Precinct 2 office.
- Under Doyal’s personal direction, Melissa Goetz prepared political program ads during work hours at the Precinct 2 office.
- Under Doyal’s personal direction, Melissa Goetz prepared and mailed political checks during work hours and worked on political fundraisers during for Doyal during work hours.
- Other county employees in Precinct 2 worked on campaign activities and fundraisers for Doyal during work hours.
- The Precinct 2 mechanics shop built platforms during work hours for Doyal’s political fundraisers.
- Operations Manager Charlie Riley purchased food for Doyal’s political fundraisers during county business hours.
- Doyal approved of the use of county materials, equipment, and time to work on his campaign.
- Charlie Riley, Melissa Goetz’s immediate supervisor, instructed Goetz to “do what you need to do to get it [Doyal’s political campaign reports] finished” including taking a county printer to Goetz’s home.
October 26, 2012: the horrific accident changed the situation
On October 26, 2012, however, Brian Goetz traveled extraordinarily fast on Nichols Sawmill Road, the vehicle left the road, flew several feet into the air, and hit a tree head-on. Two passengers died. One passenger suffered terrible injuries. Goetz was intoxicated to a degree that his limp body largely escaped injury.
A few weeks later, the District Attorney’s Office charged Goetz with intoxication manslaughter. Goetz met with Riley. Goetz agreed she would remain quiet about her allegations against Doyal, Riley, and other Precinct 2 employees, in return for which Riley agreed to testify to help Goetz’s son in the very serious criminal charges Brian Goetz faced.
Riley also made clear to Ligon’s Office that Riley would no longer cooperate with any criminal charges against Doyal or Goetz with respect to any allegations against them arising from Goetz’s allegations in her April 17 letter to Doyal and about Doyal.
Ligon’s investigation of the allegations of misuse of County property came to a screeching halt. Meanwhile, Riley stuck to his deal with Melissa Goetz when, four years later, he provided the testimony that eventually convinced a jury to acquit Brian Goetz of intoxication manslaughter.
Rather than facing these serious allegations, and explaining their actions, Doyal attempted a campaign inside the county government to cover up the “Goetzgate” scandal. Dozens of county employees reported that Doyal threatened County Human Resources Director Dodi Shaw with termination, that Doyal threatened other county employees, that Doyal actually terminated County Purchasing Director Darlou Zenor, and that Doyal insisted to Riley and others that the Melissa Goetz termination documents never see the light of day.
The Golden Hammer thanks for eleven current County employees (3 in the DA’s Office, 2 in the Precinct 2 Commissioner’s Office, and six in various other Departments) who provided the information for this article, in addition to the Melissa Goetz employment file.