Hideously ugly May 8 Commissioners Court meeting disregards citizen tax burden

Hideously ugly May 8 Commissioners Court meeting disregards citizen tax burden

Conroe, June 1 – The two Montgomery County Commissioners Court meetings during the month of May, 2018, were hideously ugly affairs in which the citizens of Montgomery County took their actions on the chin while the elected servants didn’t seem to give much of a care whatsoever about the impropriety of it all. The first hideously ugly meeting of the two occurred on Tuesday, May 8, 2018.

The worst portions of the meeting arrived at the beginning and at the end. The “consent” agenda contained some of the worst damage to Montgomery County citizens in the history of Commissioners Court meetings and, sadly, Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack delivered one of the worst blows. The damage also came at the end of the meeting with the so-called “Tollroad Authority” meeting.

The Golden Hammer‘s ratings measure Commissioners Court votes that affect spending in comparison to the provisions of the Republican Party of Texas Platform. Points are good. The number of points depends upon the amount of money involved in each vote.

Commissioners Court meeting, May 8, 2018, 9:30 a.m. All Court members were physically present.

Agenda Item 9A1: Consider and approve more than $10 million of budget amendments as an “emergency.” Why an emergency? Because under the Texas Local Government Code, if the Commissioners Court didn’t declare the budget amendment as an emergency, they’d have to conduct a public hearing and actually allow citizen input into the consideration of the budget item. Such transparency or open government is beyond the respiratory ability of lame duck County Judge Craig Doyal, Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack who is Doyal’s closest chum when it comes to spending on the Commissioners Court, Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley who is a criminal defendant along with Doyal and local political boss Marc Davenport after the Montgomery County Grand Jury indicted the three of them for violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act, Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador, and Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark.

Here’s an example of the type of “grave necessity” and “emergency” they approved as part of the budget amendments.

Riley’s $6.5 million mistake!

This vote is major. 25 points. An appropriate vote is “No.” Of course, it passed 5 to 0.

DOYAL Yes

MEADOR Yes

RILEY Yes

NOACK Yes

CLARK Yes.

Agenda Items 9A2 and 9A3: Spend $3,759.35 to clean up a functional mess with respect to the NetData software that Wayne Mack and JP James Metts claim is “free.” The NetData software has been a mess from the start through the present. This expenditure is to provide some minimal functionality to the software which the County government was to receive for free for use in the four of the five JP courts where Graves Humphries Stahl law firm gets paid a gigantic fee for collection of fees and fines which those courts assess. As a result of this mess, County taxpayers are losing more than $880,000 per year.

This vote is major. 25 points. An appropriate vote is “No.”

DOYAL Yes

MEADOR Yes

RILEY Yes

NOACK Yes

CLARK Yes.

Agenda Item 9A4: Consider and approve payment of accounts. More than anywhere else, these blanker unreviewed approvals of massive expenditures every two weeks illustrate how asleep the entire Commissioners Court actually is. The $11,431,584 of payments over 82 single-spaced pages include:

  • $10,599.57 to Halff Associates, Inc., the engineering firm of Bobby Jack Adams, the best friend and business partner of Doyal for “project management” for the $95 million, 3 mile, TX 249 Tollway, also known as the Decimation of Hope Highway.
  • $65,865.41 to Graves Humphries Stahl, the law firm that fails to take any action to collect fees and fines in the JP courts.
  • Hundreds of thousands of dollars of credit card charges without any backup or disclosure. Fun times for County departments!

This vote is major. 25 points. An appropriate vote is “No.”

DOYAL Yes

MEADOR Yes

RILEY Yes

NOACK Yes

CLARK Yes.

Agenda Item 9C: Purchasing. Without oversight or review, the Commissioners Court will approve commitments to expend $2.4 million on various purchases. This vote is major. 25 points. An appropriate vote is “No.”

DOYAL Yes

MEADOR Yes

RILEY Yes

NOACK Yes

CLARK Yes.

Agenda Item 9G1: Approve payroll change request forms that none of the members of the Commissioners Court reviewed prior to or during the meeting. A serious discrepancy between the May 8, 2018, Commissioners Court minutes, as the Court approved them on May 22, and the agenda for the May 8 meeting reveals that the members of the Commissioners Court, particularly County Judge Craig Doyal and Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack, are intentionally hiding payroll changes from the public in the agenda posted before each meeting.

Entirety of the May 8, 2018, Commissioners Court Agenda with respect to “Payroll Change Requests” on the secretive “consent agenda.”

The above screen shot shows the entirety of the “Payroll Change Request Forms” attached to the May 8, 2018, Commissioners Court Agenda. That is the so-called “backup” material, which provides no information whatsoever for the public. Major changes to the County’s payroll occurred on May 8, 2018, including the controversial hire of former Courier blog editor Andy Dubois as a County employee in what appears to be a reward for his pro-government reporting over two decades.

The public had no opportunity to review the proposed payroll changes before the Commissioners Court approved them as a part of the secretive “consent agenda.” In reality, three of the five members of the Commissioners Court had no idea what they were voting to approve either, because they didn’t bother to review the agenda and didn’t seek the content of the secretive “payroll change request forms” prior to the meeting.

Citizens may request the payroll changes under the Texas Open Records Act/Public Information Act, but the County government may delay making the documents available until ten days later, which would be after the Commissioners Court meeting had already occurred. Noack has, however, agreed to respond to most public information requests in a more expedited manner.

In the era of County Judge Alan B. Sadler, all of the proposed payroll changes were actually part of the agenda itself. They wouldn’t even be backup to the posted agenda. By including those changes in the written agenda posted for the public to see, Sadler made the payroll changes readily available to the public.

The era of lame duck County Judge Craig Doyal has changed that. Secrecy reigns. On May 8, Doyal, Noack, and others took major advantage of that secrecy. That they later approved minutes that included every single one of the payroll changes reveals that they are well aware of the fact that those payroll changes are significant enough that they must appear in the Commissioners Court records. Nevertheless, they want to hide those payroll changes from the public as effectively as possible and most certainly before the Commissioners Court votes to approve them along with the secretive “consent” agenda.

It’s, therefore, important to compare the payroll change requests disclosed to the public before the May 8 meeting with the Commissioners Court Minutes which the Court approved two weeks later at the next meeting. Just look at the minefield of County spending and County government management issues that occurred over four pages of the minutes but appeared as one mere line on the posted agenda. You’ll see Noack’s secret hiring of Dubois and many of the terminations, resignations, and reorganizations in the Sheriff’s Office.

It’s precisely the information the public should receive about the mess inside of the Montgomery County government. It’s precisely the information that Doyal and Noack don’t want the public to have.

Major vote to hire Courier blog editor Andy Dubois. With all of the secrecy and intentional hiding of this action, an appropriate vote would be “No.”

Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack ought to be ashamed of this action. He’s been an advocate for transparency at least in the open. There is no excuse for the manner in which he handled this controversial hire of a public relations guy to become Noack’s road and bridge operations director. In the near future, may the citizens look forward to:

  • The secret hire of Stephanne Davenport to a lucrative County government job? Maybe she could become the Director of Public Information Requests for the County Attorney’s Office? (Actually, the rumor is that Precinct 4 County Commissioner-Elect James Metts intends to hire her for his office.)
  • The secret hire of a convicted felon and drug dealer to a public relations job?
  • The secret hire of one or more members of the East County family of convicted felons to whatever?
  • Perhaps, the hire of Courier blog reporter Catherine Dominguez as the first Montgomery County Medical Examiner at the salary of $400,000 per year?

A “No” vote is appropriate. 4 people asleep and one person intentionally hiding what happened voted to approve. 25 points. Noack get a 100 point deduction for his imitation of Doyal’s secrecy.

DOYAL Yes

MEADOR Yes

RILEY Yes

NOACK Yes

CLARK Yes.

Agenda Item 15A1: Spend $170,000 for the District Clerk’s archival plan to archive documents from the 1800s to 1999. This project is a necessary project the money for which comes from a state grant. Nevertheless, Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark made a smart move by amended the proposal to allow the District Clerk to spend “up to” $170,000 rather than passing a motion that appears to call for her to spend that money. Clark’s smart move earns him a 25 point bonus. An appropriate vote is “Yes.” 10 points.

DOYAL Yes

MEADOR Yes

RILEY Yes

NOACK Yes

CLARK Yes.

Agenda Item 16A1: Removal tolls from the SH 242 flyovers. During the discussion, Riley and Doyal hemmed and hawed and tried every excuse they could find to rationalize continuing to charge tolls on the SH 242 flyovers even though the taxpayers have paid the debt on those flyovers. Major vote. 100 points. A “Yes” vote was appropriate. Riley sent a strong message that he believes in the principle, “Once tolled, always tolled.”

DOYAL No

MEADOR No

RILEY No

NOACK Yes

CLARK Yes.

Tollroad Acton Item: Issue $95 million of revenue bonds to finance the 3 mile, TX 249 Tollway and let the contract for the construction to SpawGlass Construction. The contract to SpawGlass at the beginning is for $4.5 million but it will total $56.25 million eventually. The $4.5 million came from the general revenue funds of Montgomery County taxpayers. This vote is a seminal and defining vote for the Commissioners Court. 2,500 points. A “No” vote is appropriate. It passed on a 3 to 2 vote.

DOYAL Yes

MEADOR Yes

RILEY Yes

NOACK No

CLARK No.

Commissioners Court ratings for May 8, 2018, meeting:

DOYAL 10/2,735, Grade F.

MEADOR 10/2,735, Grade F.

RILEY 10/2,735, Grade F.

NOACK 2,510/2,735, Grade A.

CLARK 2,635/2,735, Grade A.

The following are the cumulative scores for Fiscal Year 2018, which began October 1, 2017.

DOYAL -1,825/7,984. Grade F.

MEADOR -480/7,984. Grade F.

RILEY -480/7,984. Grade F.

NOACK 6,761/7,984. Grade B.

CLARK 7,395/7,984. Grade A-.

The citizens must remain vigilant.

Comments

comments

You must be logged in to post a comment Login