Conroe and Montgomery County, March 4 – Montgomery County and the City of Conroe have spent many tens of millions of dollars on “economic development” and have recently exported to the entire State of Texas the primary commodity which this community manufactures, corruption. In a case emanating out of Precinct 2 Montgomery County Commissioner Charlie Riley’s, former County Judge Craig Doyal’s, and local political boss Marc Davenport’s indictment allegedly for holding secret deliberations to pass a November, 2015, road bond, and with the pro-tax and pro-Big-Government Texas Municipal League and Texas Association of Counties guiding them, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has declared one of the primary enforcement provisions in the Texas Open Meetings Act (“TOMA”) unconstitutional.
Montgomery County has a statewide reputation for its corruption and for its squandering millions of dollars on “economic development.” Now, the County has combined the two to export its corruption across the Lone Star State.
There are have been three primary forces behind the many tens of millions of dollars Montgomery County taxpayers have borne for “economic development,” a phrase actually meaning “granting special favors to large political contributors to give them a competitive advantage over others who merely try to compete in free markets.” Those three forces have been (1) corrupt County and municipal “leaders,” (2) corrupt out-of-County business owners who seek to buy their way into competitive advantage rather than competing in free markets, and (3) the Courier blog which works as a propaganda machine.
Just look at the amazing example of the $14.5 million the City of Conroe spent in 2013 to develop its R.A. “Mickey” Deison Technology Park next to the Montgomery County Airport. The Airport has lost many tens of millions of dollars for County taxpayers alone. By itself, it loses around $1 million a year even now, three decades into its existence.
The City of Conroe built the City’s Technology Park next to the Airport with the promise of amazing growth. Of course, the Courier blog touted the great event when the Technology Park opened in “Technology Park ready for occupants,” The Courier, May 30, 2013:
With its infrastructure in place, Conroe’s new R.A. “Mickey” Deison Technology Park received rave reviews from the elected officials and civic leaders attending the ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday. The question now is when will the project begin luring companies to the 248-acre site.
Larry Calhoun, executive director of the Greater Conroe Economic Development Council, told the crowd that he is “close” to obtaining signatures on three technology park contracts. “It should be in the very near future,” he said.
Calhoun did not divulge the names of the companies, other than to say one company is in the Houston market and the other two are based outside the United States. “Once we get the first couple (of companies), it (sales) will feed on itself,” he said.
“This is going to be huge for the economies of Conroe and Montgomery County,” said Mike Meador, Precinct 1 County Commissioner.
County Judge Alan B. Sadler professed his pride in his hometown’s achievements in recent years. “This project shows what Conroe has become,” he said. “In 1990 the streets were cracked and buildings were falling down. Today Conroe’s leaders have shown the foresight to make prudent decisions that have improved the quality of life.” Sadler expects at least one Fortune 500 firm to relocate to Conroe.
Mickey Deison, chairman of the Conroe Industrial Development Corporation, said the technology park named in his honor will bring “more good people” to the city.
Because of its close proximity to the Lone Star Executive Airport, the park was designed with an aeronautical theme. Pillars that support shade pavilions along the half mile-long Constellation Plaza resemble the tail of a jet aircraft. Shade “arbors” are steel roofs crafted into what appears to be aircraft wings, said Matt Long, of the architectural firm Burditt. The park’s other amenities include elevated wooden paths, and two towers standing sentry at the park’s main entrance at FM 1484 and Technology Park Drive.
The project was budgeted at a cost of $19 million but came in at $14.5 million, Project Engineer John Bleyl said.
Approximately 10,000 linear feet of concrete was used in the creation of the park’s roads.
Judy Campbell, who sold the city the 248-acre site for approximately $9 million, said she was “awed” at the beauty of the park.
Sadly, the reality has now made Calhoun, Meador (“this is going to be huge for the economies of Conroe and Montgomery County”), and Sadler look like fools, while Campbell made off like a genius.
The extraordinary Deison Technology Park has been a $14.5 million loss for the City of Conroe. There have been no businesses there. Nothing is happening. After six years, the Park is a beautiful and pristine forest, except for some cement.
Clearly, this type of government-led decision making has resulted in the City of Conroe enjoying its moniker as the “fastest growing city in the United States.” It is factually true that Conroe is, indeed, the fastest growing city in the United States. Conroe’s method to spur that fast growth is a concept affectionately known as “FORCED ANNEXATION.”
In other words, Conroe’s and Montgomery County’s “economic development” schemes have completely failed. Conroe’s $14.5 million investment has resulted in a $14.5 million loss to the taxpayers.
Montgomery County’s hare-brained economic development schemes and many tens of millions of dollars of tax abatements have resulted in nothing other than favored tax treatment to political contributors of the “elected servants” who made the decisions to grant those abatements. There has been no indicia whatsoever that tax abatements have brought new jobs which the free market would not otherwise have brought to the Montgomery County community.
Successful business venture: corruption
Montgomery County has, however, developed quite a reputation for itself statewide. As of last Thursday, when the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals struck down the primary enforcement provision of the Texas Open Meetings Act at the behest of some corrupt officials from Montgomery County, Montgomery County has successfully exported corruption statewide to all of Texas.
Through a pattern of secret meetings, backroom deals, and large political contributions, Montgomery County has pressed forward, to name a few examples:
- An $85 million TX 249 Tollway, known as the Decimation of Hope Highway, which more than 90% of the citizens didn’t want and which is a tollroad rather than a free road, because Riley and Doyal secretly lobbied the Texas Department of Transportation (“TxDOT”) to make it that way. Then Doyal and Riley appeared before the Texas Transportation Commission on June 27, 2017, and lied by telling them that the community is “unified in support” behind making TX 249 a Tollway. Why did they want a County-operated Tollway? For two reasons. First, as a County project rather than a state project, Doyal and Riley were able to funnel the road contracts to their favored political supporters, primarily Halff Associates engineers. Second, Doyal and Riley were able to convince TxDOT to build a road, which private developers should have financed, because the primary use of the road now going through undeveloped pastureland is to provide access to private residential and commercial real estate developments of two of the largest political contributors to Doyal and Riley and their criminal legal defense funds.
- A $16 million Enterprise Resource Planning software project for the County government also done as a backroom deal involving the Davenport Ring of corrupt politicians instead of spending well under $1 million on simple accounting software which the County could have implemented without trouble.
- The Phonoscope fiber optic cable system, also a Davenport Ring project, which moved forward on County government property and in County government buildings, even though the Commissioners Court never approved a contract or the use of government facilities to expand a private company’s fiber optic cable network.
- A secret multimillion deal to give Graves Humphries law firm an exclusive fee and fines collection concession for four of the five Justice of the Peace Courts in Montgomery County with taxpayers losing approximately $1 million per year as a result.
- A “walking quorum” behind the November, 2015, road bond project by which Doyal, Riley, Davenport, and others established majority support for the terms of a road bond referendum they had negotiated outside of any open meeting.
All of those deals occurred in secret meetings involving members of the Commissioners Court. All of those deals pressed forward in clear violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act’s prohibitions.
In response to their criminal indictment under TOMA for seeking to circumvent a quorum meeting to discuss the November, 2015, road bond’s terms, Doyal, Riley, and Davenport, with the critical assistance of the Texas Municipal League and the Texas Association of Counties, convinced the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to declare TOMA unconstitutional statewide.
It’s very important to understand the impact of the Court of Criminal Appeals’ ruling in the Doyal criminal case from this past Thursday.
If you have a Commissioners Court with A, B, C, D, and E as its members, then a quorum would be 3 of the 5 members. Clearly, it’s the law in Texas that 3 of them cannot meet unless it’s an open meeting properly posted.
Until this past Thursday, however, TOMA has prohibited another situation. Let’s say A and B meet and decide they want to rename the Airport the “Marc Davenport Travel Center.” After that first meeting, B walks over to C’s office and asks C if he’ll join in renaming the Airport as well. C agrees. Under this scenario, A, B, and C never actually met together in a quorum, but they established a “walking quorum” and now can go into a Commissioners Court meeting without having to “deliberate” in the open.
By allowing a “walking quorum” to occur, which is what the TOMA provision Doyal and Riley convinced the Court of Criminal Appeals to strike down, the entire “open government” policy of TOMA will go down the sewer, because now “walking quorums” are permissible and members of a governmental body can meet secretly in groups smaller than a quorum to make all government decisions in secret.
Thanks to Doyal, Riley, Davenport, and corrupt Montgomery County, that’s the law across all of Texas!
Montgomery County has failed in economic development. That’s not a surprise. Government can’t duplicate the positive forces of free market competition.
Montgomery County has, however, successfully exported its main commodity – corruption – across all of Texas. Montgomery County’s government can create corruption with efficiency that free markets simply do not.
Local governments in Texas may now operate in secret and ignore the policy of TOMA to require public discussion and deliberation.
There will be many more opportunities, especially in Montgomery County but also likely across Texas, for secret backroom deals like the sale of the Deison Technology Park property for $9 million to an ignorant municipality to move forward. As long as they’re out of the public eye, they’ll be able to get business done. Or not.