Conroe, New Caney, and Austin, December 7 – In the race for the “most stupid lawsuit ever filed,” the San Jacinto River Authority just filed a lawsuit in Travis County against Attorney General Ken Paxton – the State of Texas versus the State of Texas – that rivals the waste of taxpayer dollars of Montgomery County JP James Metts’ lawsuit, which he filed on April 10, 2013, and which he styled “Montgomery County versus Marshall Shirley,” where Metts acted as the judge, the plaintiff, and the plaintiff’s lawyer, and sued Marshall Shirley, a County Department Director. In both lawsuits, the taxpayers suffered instances where a governmental entity essentially sued itself. Both lawsuits remain pending.
San Jacinto River Authority’s stupid lawsuit
The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, learned yesterday that the San Jacinto River Authority (“SJRA”) has filed a lawsuit against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in a Travis County District Court, mainly because SJRA doesn’t want to release General Manager Jace Houston’s cellular telephone number, for which public funds pay, in response to a request under the Texas Open Records Act. The lawsuit is Cause D-1-GN-17-006440, styled San Jacinto River Authority versus The Honorable Ken Paxton, Attorney General of Texas, in the 345th District Court of Travis County.
SJRA has refused to follow its statutory duty, which the Texas Legislature established in 1937, “to provide flood control.” At a hearing in New Caney on October 16, 2017, the Senate Agriculture Committee investigated causes of the flooding of thousands of homes during Tropical Storm Harvey in late August, 2017. “I’m embarrassed the public has to hear that answer,” said State Senator Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) after SJRA’s Houston tried to justify the SJRA’s failure to fulfill its statutory mandate “to provide flood control” by arguing “we have the power but not the duty to do flood control.”
Despite the millions of dollars SJRA has accumulated from monopolistic water sales within the watershed of the San Jacinto River primarily to The Woodlands and the cities of Conroe and Magnolia, Houston and SJRA have refused “to provide flood control” at all. Meanwhile, freespending Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal is openly talking about the County government spending tens of millions of dollars to do a study and provide flood control itself, even though SJRA has the statutory duty – and the financial resources – to provide the much-needed flood control for the San Jacinto River watershed.
While SJRA won’t spend money on its statutory duty “to provide flood control,” SJRA seems to adore spending money on legal fees. Its legal fees are monstrous, because SJRA is at war with the entire community of citizens within the watershed of the San Jacinto River. This latest lawsuit is a major example of SJRA’s delight in spending public dollars on attorney fees, while eschewing “flood control” publicly and privately.
How SJRA came to file the stupid lawsuit
In the continuing investigation of SJRA’s corruption and ineptitude, as the flooding this community suffered during the Harvey storm has revealed, The Golden Hammer‘s Publisher made a request on September 4, 2017, under the Texas Open Records Act for what would seem like three very benign items:
- The salary survey showing all salaries for employees of SJRA
- General Manger Jace Houston’s entire employment file
- Documents showing the compensation of SJRA’s Board of Directors.
SJRA provided some of the documents but refused to provide large portions of Houston’s employment file.
Unbeknownst to this newspaper until yesterday, however, after SJRA begged Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton for help to keep portions of Houston’s employment file a secret from the public, Paxton issued an official Letter Ruling, Number OR2017-26222, on November 16, 2017, in which the Attorney General ordered SJRA to release portions of Houston’s employment file, which The Golden Hammer‘s Publisher didn’t even know SJRA had withheld!
Specifically, Paxton ordered SJRA to release the following records which the Publisher didn’t even know were withheld:
- Houston’s cellular telephone number, because SJRA pays for the cellular telephone service. Therefore, under Attorney General Open Records Decision Number 506, which made clear in 1988 that non-law enforcement cell phone records for cell phones which are billed to the governmental entity are not exempt from public disclosure under the Open Records Act, Houston and SJRA must turn the records over to the requestor.
- Certain of Houston’s personal information, because Houston and SJRA had failed to comply with the privacy protection laws for protection from such information from public disclosure and specifically violated Section 552.024(b) and Section Section 552.117(a)(1) of the Open Records Act.
After Paxton ordered SJRA and Houston to comply with Texas law, SJRA and Houston did what they did with Creighton when the State Senator asked why SJRA didn’t comply with statutory duties: they went to war. SJRA filed a lawsuit against Paxton 12 days later. In the lawsuit, SJRA didn’t mention its own failure to comply with Texas law and didn’t even mention anything about SJRA’s failure to produce Houston’s cell phone telephone number. Instead, SJRA misled the District Court by claiming there was a privacy issue to protect a poor victimized employee.
As a result of SJRA’s positively ridiculous unwillingness to provide simple information – and its unwillingness to communicate with the requestor of the information about an amicable method of resolving the issue – SJRA has filed a lawsuit where SJRA, an agency of the State of Texas, is squandering public dollars that should go towards SJRA’s statutory duty “to provide flood control” instead of suing the Attorney General of Texas, Paxton.
It’s a lawsuit of the State of Texas suing itself and the only sure losers are the taxpayers who must watch the recklessness.
Don’t forget Montgomery County’s JP James Metts in the race for “most stupid lawsuit ever filed”
On April 10, 2013, JP James Metts, known for costing Montgomery County taxpayers a fortune to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit after he made numerous sexual advances against a County employee in his Court office and then terminated her employment for her refusal, engaged in some of the most bizarre conduct in the history of Texas jurisprudence. As the sitting judge in his own court, Metts filed a lawsuit styled “County of Montgomery versus Marshall Shirley” under Docket Number 2013185. The legacy computer system shows the following data:
“Plaintiff: County of Montgomery
Attorney: JP 4
Defendant: Shirley, Marshall”
To make matters even more strange, Metts typed out a lengthy “ORDER TO RELEASE INFORMATION,” which Metts signed as the judge (!), in which he stated:
“It is, therefore, ORDERED by the Court that Marshall Shirley, Director of Information Technology shall by the close of business on 15 April, 2013 release any and all files, records, data, and information of this Court to Graves, Humphries, Stahl, Ltd and their agents.
“ORDERED this day, 10 April, 2013.
“Honorable James Metts Justice of the Peace, Pct. 4 Montgomery County”
To make matters even more bizarre, Metts, the plaintiff, plaintiff’s attorney, and judge in a lawsuit where Montgomery County essentially sued itself, Metts had his fellow Davenport Ring crony, Precinct 4 Constable Kenneth “Rowdy” Hayden actually serve the bizarre “Order” on Marshall Shirley at Shirley’s County office in Conroe. Captain Mark Seals of Hayden’s team actually delivered the illegal papers to Shirley.
Justice of the Peace Courts do not have legal authority or jurisdiction to issue orders of that nature under the Texas Constitution or any Texas statute. Only courts of record – County Courts at Law and District Courts – may issue orders or injunctions requiring people to do something or to refrain from doing so.
Shirley’s response is classic!
Needless to say, Shirley was more than a bit surprised when the County for which he was a Department Director sued him. Seals served Shirley on April 11, 2013.
Shirley then did what any good County employee should do when he or she is served with lawsuit papers. He went to consult with the County Attorney, J.D. Lambright, the one person in Montgomery County who actually does have the authority to file a lawsuit on behalf of the County. Lambright declined to give an interview for this article. Two sources inside of Lambright’s County Attorney’s Office and one source inside of Shirley’s IT Department all confirmed that Lambright advised Shirley to “ignore the lawsuit but stay away from Constable’s Precinct 4.”
Therefore, Shirley ignored Metts’ Order and, presumably, followed Lambright’s advice to avoid East Montgomery County where Metts, when he bothers to show up for work, operates a court outside of the law.
In the instance of the Metts lawsuit, where Montgomery County sued itself, with Metts as plaintiff, plaintiff’s lawyer, and judge, the taxpayers had to stand on the sidelines and watch Metts and Hayden squander County tax dollars on their political power games.
SJRA has teed up a lawsuit of the State of Texas suing itself. Metts has teed up a lawsuit of Montgomery County suing itself. In both lawsuits, the taxpayers have paid a dear price.