Image: Corrupt local political consultant Marc Davenport (left) and his most longstanding client James Metts (right).
Montgomery County, May 21 – On Tuesday, May 22, 2018, Montgomery County voters have the opportunity to bring an almost complete end to the Davenport Ring of corrupt politicians who follow the direction of corrupt local political boss Marc Davenport. Two members of the Davenport Ring – Charlie Riley, the Precinct 2 County Commissioner, and James Metts, currently a JP but seeking a promotion to Precinct 4 County Commissioner – are on the ballot but face stiff competition in the form of noted conservative author and former Comal County Commissioner Gregory Parker running against Riley and reformer Jim Clark who is the Precinct 4 County Commissioner and facing the challenge from Metts.
Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon has distanced himself from Davenport and made clear to other political leaders that he would never support them if they continue to follow Davenport’s direction. County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport lost her re-election in a landslide to reformer Melanie Pryor Bush on March 6. Sheriff Rand Henderson discharged Davenport as a consultant, while Precinct 4 Constable Kenneth “Rowdy” Hayden began to distance himself from Davenport several months ago. Jason Dunn, the Houston police officer elected to begin service as the Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace on March 6 and who will take office on January 1, 2019, claims that he distanced himself from Davenport in late 2017. The only remaining follower of Davenport will be troubled Wayne Mack, who, through his employees, regularly expresses his anti-citizen attitude in Commissioners Court meetings.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Riley was one of Davenport’s top clients until the Montgomery County Grand Jury indicted the two together, along with County Judge Craig Doyal, for conspiracy to violate the Texas Open Meetings Act related to the November, 2015, bond referendum. Riley had paid $5,000 to Davenport just to negotiate the bond referendum on Riley’s behalf, because apparently Riley felt his skills related to road projects were lacking and required assistance from his political boss. After Riley and Davenport were criminally indicted, however, Riley decided to distance himself from his political boss, so he terminated Davenport’s services during the summer of 2016.
For Riley to lose Davenport as his boss was a mighty blow to the troubled County Commissioner. Riley worked closely with Davenport to initiate the Phonoscope fiber optic cable scandal under which Riley and Davenport began to move Phonoscope secretly into County facilities without Commissioners Court approval. Riley’s office in Magnolia was one of the first facilities where Phonoscope completed the installation. Ironically, the Montgomery County Jail soon followed as a Phonoscoper user.
Riley had attended some of the initial meetings with Phonoscope in Houston and obviously cherished the financial contribution wherewithal of Lee Cook, Phonoscope’s Chief Executive Officer and owner. Sources very close to Riley have reported on condition of anonymity that Riley found Phonoscope’s office facility quite enamoring.
Riley continuously supported Davenport in all of Davenport’s efforts to take over the County’s Purchasing and Information Technology functions. Riley was a good member of the Davenport Ring until the indictment hit. Oftentimes, citizens could not get Riley to communicate with them. A call or email to Davenport, however, would result in Riley’s response.
Riley fits the Davenport Ring mold quite well. He consistently votes for higher County government spending and property taxes. Riley is one of the leaders in the fight for secrecy in government, as he, along with Davenport and Doyal, is leading the fight to declare the Texas Open Meetings Act unconstitutional, so that government officials may conduct their business in secrecy. The Texas Association of Counties and the Texas Municipal League are two ultraliberal lobbying groups that are supporting Riley and Davenport in their quest to have the Open Meetings Act declared unconstitutional. As Davenport has said, “we could conduct business so much more easily, if we didn’t have to worry about the open meetings rules.” Riley has made that same argument in evidence and legal briefing in his criminal defense of the criminal indictment against him.
What is most visibly clear about JP James Metts, who currently draws a salary and benefits of more than $175,000 per year for doing almost no work running his court, is that he is truly a man wholly out for himself. There is no spirit of public service in Metts. Instead, he’s constantly on the lookout for a way to make money for himself and for his son whom he wants to take over the Precinct 4 County Commissioner’s job soon after Metts hopes to win the election.
Metts is the oldest Davenport Ring member both in chronological age (64) as well as in length of membership (16 years). In their world of misogyny, Metts has even attempted to succeed Davenport with respect to Davenport’s girlfriends. Metts and Davenport remain close friends, although Metts has tried to appear to have separated himself from the corrupt political boss. Metts claimed that Davenport had nothing to do with his campaign, but there is considerable video footage and photography showing that Davenport organized Metts campaign events in December, 2017, through February, 2018.
Metts has regularly introduced Davenport as Metts’ “sworn deputy,” although Davenport has never been a County government employee, is not a certified peace officer, and is most certainly no sort of judicial officers. Metts began those introductions of Davenport, so that Metts could get Davenport into employee meetings concerning the decision of what collections and computer software programs the JP courts would utilize. Metts and Davenport decided that they would use NetData and the collection services of the Graves Humphries Stahl law firm. That decision now costs the County’s taxpayers more than $880,000 per year in uncollected fees and fines in comparison to the far more in-house collection process that Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Edie Connelly, County Clerk Mark Turnbull, and County Collections Director Clegg DeWalt have developed.
Metts has also acted as a major booster of Phonoscope. In fact, Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark’s refusal to allow Phonoscope to install its system at Clark’s office was one of the turning points where Metts and Davenport decided they Metts needed to run against Clark in order to move the corrupt fiber optic cable system into Commissioner Precinct 4. As Davenport has explained in writing to people on social media, and as this newspaper has previously reported, the primary motivation for Davenport, Metts, and other Davenport Ring members is that they plan to branch out from the Phonoscope fiber optic cable system in County facilities to provide Phonoscope’s services to area municipalities, homeowners associations, and private developers, which is how they’d profit from Phonoscope through some sort of franchise or distribution agreement.
Metts has introduced Davenport as a JP 4 employee for well over a decade, as reports in the Houston Chronicle newspaper during the 2000s have shown.
Voters’ chance in the May 22 Republican Runoff Election
Voters have a great chance to move the Montgomery County government much farther away from the corruption of the Davenport Ring. In the Precinct 2 Commissioner election, it’s clear that Riley continues to work with Davenport’s purchasing and information technology program, even though Riley separated himself from Davenport after his criminal indictment.
In Precinct 4, voters face a more grave threat. Metts spends far more of his time and energy running his logging business and Sweetie Pie’s flower shop and restaurant than Metts works in the full-time County government job he presently holds. Metts’ lucrative contract with the Texas Department of Transportation to provide the logging and clearing services for the TX 249 Tollway is strong evidence of Metts’ pro-government-spending conflict of interest directly adverse to the taxpayers.
By rejected Riley and Metts, and electing reformers Greg Parker and Jim Clark, the citizens of Montgomery County will only have one corrupt member of the Davenport Ring left with whom we must contend.