Montgomery County, September 14 – “It’s Hammer Time,” the popular Facebook Live/YouTube show on MCP.TV, will air live today, Friday, September 14, 2018, beginning at 11:45 a.m. from the Montgomery County Courthouse where the Board of District Judges will meet to discuss whether to re-appoint Montgomery County Auditor Phyllis Martin to another 2-year term and the Fiscal Year 2019 Budget for the County Auditor Department.
“It’s Hammer Time” requested permission to broadcast the Board of District Judges meeting live. Chief Administrative District Judge Jennifer Robin granted the request. Renowned Producer and Director Bill Brenza will produce and direct the show and will also act as the Key Grip.
The Board of District Judges includes all eight (8) District Judges in Montgomery County: Jennifer Robin, 410th District Court and Chief Administrative Judge; Phil Grant, 9th District Court; Lisa Michalk, 221st District Court; Cara Wood, 284th District Court; Kathleen Hamilton, 359th District Court; Tracy Gilbert, 418th District Court; and Patty Maginnis, 435th District Court. Five of the eight – Judges Robin, Grant, Michalk, Gilbert, and Maginnis – appeared before the Montgomery County Commissioners Court on Tuesday, September 11, 2018, to complain that the Commissioners Court’s action on September 5, 2018, to reduce the County Auditor’s Budget by $239,492 was a violation of the Texas Constitution’s “separation of powers” doctrine, because the County Auditor is a member of the judicial branch of government exclusively under the supervision of the District Judges. On a 4 to 1 vote, with Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack dissenting, the Commissioners Court reversed its action and restored the County Auditor’s Budget, pending the determination of the Board of District Judges later today.
There are serious concerns about Martin’s performance in her job. Martin’s repeated involvement in the everyday work of the Montgomery County government would seem to be a clear violation of the Texas Constitution’s “separation of powers” doctrine as well.
Rather than acting as an auditor whom the County government should view as a bit of an outsider, Martin gets involved with the policy, politics, and operations of the Montgomery County government regularly. In a document she called the “Popular Annual Financial Report,” Martin even argued in favor of the enormous governmental expenditures of the County government.
In 1986, D.C. Jim Dozier, who was Montgomery County Attorney at the time, issued a written legal opinion in which he stated:
“The role of the Auditor, then, as it was originally conceived, and as it still exists under the law, is one somewhat removed from the everyday workings of county government…An Auditor who is involved in the everyday workings of government cannot properly function as part of a system of checks and balances. In the capacity of paying bills for the County [specifically referring to Montgomery County], the Auditor is asked to perform a particular task and, as Auditor, to maintain oversight of the same task. In essence, then, the Auditor is required to audit himself, and this puts him in an untenable position.”
Although the County Auditor in 1986 left office under a considerable cloud, her successors, Linda Breazeale and Phyllis Martin, have continued her practice of involvement in the “everyday workings of county government” in violation of several provisions of the Texas Local Government Code and Dozier’s opinion letter, which no later County Attorney ever overruled.
These issues and the central participation of County Auditor Phyllis Martin to the County Commissioners’ Court’s increases in spending during the past decade will make for a very interesting meeting. It’s a part of local government that viewers rarely have the opportunity to watch.
The show will air live from 11:45 a.m. until the end of the meeting. Encore presentations will be available to viewers on Facebook Live and YouTube at MCP.TV all weekend long.