Montgomery County government driver’s appearance at Round Rock political function raises serious Keough ethics questions

Montgomery County government driver’s appearance at Round Rock political function raises serious Keough ethics questions

Image: Deputy Constable Jason Smith (far left), wearing his official Montgomery County government identification, appeared at a Texas Young Republicans political function in Round Rock, Texas, north of Austin, as Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough’s driver. Montgomery County taxpayers pay Smith’s salary and benefits. This newspaper confirmed Keough did not pay Smith for the driving services. Keough appears in the middle of the photograph with his Chief of Staff, Jason Millsaps, standing behind him.

The Golden Hammer Staff Reports

Conroe and Round Rock, March 26 – A photograph of Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough at the Texas Young Republicans Legislative Banquet in Round Rock, north of Austin, on Tuesday, March 23, 2021, has raised serious ethical questions about the elected official’s use of taxpayer funds for his personal driver. Deputy Constable Jason Smith, who is a salaried officer assigned full-time to drive Keough, after Keough’s major car accident on September 10, 2021, and Keough’s guilty plea to Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). Smith wore his official Montgomery County government identification to the event to indicate he was on-duty at the time.

Last night, The Golden Hammer confirmed that County taxpayers “did pay for Smith” to attend the function, according to County Judge Chief of Staff Jason Millsaps, who, at first, stated that Smith was on his “time off.”

On November 10, 2020, the Montgomery County Commissioners Court, upon Keough’s request, voted 3 (Keough, Meador, Metts) to 2 (Noack, Riley) to take a vehicle away from the Montgomery County Emergency Management Department for it to serve as Keough’s personal transportation, with an $80,000 per year personal driver whom the taxpayers would fund as well.  Please see “Statism, Big Government on display, as Montgomery County Judge Keough ‘Doyals’ taxpayers for $80K for personal driver,” The Golden Hammer, November 11, 2021 https://thegoldenhammer.net/statism-big-government-on-display-as-montgomery-county-judge-keough-doyals-taxpayers-for-80k-for-personal-driver/

In his “Contract with Montgomery County,” Keough pledged to Montgomery County citizens as he ran for County Judge in 2018, “I will end the practice of granting preferential treatment to elected officials and their employees that does not apply to the citizens of this county.” Apparently, Keough is the exception to ending that practice.

Millsaps posted the photograph at the top of this article on social media two days ago, which such photograph includes Smith, Keough, Millsaps, as well as a Republican Precinct Chair (Amber Shippam), and others.

This newspaper confirmed with three sources that Keough initially needed the law enforcement officer to drive him to and from work, and elsewhere, because Keough could not drive since the September 10, 2020, car accident Keough caused in The Woodlands, when Keough smashed his vehicle into a parked deputy constable’s vehicle after slamming into another vehicle and seeking to make a get-a-way from it. It also seems ironic that a deputy constable will now be in the position of providing Keough transportation, after a deputy constable suffered injury to himself and to his vehicle in the accident, which remains under a criminal investigation.

Palatial Kalahari Resort, Round Rock Texas, where Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough’s private County taxpayer-paid driver drove him at taxpayers’ expense, on Tuesday, March 23, 2021.

Keough has pled guilty to DWI, as he had very high levels of Ambien, a downer, and amphetamines, uppers, in his blood at the time of the September 10, 2020, major accident and injuries, which he caused. Keough pled guilty, paid substantial fines, and received a 90-day suspension of his driver’s license.

On February 25, 2021, however, County Court at Law Judge Dennis Watson granted Keough an occupational license for Keough’s official duties. Those duties, of course, would not include attending a partisan political function in the Austin area.

Precinct 3 Montgomery County Commissioner James Noack opposed the move to hire a driver for Keough in the Commissioners Court and explained “My only concern is that this is something that should’ve been addressed in budget hearings. We admonished other departments not to bring these matters to us in the middle of the year…That’s frustrating to me. I’m going to vote ‘no.’”

Noack harshly criticized Keough’s request. In explaining that a deputy constable sometimes provides public safety for Noack’s road and bridge crews, Noack said, “My officer that works with us doesn’t house in my precinct. He’s out on the street. He’s not sitting there to protect me; that’s what 9-1-1 is. The librarian wants one at her branch and I’ve told her the same thing.” Noack made clear that he believes Keough should call 9-1-1, in the event of any security issue, just like every other citizen must in Montgomery County.

Riley noted that “there’s panic buttons everywhere. There’s safety precautions.” Riley clearly voted “no” with respect to Keough’s fearful proposal, because Riley knows there are sufficient safeguards already in place. Those safeguards, however, do not provide Keough a private driver to ferry him to and from work each day.

As County Judge, Keough actually has very limited duties. In addition to presiding over Commissioners Court meetings once every two weeks, Keough is responsible for overseeing the burial of paupers and the emergency management department. Millsaps, however oversees the emergency management department for Keough and receives a huge $125,959.86 per year salary, with benefits of approximately $50,761.82, for total annual compensation of $176,721.68.

Keough receives a salary of $153,814.70 per year, now with benefits of approximately $148,250.62, for total compensation of $302,065.32, making Keough easily the highest paid elected official – local, state, or federal – in the entire State of Texas.

Keough did not respond to a request for comment.

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