Image: Former Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal spoke on Tuesday, January 11, 2022, in opposition to County Judge Mark Keough’s proposal to spend $4.7 million on radios for other taxing entities out of Montgomery County government tax dollars.
The Golden Hammer Staff Reports
Conroe, January 12 – Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough backed off of his highly-politicized proposal to spend $4.7 million of County tax dollars to pay for radios for other taxing entities, the local emergency service districts (ESDs), after this newspaper reported that both former County Judge Alan B. Sadler and former County Judge Craig Doyal opposed the proposal, because they were aware of stipulations imposed during the one occasion when the County government purchased those radios approximately twelve (12) years ago. In order to assist the ESDs to switch to a legislatively-mandated digital radio system, Sadler, then-Commissioner Doyal, and the Commissioners Court funded the radios with the expectation the ESDs would pay for replacements in the future.
Keough, however, wanted the County to spend an unbudgeted $4.7 million in order to bolster his political relationships with the ESD Boards, as he faces a re-election challenge in the March 1, 2022, Republican Primary Election.
Although Keough had indicated he would remove the item from discussion prior to the commencement of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court meeting early Tuesday morning, Doyal provided his remarks to the Court anyway.
Doyal began his remarks with humor: “Actually, I won that last election, Judge. What did I tell you. The most votes doesn’t mean you win. I just realized that this is the first time I’ve been here in three years, and I realize now how much I don’t miss it.” The room erupted in laughter and joy at the return of Doyal, who now appears a steady conservative in comparison to his successor, Keough, who overreached in his authority as County Judge in response to his panic over erroneous public health reports about the coronavirus on March 27, 2020, when he – illegally – ordered the shutdown of local businesses and churches.
Doyal continued. “I’m here to talk about item 17b, the radios. I know you guys are going to defer that. I put a coat on, so I’m going to say what I’m going to say,” Doyal said. “I’m going to give you a historical perspective on the radios. I’ve got a lot of good friends in the fire suppression business and ESD boards. I’ve always been…a huge supporter of the ESDs and firefighters.”
The former County Judge explained, “But back in 2008 or 2009, I guess…we had some of the unfunded mandates the legislature hands down at times…to have interoperability for our radios. At that time we were at about the end of life for some of our radios, and we thought it was time to go ahead and upgrade our system, which left a lot of the ESDs in a situation where they used our radio system but didn’t have enough funding for radios at that time. So the Court felt obligated to fund those radios for the ESDs at that time, and we did with the idea that going forward, they would need to budget for that as those radios reach their end of life cycle, moving forward and fund those radios whenever they needed to.”
Doyal said, “We’ve already done this once before. I’d hate to see the County spend $4.7 million that I know the Commissioners could use for roads. I know there’s some dire needs coming up for an expansion of the Jail and forensics facilities and a whole lot of other things. With all due respect to the ESDs and the firefighters in the trenches, I think those guys deserve all the help we can give them, but when that was in issue, at that time, we were in full agreement among all parties, we would fund them, and then going forward they would continue to fund those radios, as they needed them.”
He explained a concern about the fact that Keough had placed the item on the agenda under an executive session: “I saw where that item was on the executive session. I’m no attorney. [Turning to County Attorney staff] Amy [Dunham, Assistant County Attorney] or B.D. [Griffin, County Attorney], it seems like an awful odd item. You were pretty particular when I was here to discuss in executive session.”
Keough interrupted, “That’s why we also put it on the open.”
Doyal continued after the interruption.
Amy Dunham said, “I think they had a specific question about whether we could even do it and use County funds for ESDs, another taxing entity, and what would be required.”
Doyal continued, “We did at that time fund those radios with the caveat that going forward they would need to plan for future replacement of those radios. I wanted to share a little historical perspective from the past.”
Noack said, “Thank you for coming.”
Keough said, “We appreciate that, Judge.”
The citizens of Montgomery County should greatly appreciate Doyal’s willingness to come out of retirement to share that important historical knowledge. With those important remarks, hopefully the citizens have fended off Keough’s desire to spend $4.7 million improperly.