Lame duck Doyal, Montgomery County Judge, clings to centralized power, but promises no employee firings

Lame duck Doyal, Montgomery County Judge, clings to centralized power, but promises no employee firings

Conroe, March 29 – Lame duck Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal continues to cling to centralized power, despite his landslide electoral defeat in the March 6, 2018, Republican Primary Election. Doyal has privately told several people that he intends to fire some of the County government employees who are on his political “Hit List,” including County Human Resources Director Dodi Shaw, but, just prior to the Commissioners Court vote to let him retain his centralized control over County Departments during his last nine months in office, Doyal promised the Commissioners that he would not fire anyone without Commissioners Court approval first.

Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack, who brought the motion to return County government operations back to the full Commissioners Court, and Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark, who seconded the motion, both voted for it.

Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley, who is always willing to vote against his constituents as long as he’s voting for Doyal, his master, voted against the resolution as did Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador, who slept through most of the discussions. Despite the impropriety of Doyal voting on a matter which directly affected him, Doyal cast the deciding vote against the resolution to break the tie. Doyal should, of course, have recused himself from the vote and the discussion.

Noack explained to The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, “I’ve been concerned that Judge Doyal would try to fire people in the County government without Court approval. His commitment today that he wouldn’t was a victory for the citizens.”

Nevertheless, Riley’s performance during the discussion was sad. He clearly didn’t understand the discussion and just seemed focused on not having to perform the job duties of a County Commissioner, which under the Texas Constitution include management and oversight of all County government business. Doyal’s centralized management, which he’s followed since the Commissioners Court voted to give that to him in January, 2015, and which the voters rejected three weeks ago, has enabled the County Judge to siphon more than $13 million of general revenue funds away from much-needed road projects, such as the widening of F.M. 1488 or the widening of F.M. 2978, and funnel those funds into the hands of Doyal’s and Riley’s largest supporters of their criminal legal defense.

Riley’s vote to continue to allow Doyal to manage the County government was a direct vote against the interests of Commissioners Precinct 2.

Riley’s vote to continue to allow Doyal to manage the County government was a direct vote against the interests of Commissioners Precinct 2.

Doyal has ordered County Department heads only to discuss matters with individual County Commissioners that pertained to their Commissioner’s Precincts. “If there’s an issue in your Precinct, they’re not precluded” from speaking with individual County Commissioners, Doyal told Clark last year during a Commissioners Court meeting. Clark noted, “There have been some things that haven’t been communicated to me. I feel like I’m out of the loop on some of this that I need to be closer to. Voters put me here to make right decisions for the county as a whole.”

Doyal defied Noack’s and Clark’s request for information: “I’m not going to get into day to day operations…I’ll bring major issues to court…I don’t tell you everything that goes on for a reason.”

One of the particular reasons Doyal doesn’t want to give up control of the Court, according to one confidential source inside of his office and two others who work in the Sadler Administration Building, who spoke to The Golden Hammer on the condition of anonymity, is that the County Judge doesn’t want individual County Commissioners, especially Noack and Clark, to have direct access to County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport and her Treasurer’s Office. Doyal has worked to ensure that his daughter, whom Davenport hired for her Department, will still have a job by the end of the calendar year. By distancing the Commissioners Court from Davenport, Doyal has sought to protect Davenport from the reckless decisions she continues to make as County Treasurer to the detriment of the taxpayers. Doyal is Davenport’s insulation from full public scrutiny.

There are at least three major problems with the current County administrative and management structure.

First, it runs afoul of the vision of how counties should run under the Texas Constitution, Article V, Section 18, which provides, “The [County Commissioners] court shall exercise powers over county business” rather than one member of the Commissioners Court. Commissioner Noack has said, “Though the opportunity to delegate authority may be permitted, it is not wise. The people elected me as commissioner to be able to make these types of decisions pursuant to the Texas Constitution and statutes and when the court approved this egregious resolution they robbed the power from the people of Montgomery County…Delegating these responsibilities to just one sole authority has created a dictator on our court.”

Commissioner Clark said, “I believe this [proposal to move the departments back under the entire Commissioners Court] is a positive move and one that is necessary to keep the integrity of the court’s actions intact. With the increased and intense scrutiny the court is receiving at this time, my belief is that my vote is a voice for the people that elected me to make the best decisions for Montgomery County. We may not always agree and that’s okay. These important decisions need to be made by the entire court.”

Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark.

Second, the centralized management of Montgomery County just doesn’t work. Doyal is largely absent from the office. His golf obligations and hectic social life keep him busy. The 2016 and early 2017 melee between County Human Resources Director Dodi Shaw and her Assistant Director Kathy Flowers on the one hand and County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport on the other hand over the Treasurer Department’s proposed “reorganization” illustrated the problem with keeping the County’s management under the hyper-political Doyal who regularly encourages nepotism and political posturing.

Third, and perhaps most important, Montgomery County’s government has gained a reputation for its lack of ethics during the management tenure of Doyal and fredricks. On January 24, 2017, the Commissioners Court reluctantly adopted a Code of Ethics in response to a requirement of the Texas Department of Transportation that if the Court failed to adopt such a Code, all state road and bridge grants would cease. The Code of Ethics has very little enforcement mechanisms. Nevertheless, the one enforcement method that exists is oversight from a five-person Ethics Committee, two of whom the County Commissioners Court will appoint and the other three nominated from the Human Resources Department, the Purchasing Department, and the County Auditor. Under the current organization, the Human Resources and Purchasing departments report directly to Doyal. Therefore, Doyal would likely control two Ethics Committee appointments out of five and might control as many as four out of five, if he held the influence over the two Commissioners Court appointments as well.

 

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