Image: Salary Comparison Chart, 2017, which the staff of The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, has compiled.
Conroe, September 18 – Montgomery County Commissioners receive the highest salaries in Texas while the County Judge receives the third highest salary, as a salary comparison for the top 15 counties by population reveals. The Golden Hammer has confirmed that no smaller counties pay higher salaries.
The theory behind offering high salaries is that they would, hopefully, attract higher quality individuals to the positions who would consistently work longer hours and who would do higher quality work. As former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin once said, “How’s that workin’ out for ya?” Sadly, the answer is “not very well.”
Case study #1: The ugly Charlie Riley story
Rather than attracting a high caliber of candidates who are not sacrificing too much to perform some public service, Montgomery County Commissioners Court salaries are so high that they attract the likes of Charlie Riley, people who would never earn that amount of money if they worked in real jobs in the private sector. It’s not only that Riley lacks formal education beyond high school, that he’s never successfully held a management position in the private sector, or even that he’s lived off the public dole for the past two decades.
With Riley, the taxpayers have attracted someone who is largely out for himself and wouldn’t even consider the slightest sacrifice for the public good. Interestingly, almost all of his so-called “charitable contributions” come from campaign contributions that the public has given to him first.
Additionally, the Riley story includes the following facts:
- Riley and his wife Deanne filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2002 after their Charlie Dean’s restaurant failed in Shepherd, Texas.
- To this day, Riley still owes the State of Texas taxes on an existing tax lien filed in the San Jacinto County Real Property Records. With his massive salary, the fact that Riley hasn’t paid the tax lien shows little more than a disregard for the public fisc.
- After Deanne Riley refused to submit to an interview to keep her job in the Sheriff’s Office, which previous Sheriff Tommy Gage, who is Riley’s best friend, had given to her, incoming Sheriff Rand Henderson hired someone else to act as his executive secretary. Therefore, in October and November, 2016, Riley created a new job for Deanne in the County government and the following month put on the agenda for her to get the new job at a salary of $58,000 per year.
- The Rileys together earn over $317,000 per year from Montgomery County in salaries and benefits. They still grab every perk they can take from the taxpayers.
- Riley stores his personal trailer for free in the Precinct 2 County barnyard. He’s admitted that in writing in a recent defiant public statement. Riley also claimed that he needed to store the trailer at the County barnyard for free, because he needed it to be in that location for easy use. Of course, Riley’s home is just a few blocks away from there. There’s also a private storage facility at the corner of Unity Drive and Nichols Sawmill Road, but, of course, the miserly Riley would have to spend some money to store the trailer there.
- Riley gets a cell phone, use of a truck, and use of the County’s gasoline along with his bloated salary and benefits.
- It turns out that Riley’s trailer, which he’s used on the roads of Montgomery County as recently as the last week, has an expired registration. Sorry, but Tropical Storm Harvey isn’t an excuse. Riley’s registration expired in June, 2017. That’s another public tax or fee that the anti-public-good Riley won’t pay.
- None of the foregoing concerns even examine Riley’s job performance. He’s under indictment for allegedly violating the Texas Open Meetings Act. The 2015 road bond projects on the Precinct 2 list are moving as slow as molasses on the back of a turtle. Riley is notorious for failing to return constituent telephone calls, for failing to fix potholes in the Precinct, and for working brief hours each week. In Commissioners Court, Riley is always unprepared. His contributions during the Fiscal Year 2018 Budget process made the Jethro Bodine character from “The Beverly Hillbillies” look as though he should be a regular on “The Big Bang Theory.”
Precinct 2 and all of the citizens of Montgomery County deserve a Commissioner who has sacrificed to perform a public service briefly during a hiatus in his or her career, not a “ne’er do well” who’d never earn $168,808 salary plus benefits if he hadn’t lucked into the right political connections.
How Montgomery County salaries compare?
There are two important facts Montgomery County citizens should note about the County government.
First, County government spending is totally out of control, and it’s the Commissioners Court’s job to manage the spending. The County’s government spending growth rate greatly exceeds the federal government’s spending growth rate. Montgomery County’s spending growth rate is faster than any county government of comparable size in Texas.
Second, while the tax-and-spend County Judge Craig Doyal and Riley have tried to brag about the small overall budget reduction for Fiscal Year 2018, the operational expenditures for the County government (which don’t include debt service) are the highest level in the history of Montgomery County. Furthermore, even with the 20% homestead exemption, which Kelli Cook, Adrian Heath, and some other citizen-activists convinced the Commissioners Court to adopt, with the gigantic inflation of property tax appraisals, since 2014, Montgomery County citizens’ tax payments to the Montgomery County government have increased enormously. By keeping the tax rate the same as it was during Fiscal Year 2018, the County government actually increased property tax payments from the citizens. Last year, when the County government lowered the tax RATE by one penny, taxes still rose substantially because the property taxes appraisals rose far more than the one penny rate reduction.
Let’s not forget who controls the Montgomery Central Appraisal District’s Board of Directors which set the property tax appraisal policy for that important taxing authority: the Montgomery County Commissioners Court. That’s because a majority of the MCAD Board is under the Commissioners Court control with Riley, Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador, and former Precinct 3 County Commissioner Ed Chance being three of the five members of the MCAD Board. The other two MCAD Board members are close confidantes of County Judge Craig Doyal: former Woodlands Township Board Chairman Bruce Tough and homebuilder Tom Cox.
Those points are significant, because the Commissioners Court quite simply is doing a lousy job.
So let’s look at the salary comparison.
Montgomery County Commissioners make the highest salaries in Texas and more than $57,000 per year above the average of County Commissioner salaries for the top 15 counties in Texas. County Judge Craig Doyal’s salary is less than only the Harris County Judge and the Dallas County Judge. The County Judges is Tarrant, Bexar, Travis, Collin, Hidalgo, El Paso, Denton, and Fort Bend counties all make substantially less than Doyal, even though those counties are quite a bit larger than Montgomery County. The counties to which Montgomery County is usually compared – Collin, Denton, Fort Bend, and Williamson – all have county judges and county commissioners who make a lot less in salaries than the out-of-control Montgomery County.
Doyal makes $41,389 per year higher than the average county judge salary among the top 15 counties in Texas. The four Montgomery County Commissioners make $57,454 higher than the average county commissioner salary among the top 15 counties in Texas.
Like the Montgomery County government’s spending, the Commissioners Court salaries are terribly high and out of control. Doyal bragged that he didn’t raise salaries this year. He should have reduced his own salary by $40,000 per year and reduced the County Commissioners’ salaries by $60,000 per year. At least that way, Montgomery County would be inside the stratosphere of county compensation (not that that’s a very good measure either, because all county governments seem to do a very poor job controlling spending).
The great Greek playwright Aristophanes wrote almost 2,500 years ago,
“Look at the orators in our republics; as long as they are poor, both state and people can only praise their uprightness; but once they are fattened on the public funds, they conceive a hatred for justice, plan intrigues against the people and attack the democracy.”
Montgomery County is no different. Public service should be a sacrifice. Public service should not be a career. Public service should not be a means by which those temporarily with the power plunder and pillage the taxpayers as quickly as they can do so. The name for that process is not “public service” but “piracy.”