Conroe, June 5 – The May 28, 2019, meeting of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court uncovered the degree to which the so-called “Montgomery County Toll Road Authority” (MCTRA) is a total scam against the taxpayers. For years, Precinct 2 Montgomery County Commissioner Charlie Riley and his mentor, disgraced former County Judge Craig Doyal, tried to pretend that MCTRA was an entity separate and apart from the Montgomery County Commissioners Court.
Riley, Doyal, and their colleagues perpetrated a scam. MCTRA has always been and continues to be little more than the Commissioners Court.
Unmasking the scam: May 28, 2019
On May 28, 2019, after the vociferous efforts of Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough, “The People’s Judge,” and his Chief of Staff Jason Millsaps, and after the adamant insistence of Precinct 3 Montgomery County Commissioner James Noack, the Commissioners Court finally voted to remove the tolls for the State Highway 242 flyovers, sixteen (16) months after County taxpayers had paid the bond debt for the flyovers.
Under the scheming of Riley and Doyal, the County government even continued to pay the expenses for maintenance of the flyovers during that 16 month period, even though neither the County government nor the Montgomery County Toll Road Authority (MCTRA) has ever shown those flyovers as an asset of Montgomery County. Rather, The Golden Hammer has confirmed that the SH 242 flyovers have always appeared as a capital asset on the balance sheet of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).
During Doyal’s secretive and abusive four years as County Judge, MCTRA always conducted meetings separate from the Commissioners Court. During the tenure of popular former County Judge Alan B. Sadler, who retired at the end of 2014, MCTRA always met inside of Commissioners Court meetings as part of the Commissioners Court agenda.
The Commissioners Court created MCTRA on October 3, 2006, by resolution instructing the Montgomery County Attorney, then David Walker, to prepare legal documents for the authority to come into existence.
Riley and Doyal even offered, voted for, and passed crazy resolutions in which MCTRA borrowed $10.5 million from the general revenue funds of County taxpayers to finance the TX 249 Tollway, also known as the Decimation of Hope Highway, a $95 million construction for 3 miles of road, which taxpayers clearly didn’t want and for which Riley and Doyal secretly lobbied TxDOT to build as a tollway rather than a FREEway.
Riley and Doyal pretended those loan transactions were “arms-length” transactions between lender (County taxpayers and the Commissioners Court) and borrower (MCTRA).
The separateness scam began to unravel earlier in 2019 when MCTRA finally paid back the final $500,000 which the unpopular toll road authority owed to County taxpayers without interest, even though Riley had openly assured his constituents and the public generally that MCTRA would repay all loans with interest.
Nevertheless, the supposed separation of MCTRA from the Montgomery County Commissioners Court completely came apart on May 28 when the Commissioners Court voted to remove the SH 242 flyover tolls. County Judge Mark Keough and Millsaps had – conscientiously – scheduled and provided notice for a MCTRA meeting immediately after the Commissioners Court meeting, so MCTRA could confirm removal of the flyover tolls as well.
Riley, however, announced at the end of the Commissioners Court meeting that the MCTRA meeting was “unnecessary”! Riley is the supposed “president” of MCTRA.
How could that be? Supposedly, MCTRA assessed the tolls and operated the Montgomery County tollroads. Nevertheless, the actual entity assessing those tolls somehow became irrelevant in one of its most important decisions: to terminate MCTRA’s sole source of revenue.
Answering Mr. Wertz’s question
On several occasions during Commissioners Court meetings, Montgomery County Republican Party Treasurer John Hill Wertz, a vehement opponent of tollroads as is the County Republican Party, posed the question to the Commissioners Court: when did the Commissioners Court ever take up the question of whether it was appropriate to proceed with the $95 million TX 249 Extension, 3 miles long, known as the “Decimation of Hope Highway.”
It’s time to answer Wertz’s very fair question, which members of the Commissioners Court have tried to skirt for several years.
The answer is November 15, 2011, was the first and only occasion when the Commissioners Court directly addressed the merits, if any, of building the Decimation of Hope Highway as a tollroad. The discussion came up during a MCTRA portion of the meeting in the middle of other Commissioners Court business, when then-Precinct 2 Commissioner Craig Doyal presented his opinion regarding the merits of building TX 249 as a tollroad. Clearly, neither Doyal nor his then-Operations Manager Riley ever considered the possibility of TxDOT building the road as a free road.
Doyal’s proposal to make the TX 249 Extension a tollroad was never on the agenda to give the public notice of Doyal’s proposal. Doyal and Riley wanted TX 249 as tollroad, so they could issue bonds and funnel the money in the project to their favored political contributors.
Ultimately, the Commissioners Court never voted to approve the concept of building the 3-mile TX 249 Extension from the County line at Spring Creek to an area just southwest of the intersection between Spur 149 and F.M. 1774. The Commissioners Court only voted for funding the road in 2018, so that they could proceed with construction before Doyal left office after he had already lost re-election as County Judge.
MCTRA has been a scam to impose higher taxes on Montgomery County citizens and to skirt the will of Montgomery County taxpayers from beginning through the present.