Image: JP James Metts on one of the rare occasions he actually showed up for work.
New Caney, May 10 – Rogue JP James Metts, who is attempting to get a promotion by challenging popular incumbent Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark in the May 22 Republican Runoff Election, has continued his illegal campaign telephone call practices from his County government court office this week. The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, broke the story concerning Metts’ illegal campaign telephone calls on Saturday, May 5, 2018, in “BREAKING NEWS! Metts, His Campaign Illegally Use Montgomery County Government Telephones To Make Campaign Calls,” The Golden Hammer, May 5, 2018.
Since this newspaper broke the story concerning Metts’ illegal use of his government office for his campaign, several dozen citizens in East Montgomery County have reported receiving multiple calls from Metts’ court office telephone number at 936. 521.8970.
Specifically, the caller ID, which shows up on the receiving telephone, is 936.521.8970, which is one of the two official telephone numbers of the Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Court located at 22354 Justice Drive, New Caney, Texas 77357. Metts rarely works or appears at the court office, since he operates a full-time logging company and is a full-time partner in Sweetie Pies flower shop and restaurant with his Juvenile Case Manager Diane Rogers, who receives a full-time County government salary for part-time work. Since Metts rarely holds court and does not move his case docket presently, it is clear that several of his employees in the court office are using the County telephone system to make campaign solicitation telephone calls for Metts during the County business day.
Use of the County telephone system to make telephone calls is a violation of several provisions of the Texas Election Code as well as prohibitions within the Texas Penal Code. This newspaper confirmed with Montgomery County law enforcement officials late Friday that use of the County telephone system for campaign purposes is a violation of Sections 3.5 and 3.7 of the Montgomery County Employee Policy Manual, which strictly prohibits use of County property or County time for political purposes.
The newspaper also confirmed over this past weekend that the County telephone system’s computer server maintains full records of all telephone calls made into and out of County government telephone lines. Law enforcement authorities have begun to investigate those records as well, as several sources inside of those agencies have confirmed on condition of anonymity.
Several individuals in the Kingwood Forest Cove and Kings Manor areas that include numerous residents of Montgomery County have received telephone calls from Metts’ court office telephone number, 936.521.8970, on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, May 7 to 9. The callers have solicited votes for Metts in the May 22 Runoff. Individuals who don’t answer the calls initially often receive as many as three additional telephone calls from employees of Metts’ County government court office.
There has been a lot of discussion about Metts’ illegal use of County government office telephones on the Nextdoor social media site. Several individuals have complained that they’re on “do not call” telephone lists, but those lists do not apply to political campaign calls.
Homes in New Caney and Porter received the telephone calls from Metts’ County government office during the past week.
Metts did not return telephone calls to his office or to his personal telephone asking for comment.
Metts is not new to ethical problems: Sexual Harassment
- Since May 2004, Snow “was subjected to harassment of a sexual nature by her immediate supervisor [Metts].”
- “Among other things, the supervisor [Metts] discussed his sex life in…[Snow’s] presence and told jokes of a sexual nature.”
- After Snow “complained of the harassment and continued to reject the advances of her immediate supervisor [Metts], he began systematically retaliating against her, ultimately terminating her employment.”
- In 2004, Metts initially asked Snow “for dates, offered her gifts and money and created the impression among other staff that he and…[Snow] were romantically involved.”
- Snow alleged that on the occasion when she “rejected his advances and refused his offer of money, he threatened to hit her.”
- “The harassment stopped for a period after she complained, but started up again and intensified in August and September 2006.”
- Metts “created a sexually hostile work environment by discussing his sex life in the presence of…[Snow], as well as other staff, and telling jokes of a sexual nature.”
- Snow would tell Metts “that his comments were more information then [sic] she needed to know, refuse to participate in those discussions or leave the area.”
- “Documentary evidence obtained during the investigation shows that Respondent [Montgomery County] failed to follow policy when…[Snow] was issued a Third Level disciplinary action and subjected to immediate termination of employment…” because Snow never received First or Second level disciplinary actions, a violation of the Montgomery County Employment Policy in place at the time.
- Montgomery County admitted to EEOC that “the termination of…[Snow] was initiated and carried out by” Metts.
- “Therefore, based on the analysis of the evidence, the Commission concludes that the evidence obtained during the investigation establishes that Respondent violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended with respect to Delonna Snow’s allegations of sex discrimination and retaliation.”
- “Therefore, based on the analysis of the evidence, the Commission concludes that the evidence obtained during the investigation establishes that Respondent violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended with respect to Delonna Snow’s allegations of sex discrimination and retaliation.” – United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
- Snow began working full-time as Metts’ Court Coordinator in September, 2003.
- Snow had worked for 12 years for Precinct 1 without incident prior to working for Metts.
- “Beginning in May 2004…[Snow] became aware of the perception that she was Judge Metts’ girlfriend and that they were romantically involved…That perception was reinforced by Judge Metts’ action and comments towards Ms. Snow and about her…In addition, on one occasion, Judge Metts refused to attend a Rotary Club dinner unless…[Snow] agreed to accompany him to the dinner, which was held in May 2004…During May and June 2004, Judge Metts increased his romantic advances towards Ms. Snow, as well as his efforts to pry into…[Snow’s] personal life.”
- Judge Metts started asking Snow “questions about who she was dating, and continually asked her to go out with him.”
- “Judge Metts tried to give…[Snow] gifts along with his attempts to get her to go out with him on a date.”
- “On more than one occasion Judge Metts tried to give Plaintiff ‘spending’ money, which Plaintiff always refused.”
- “On one occasion when…[Snow] refused to take Judge Metts’ money, Judge Metts became agitated and threatened to strike…[Snow].”
- Snow complained to co-employee Jerry Sue Hayden, the mother of Precinct 4 Constable Kenneth “Rowdy” Hayden, and to Judge Metts’ campaign manager, Marc Davenport. After Davenport arranged a brief leave of absence for Snow, when Snow returned to the office “Judge Metts became more flirtatious and continued to require Ms. Snow to attend public events with him outside normal business hours.”
- Metts’ advances continued and intensified into 2005, but in August 2005, “Judge Metts began excluding…[Snow] from staff meetings, even though…[Snow] was the office administrator.”
- Metts continued making inappropriate sexual comments to Snow even after she got engaged in November, 2005.
- Judge Metts finally found a girlfriend. “He would often tell the particulars of his relationship with Diane Rogers to Marsha Edwards (another Precinct 4 employee) in open areas of the office.”
- “During 2006, Judge Metts continued to tell inappropriate stories about his sex life and jokes of a sexual nature at the office and within earshot of the employees…Ms. Snow continued to leave the area or in some instances tell Judge Metts that his comments were more information than she needed to know.”
- “Judge Metts’ discussions about sex with his girlfriend intensified in August and September 0f 2006.”
- “In October 2006, Ms. Rogers, Judge Metts’ girlfriend, was hired to work as the Juvenile Case Manger [sic].”
- Later that month, Metts reduced Snow’s duties and changed the locks at his office, so that Snow no longer had a key to the office.
- After attempting some pretexts to complain about Snow’s work, all of which Judge Metts’ Chief of Staff Brian Stanley determined were unfounded, Metts terminated Snow on November 30, 2006, without any First or Second Level Disciplinary action in violation of County policy.
- Snow sued the County government for Sexual Harassment and Retaliation under Title VII.
Current sexual misconduct
Metts has learned nothing from his previous sexual misconduct.
Amazingly, even after the County and Metts suffered the embarrassment of the Snow EEOC Charge and federal lawsuit, Metts seems to have continued in his ways.
Who works for Metts’ campaign?
At any Metts campaign gathering, one will usually need more than one hand to count the number of convicted felons who attend. Metts, who is supposed to be a judge presently, seems to attract a rough bunch.
There are four individuals who are high-level operatives in Metts’ campaign and who are convicted felons. One of those individuals has two felony convictions for distributing drugs. One of those convictions occurred during the past ten years. Another top person in Metts’ campaign has numerous convictions for theft and for theft by check with at least one felony to his name. That individual appears at almost every Metts campaign function and his wife works for Metts as a County employee. Then there’s a whole family of convicted felons who write for Metts and pretend to run a pro-Metts newspaper.
Of course, Metts also uses the services of a political consultant with multiple convictions to his name as well. The political consultant has an official misconduct indictment pending against him. He’s got two DWI convictions and was charged with theft but worked out a plea arrangement.
Who works for Metts in his JP office?
Besides the lady with whom Metts currently has a sexual relationship and who is a direct-report to him as a County employee, Metts’ JP office is a hotbed of nepotism.
The mother of a County Department head works for Metts and also works less than full days but for full-time pay. At least two other individuals work for Metts who are immediate family members who are also County employees.
Jerry Sue Hayden, the mother of Metts’ closest political ally, Constable Rowdy Hayden, receives $50,669.63 in salary, plus approximately $20,419.86 in County benefits for total annual County compensation of approximately $71,089.49. Hayden usually leaves the office around 1 p.m. Often Hayden will get her personal grocery shopping done during the mornings when she would otherwise work in the JP4 office.
One of the two main employees who run Metts’ JP 4 office, however, is Rogers, who is Metts’ longtime girlfriend who lives with him at the Metts property off of Highway 105 and co-owns Sweetie Pie’s with him. Rogers runs their restaurant full-time but also receives a full-time salary as Metts’ Juvenile Case Coordinator. Rogers spends most of each morning focusing on purchasing for Sweetie Pie’s, which Rogers conducts from the JP office. She usually leaves the office right before 1 p.m. each day, the four days when she actually does come to work each week.
On days when Metts actually comes into the office, he and Rogers spend about 1.5 hours eating breakfast together in Metts’ office. For her part-time job, Rogers earns $42,340 per year annual salary, plus County benefits of approximately $17,063.02, for total annual compensation of $59,403.02.
Jane Metts Landers is Metts’ first cousin and receives $42,782.39 annual salary, $17,241.30 approximately in County benefits, and total annual compensation of $60,023.69. Landers also works about 5 hours per day for four days per week as a clerk in her cousin’s office.
Metts also causes the County taxpayers to pay Jamie Nash $30,598.56 in annual salary, plus $12,331.22 in benefits, and a total of $42,929.78 annual County compensation. Nash is supposedly a “communications coordinator” for the JP office, a position which none of the other courts in Montgomery County have. Metts’ employees report that Nash works approximately eighteen (18) hours per week in the office on average and spends most of her time collecting articles for the Montgomery County Police Reporter, an online blog Nash and her husband operate.
One of the other drains on Metts’ and Nash’s time is that they usually sit together in Nash’s office – behind a closed door – and watch the live feed of each Commissioners Court meeting every two weeks. That seems like a big waste of Metts’ time since his office operations should have very little to do with the workings of the Commissioners Court.
Graves Humphries/NetData scandal
Metts strikes out as the worst run Justice Court in Montgomery County and a serious loss leader among those five courts. The numbers are striking and reveal that Metts’ terribly run court alone costs Montgomery County taxpayers at least $313,943 in lost revenue collected. The data come from the Texas Office of Court Administration and the Montgomery County government.
Precinct 3 Justice Edie Connelly utilizes the County’s Collections Department for its fines and fees collection. The Collection Department operates under the direct of Clegg DeWalt, II, an experienced manager from the national collections industry. Connelly’s collection rate is a remarkable 97%. During Fiscal Year 2016, Connelly’s Court collected $3,198,396.62 of the $3,283,089.70 in fines and fees assessed. Although her budget is a bit higher than the other courts due to her substantially higher caseload, her net (equaling amount collected per case minus cost per case) is strikingly higher than any of the other courts at $134.21 per case.
Metts Precinct 4 Justice Court is the second worst in net per case at $26.52, or less than one-fifth of the net in Connelly’s Justice Court. Metts’ collections are substantially lower as a percentage of total fees assessed than the other Justice Courts. Metts only collects 75% of the fees his JP court assesses.
Metts, Wayne Mack (JP 1), Judge Grady “Trey” Spikes (JP2), and Judge Matt Masden (JP5) all use an outside collection law firm to handle all of the intake of their fees and fines. The outside firm, Grave Humphries Stahl (GHS), has provided a free database software program, NetData, that those four courts utilize to handle all of their judicial cases. The free software program is a complete mess. The public cannot access the NetData database, so litigants cannot view court files. Connelly’s Justice Court utilizes the County’s Odyssey database, so all of her court files are available online to the general public.
None of the other four JP courts come close to Connelly’s 97% collection rate. Metts is the worst at a 75% collection rate with a $26.52 net per case. Mack is the second worst with a 78% collection rate with a $41.23 net per case. Interestingly, Judge Masden has a much lower case load but does not suffer from a diseconomy of scale, because his collections rate, 83%, is actually higher than Metts or Mack. Obviously, Masden is doing something right to help him overcome the serious problems from the GHS-NetData losses.
Judge Spikes has the highest collection rate among the four users of GHS-NetData at 89%. With almost 1100 cases less than Metts, Spikes’ collections still exceeded Metts by approximately $92,000.
Metts and the person whom he claims is his “sworn deputy,” local political boss and consultant Marc Davenport, have foisted the NetData fiasco on the four JP courts, while Connelly refused to go along with them for fiscal and due process reasons. Metts and Davenport cost Montgomery County at least the following amounts during Fiscal Year 2016, in comparison to the 97% collection rate in Judge Connelly’s Precinct 3 Justice Court:
JP1 (Mack) FY2016 Loss to the Taxpayers = $258,606
JP2 (Spikes) FY2016 Loss to the Taxpayers = $99,511
JP4 (Metts) FY2016 Loss to the Taxpayers = $313,943
JP5 (Masden) FY 2016 Loss to the Taxpayers = $96,102
TOTAL FY2016 LOSS TO THE TAXPAYERS AS A RESULT OF METTS AND DAVENPORT FOISTING THE GHS/NETDATA COLLECTION SYSTEM ON THE FOUR JUSTICE OF THE PEACE COURTS 1, 2, 4, AND 5 = $768,162.
During Fiscal Year 2017, as this newspaper has reported, the losses from Metts and NetData have been substantially higher.
Employees of James Metts’ Justice of the Peace, Precinct 4, Office met with The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, on the condition of anonymity, to present the stark facts about Metts’ court operations. The facts revealed the nepotism, indolence, and paranoia that have consumed Metts and the County Department he’s supposed to lead.
Metts’ employees find Metts’ conduct appalling and overbearing. They’re upset that the citizens of East Montgomery County and the taxpayers of the entire community are suffering as a result of Metts’ taking advantage of his situation.
Metts is largely absent from his office. He holds court approximately only six (6) days per month during a typical month. That works out to working in the courtroom or office only about twelve hours per week on average with another approximately 5.25 hours per week appearing at death scenes. In other words, Metts works less than 18 hours per week in return for his whopping $126,988.35 annual salary, plus County benefits of approximately $51,176.31, for total annual compensation of approximately $179,164.66.
Metts regularly brags to his court staff that he works “three full-time jobs.” As Metts explains it, he works as a JP, as a full-time “president of a logging/clearing business,” and as the co-manager of Sweetie Pies, the Splendora restaurant which he and his girlfriend Dianne Rogers operate together.
Metts’ court office is open only four days per week, Monday through Thursday, from 7:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. The employees who actually work a full 40-hour week – and there aren’t many of them – work from 7:15 a.m. until 5:45 p.m. with a 30 minute lunch break. Most of the employees in Metts’ office don’t work anything close to a full 40 hour week.
Metts did not conduct court during the entire month of December. He held court in January twice, in February once, and in March three times. Metts has appeared in the court twice during the month of April. His civil and evictions docket has lay stagnant for approximately six months with the exception of approximately a dozen eviction cases.
Metts’ lawsuit where he sued Montgomery County and acted as the plaintiff, the plaintiff’s lawyer, and the judge all in the same case
On April 10, 2013, Metts abused his power as a judge by filing a lawsuit in his own court on behalf of “Montgomery County” where he sued Montgomery County Information Technology Department Director Marshall Shirley.
Metts acted as the plaintiff, the plaintiff’s lawyer, and the judge in the same case in which he issued an illegal injunction order where he ordered Shirley to turn over government files, records, data and information to a private law firm. JP courts do not have jurisdiction or power to issue injunctions. Please see “Picture of Corruption: Judge Metts Files Lawsuit Where Montgomery County Sues Montgomery, Metts Acts as Plaintiff, Plaintiff’s Attorney, Judge All in Same Case (The Davenports, Part 16),” The Golden Hammer, July 7, 2017.
Here’s the full set of facts.
During 2012 and 2013, the County formed an employee committee entitled “the Integrated Justice Steering Committee” (IJIS) to research and evaluate integrated software to store, retrieve, and manage court data. Only County employees were to serve on the IJIS Committee, but Metts insisted that Marc Davenport, whom Metts introduced as a “sworn deputy” in his Justice of the Peace Office, be permitted to participate in the meetings as well. Several employees who attended IJIS meetings, but have requested confidentiality of their identities, have described Davenport as “creepy,” “sleazy,” and “demanding.”
A dispute arose between Metts, Davenport, and some of the other justices of the peace on the one hand and all of the other courts – the 8 District Courts, the 5 County Courts at Law, and Precinct 3 JP Edie Connelly – on the other hand. For some reason, Metts and Davenport insisted that the Court should use a database program by the name of “NetData” on which to keep court files, so that an outside law firm, Graves Humphries Stahl, could then conduct collections of fines and fees for the courts. Judge Connelly, the five County Court Judges, and the eight District Judges did not feel comfortable permitting an outside law firm to contact County litigants for a variety of reasons, including due process, privacy concerns, and efficiency.
Eventually, the four Metts-Davenport courts (JP 1, JP 2, JP 4, and JP 5) went with the NetData software which does not permit the public to access court files online. Meanwhile, all of the other courts in Montgomery County utilize Tyler Technologies’ Odyssey database, which does permit public access. The Court collections of Judge Connelly’s JP3 Court are strikingly higher than all of the other four Justice of the Peace courts added together, so it’s very clear that the Odyssey database and the County’s collection efforts are far more efficient than NetData and Graves Humphries Stahl. Please see “Montgomery County Justice Courts Reveal Stark Financial Contrasts,” The Golden Hammer, June 22, 2017.
The IJIS Committee meetings proceeded far from smoothly, particularly as a result of heated conversations between Metts and Davenport on the one hand and Information Technology (IT) Director Shirley on the other hand. In early May, 2012, Shirley, as IJIS Committee Chairman, sent a letter to the entire IJIS Committee membership in which he described the events to date and included the following statement:
“At this time, Justice of the Peace Precinct #4 has not agreed to move forward with the stated direction of implementing the Tyler Odyssey Case Management application. Justice of the Peace Precinct #4 has expressed their [Metts and Davenport’s] desire to use NET Data’s software for day to day operations and contract with them for collection services. This approach would result in the County deploying two different case management systems for our Justice of the Peace courts and would require additional time, effort, and expense to address the integration of the NET Data application with Tyler’s Odyssey applications.”
In response to Shirley’s letter, Metts sent a rambling email of his own on May 10, 2012, in which, while quoting the Bible, Metts stated, “It is time for Montgomery County officials to find out who is being steered and who is being railroaded.” Despite numerous pointed questions to Shirley in front of the large group of the email’s recipients, the District Courts, County Courts at Law, and Precinct 3 Justice Court continued to move forward with what later was clearly the correct decision – for the financial wellbeing of the County and its taxpayers as well as for due process and open courts – to implement and utilize the Tyler Odyssey database and software application.
The tensions between Metts-Davenport and Shirley continued into 2013 as numerous County Departments proceeded to implement their choice of the two different database programs for the court system. Since Metts had excluded the IT Department from his court’s database, Metts and Davenport needed to get the existing database of court information in order to migrate that data into the NetData system. Apparently, the County and its IJIS Committee didn’t proceed quickly enough for Metts and Davenport.
Therefore, on April 10, 2013, Metts engaged in some of the most bizarre conduct in the history of Texas jurisprudence. As the sitting judge in his own court, Metts filed a lawsuit styled “County of Montgomery versus Marshall Shirley” under Docket Number 2013185. The legacy computer system shows the following data:
“Plaintiff: County of Montgomery
Attorney: JP 4
Defendant: Shirley, Marshall”
All of the critical documents mentioned in this article are shown at the end of this article.
To make matters even more strange, Metts typed out a lengthy “ORDER TO RELEASE INFORMATION,” which Metts signed as the judge (!), in which he stated:
“It is, therefore, ORDERED by the Court that Marshall Shirley, Director of Information Technology shall by the close of business on 15 April, 2013 release any and all files, records, data, and information of this Court to Graves, Humphries, Stahl, Ltd and their agents.
“ORDERED this day, 10 April, 2013.
“Honorable James Metts Justice of the Peace, Pct. 4 Montgomery County”
To make matters even more bizarre, Metts, the plaintiff, plaintiff’s attorney, and judge in a lawsuit where Montgomery County essentially sued itself, Metts had his fellow Davenport crony, Precinct 4 Constable Kenneth “Rowdy” Hayden actually serve the bizarre “Order” on Marshall Shirley at Shirley’s County office in Conroe. Captain Mark Seals of Hayden’s team actually delivered the illegal papers to Shirley.
Justice of the Peace Courts do not have legal authority or jurisdiction to issue orders of that nature under the Texas Constitution or any Texas statute. Only courts of record – County Courts at Law and District Courts – may issue orders or injunctions requiring people to do something or to refrain from doing so.
Needless to say, Shirley was more than a bit surprised when the County for which he was a Department Director sued him. Seals served Shirley on April 11, 2013.
Shirley then did what any good County employee should do when he or she is served with lawsuit papers. He went to consult with the County Attorney, J.D. Lambright, the one person in Montgomery County who actually does have the authority to file a lawsuit on behalf of the County. Lambright declined to give an interview for this article. Two sources inside of Lambright’s County Attorney’s Office and one source inside of Shirley’s IT Department all confirmed that Lambright advised Shirley to “ignore the lawsuit but stay away from Constable’s Precinct 4.”
Therefore, Shirley ignored Metts’ Order and, presumably, followed Lambright’s advice to avoid East Montgomery County!
Eventually, the IT Department did assist in the data migration to the NetData database.
On June 20, 2017, a confidential source advised The Golden Hammer of the bizarre Metts lawsuit against Shirley and provided a copy of the legacy data from the County’s old database system.
On June 21, 2017, the staff of this newspaper visited East Montgomery County. First, Constable Hayden’s Office was unable to provide any information about Metts’ lawsuit other than the information shown on the legacy database (see document below).
Therefore, the staff proceeded next door to Judge Metts’ court office. Judge Metts’ staff confirmed that court files are not available for the public to view them. Therefore, the court clerk suggested that an “open records request” would be appropriate. The Golden Hammer‘s Publisher hand-wrote a request and gave the clerk a copy.
As one might expect, Metts’ staff never responded to the open records request. On July 5, 2017, however, The Golden Hammer contacted Metts’ office about the open records request. No information was available.
At exactly 5 o’clock p.m. on Wednesday, July 5, 2017, Metts’ “Communications Coordinator” provided the following email:
“In regard to the information you requested from this court, case #2013185, this court finds no such record, nor any case filing ever docketed in this court under the referenced case number. The referenced case number is not compatible with any case docketing mechanism in either our current case management system or our legacy system.
“Jamie Nash, Communications Coordinator, Montgomery County, Pct. 4”
The next day, on July 6, 2017, The Golden Hammer obtained the court file through another source inside the Montgomery County government.
And then there’s the Phonoscope problem. Metts, under the direction of corrupt local political boss Marc Davenport, invited Phonoscope into the JP 4 County government building to install fiber optic cable lines without any contract between the County and Phonoscope.
Davenport and the Davenport Ring of corrupt County officials (Metts, County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport, Wayne Mack, JP 4 candidate Jason Dunn, and others) have pressured Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal to give Phonoscope permission to install the cable lines in County buildings and in County rights-of-way without Commissioners Court approval.
Why? Davenport and the Davenport Ring hope to profit from eventual sales of Phonoscope’s fiber optic cable services to area municipalities, property owners associations, and real estate developers.