Image: Montgomery County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport (right) with her nepotistic hire County Judge Craig Doyal’s daughter (left).
Conroe, March 10 – When Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton ruled on March 1, 2018, that Montgomery County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport must release her office procedures manual and overruled Davenport’s objections to the public disclosure, the Attorney General made clear that County employee dates of birth and social security numbers should not be among the disclosed information. But when Davenport finally released the document, on Thursday, March 8, after the March 6 Republican Primary Election was over, the County Treasurer failed to redact several dates of birth and three pages containing employee social security numbers.
The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, has received over one hundred inquiries from County employees and from three County Department directors since yesterday seeking to ascertain whether their social security numbers and dates of birth were among the documents the County Treasurer carelessly disclosed. Several of the employees were particularly concerned that Davenport had disclosed the document to a family of convicted felons, two of whom served prison time in federal prison, seemingly before she provided the information to the two public requestors of her office procedures manual at 4:37 p.m. on March 8.
The Golden Hammer, therefore, asked the Republican nominee for County Treasurer, Melanie Bush, whether she was aware if any corrective action would occur within the County government. Bush told this newspaper, “I have been told the County Attorney will handle this situation.” Bush and County Attorney J.D. Lambright frantically attempted to claw back all copies of the document Davenport had released without redacting the social security numbers and one date of birth.
Montgomery County Attorney, J.D. Lambright, said, “My office will be contacting those whose information was released. If someone wants to contact my office directly they are certainly welcome to do so. I don’t want to depend on the Treasurer to do this correctly or in a timely fashion.”
“My office will be contacting those whose information was released. If someone wants to contact my office directly they are certainly welcome to do so. I don’t want to depend on the Treasurer to do this correctly or in a timely fashion.” – – Montgomery County Attorney J.D. Lambright
Lambright explained that there are several dates of birth attached to the names of the people in the document Davenport released. He added, “How can you think it’s okay to release someone’s name, social security number, and date of birth in this time of major concerns about identity theft?”
As for whether Lambright or District Attorney Brett Ligon are considering possible criminal charges against Davenport or other individuals in Davenport’s Treasurer’s Office involved in the release of the information, Lambright explained, “We are looking at this issue and the District Attorney is making inquiries into this matter as well.”
Ever since Bush requested the procedure manual on December 1, Davenport made clear that she was aware she needed to redact County employee names, dates of birth, and social security numbers contained within the document. Of course, there are major questions why that information would be in an office procedure manual at all. Nevertheless, Davenport did not ensure that information was removed from the document when she released it to the family of convicted felons who are her political supporters and to the public.
In 2015, the Dallas Court of Appeals ruled in Paxton versus City of Dallas that citizens’ dates of birth are protected by common-law privacy under the Texas Open Records Act. On February 28, 2007, then-Attorney General Greg Abbott ruled that social security numbers are a mandatory exception to the Texas Open Records Act, that governmental entities must not release that information to the public.
Four pages of the document Davenport released yesterday contained social security numbers and dates of birth of approximately fifteen County employees. If County employees do not receive a notification from the County Attorney’s Office, they may safely assume that their name, social security number, and date of birth were not in the documents Davenport carelessly released to the public.
Davenport receives a salary of $135,782 per year, plus County benefits of approximately $54,720.15, for total annual compensation of $190,502.15. For that amount of compensation, one might expect some level of care in the release of a document the Attorney General of Texas ordered her to make available to the public after redacting social security numbers and dates of birth.