Conroe, October 8 – Montgomery County Auditor Phyllis Martin, the entire Montgomery County Commissioners Court, and Budget Office Director Amanda Carter intend to break Texas law flagrantly at the Commissioners Court meeting on October 9, 2018, by making at least thirty-nine (39) “budget amendments” as “emergency expenditures” “in case of grave public necessity” when, in fact, there is no emergency or necessity other than terrible bookkeeping and auditing. In taking the action, the all seven of them – Martin, Carter, lame duck Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal, Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike “Sleeping Mike” Meador, Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley, Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack, and Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark – will directly violate Section 111.041 of the Texas Local Government Code.
It’s another example of why Montgomery County has the reputation for being the “most corrupt County in Texas.”
The “budget amendments” total more than $41.5 million total, more than 12% of the entire Montgomery County government budget. Many of the budget amendments involve enormous increases in the amount of money the County government spent. The County government draws those funds from “slush funds” which are carried over each Fiscal Year and hidden from taxpayers.
Under Texas law, a Commissioners Court must follow strict procedures both to adopt an original budget and to amend that budget. If the amendment only involves transferring budgeted funds from one account to another, the process merely requires an amendment and does not require a lot of formality.
If, however, a budget amendment involves spending more tax dollars than the Commissioners Court had originally budgeted in the formally approved budget, Section 111.041 of the Local Government Code requires the Commissioners Court either (1) to hold formal public hearing and conform with the budget process set in Chapter 111 of the Texas Local Government Code, or (2) to declare a state of “emergency” “only in a case of grave public necessity to meet an unusual and unforeseen condition.”
Given the corruption of the Montgomery County government and the unwillingness of County Auditor Phyllis Martin to perform her duties and actually audit the expenditures of the County Commissioners Court, the Montgomery County government passes every budget amendment as though it were an “emergency.”
The proposed October 9 budget amendments highlight the corruption and irrationality of the Commissioners Court’s, County Auditor’s, and Budget Officer Director’s approach. They are seeking a declaration of an “emergency” and “grave public necessity” to justify budget amendments for amounts of tax dollars the County government has already spent!
It’s a fair question to ask how one might avoid this problem in the future:
- The County Auditor and the Budget Office Director should perform their jobs properly (for the first time) by auditing expenditures and not permitting them to occur if they are outside of the approved budget;
- The Commissioners Court should proceed with a genuinely deliberative process to approve County Budgets which include all expenditures of funds which may occur during a year regardless of whether funds come from the “slush funds” or from current tax collections. All planned expenditures should appear in the public budget made available for public viewing to the citizens prior to adoption;
- The Commissioners Court and Budget Office Director should conduct public hearings on all new expenditures of public funds that they had not included in the adopted budget, an act of transparency which is substantially different from the arrogance of Doyal, Carter, Martin, and the members of the Commissioners Court who seek to defeat government openness at every turn, whether Texas law requires it or not.