Image: Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack made history by challenging the “payment of accounts” on the Montgomery County Commissioner’s Court’s consent agenda for the first time in history on January 8, 2019.
Conroe, January 11 – Precinct 3 Montgomery County Commissioner James Noack made history during the January 8, 2019, Commissioners Court meeting when he challenged the “payment of accounts” on the secretive consent agenda for the first time ever. Noack at first voted against the entire consent agenda.
While Noack’s objection was historic, Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley displayed his vast ignorance when he asked “Where’s it at?” in reference to the “Payment of Accounts” which has appeared at the beginning of the secretive “consent agenda” in the same spot for at least the last four years during Riley’s entire first term in office as a Commissioner. Riley proved, once again, that he doesn’t and hasn’t ever read or reviewed the Commissioners Court agenda before meetings and remains clueless with regard to County government operations over which he has a duty of oversight.
The specific agenda item on the secretive consent agenda to which Noack objected as agenda item 8A1, “Consider and Approve Payment of Accounts.” The agenda included one line “Payment of Accounts” which had a 99 page report of single-spaced lines of payments totaling $12,289,850.91. Since the item always appears on the secretive consent agenda, it has always been likely that there would be no discussion, review, or deliberation of any of those payments, which on this one occasion included:
- $9,272.34 to Graves Humphries law firm, the collection firm foisted on the taxpayers by Precinct 4 County Commissioner James Metts and his political boss Marc Davenport. The taxpayers are losing approximately $1 million per year in fee and fine collections as a result of the poor collection work they’re doing.
- Approximately $250,000 in full retail price payments for construction materials and office supplies.
- $8,000 to taxpayer-funded lobbyist Robert “Geronimo” Eissler.
- $800.57 for library books in Chinese.
- Over $78,000 in unsubstantiated credit card charges.
- $20,658.60 to LJA Engineering (Jeff Cannon’s company), which contributes money, vacations, and hunting trips mightily to the members of the Commissioners Court in order to obtain County contracts.
Noack explained his vote. “I just don’t like the way the court has handled the payment of accounts issue, and I’d like to have more time to spot check and make sure when we pay for goods and services that we’ve actually received them. It’s hard when I don’t get this until 5 o’clock on Friday afternoon and the Commissioners Court is one full business day later,” Noack said.
Noack told The Golden Hammer, “We need more information. The concept that we’re supposed to approve 100+ pages of expenditures in 20 hours doesn’t make any sense. We should either simply consider and accept payment, but we’re required by statute to approve these payments, so we need more time to make certain they’re valid.”
Chapter 113 of the Texas Local Government Code requires “approval” of the payment of accounts before such payments may occur.
Noack told this newspaper that he’s discussed the problem with new Montgomery County Auditor Rakesh Pandey as well as attorneys in the County Attorney’s Office. “I want to thank the County Attorney’s Officec and the new Auditor, because they’ve told me I’ll get the information earlier to give me time for review,” Noack said.
One of the major problems with the “payment of accounts” as the County Auditor has presented the gigantic item for years on the Commissioner’s Court’s “consent agenda” is that there is no backup material to show what each expenditure actually represents and whether the County government actually received the good or service. It’s a particularly severe problem with credit card charges, which show up as hundreds of thousands of dollars of credit card charges every two weeks in the Commissioners Court, indicating nothing but “Citi Bank.”
With a new County Judge who openly campaigned on a platform of greater openness and transparency, perhaps the County Auditor and the Commissioners Court will begin to make the backup information publicly available online in addition to the proposed list of payments every two weeks.