Montgomery County Commissioners Court engages in ice machine purchasing folly

Montgomery County government Airport Director James Brown has a good laugh at the October 23, 2018, Commissioners Court meeting as he requested that tax dollars go for the purchase of a ice machine for the money-losing Montgomery County Airport.

Conroe, November 2 – Montgomery County’s Airport already loses more than $688,278 per year of Montgomery County citizens’ tax dollars, but the County Commissioners Court, on October 23, 2018, approved the purchase of an ice machine without even knowing how much money they were spending. The Airport Director, James Brown, failed to provide any backup information for the ice machine purchase, failed to make any efforts to find the lease expensive machine, and, in fact, purchased the machine without approval.

It’s another illustration of how poorly the County Commissioners manage the County government. They literally voted for approval of a purchase, which already occurred, and the amount of which they had no knowledge whatsoever.

The following is the discussion between Brown and the members of the Commissioners Court.

Airport Director James Brown: I am here asking if you would consider and approve the purchase of an ice maker for the airport maintenance shop. I will add that the ice maker has already been purchased. It was my fault. I apologize. I did not know that was not an approved item, so the Auditor’s Office approached me, said I needed Court approval, so now I’m seeking approval. I have a maintenance staff that works out in the heat and I bought them an ice maker so they can make a jug of iceboater when they go out and work.

Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador: I move.

Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley: Second.

Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack: We’re going to take JD’s ice maker and give it to you [referring to County Attorney J.D. Lambright’s ice maker.]

Meador: Don’t do it again.

Brown: I won’t.

County Auditor Phyllis Martin: Actually, gentlemen, if you approve this ice maker, we would approve the purchase of a new one. The problem is they never had one. You have in your own offices ice makers [for] people who work out in the heat. It’s brand new the first time, so if it ever goes out, you won’t have to come back to Commissioners Court again.

County Judge Craig Doyal: Why particularly an ice maker be a separate item from any other item they may purchase for the Airport?

Noack: Yeah. Why would that be an unapproved item?

Martin: If you want to approve ice makers for every office in the County, that’s certainly your discretion.

Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark: Nah.

Doyal: I’m just curious why one piece of equipment would be treated differently.

(Laughter and much babbling.)

Clark: A good executive decision…

Doyal: Okay…All those in favor.

(Unanimous ayes.)

The motion carries.

Brown: Thank you, gentlemen.

What is striking about this colloquy is:

  • The failure of the County Treasurer, the County Judge, and the County Auditor to provide a clear list of items that are pre-approved for purchase as opposed to those items which are not;
  • The lack of understanding of the purchasing process by the County Judge and Commissioners Court; and
  • Most of all, the blind approval of the purchase of the ice machine without having the slightest idea how much Brown had paid for the piece of equipment.

Once again, Doyal and the Commissioners Court revealed a complete lack of prudence in spending “other people’s money.”




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