Image: In this artist’s rendering, the bottom Ring of Hades includes Satan, Michael Landon, and others.
Conroe, January 29 – For those who find fatiguing the bottomless corruption of Precinct 2 Montgomery County Commissioner Charlie Riley and Precinct 4 Commissioner James Metts, the January 29, 2019, Commissioners Court meeting doesn’t bring much rest. County spending and waste continues to overrun the efforts of new County Judge Mark Keough to bring some reform to the County government.
Here’s a sampling of some of the problems for Montgomery County taxpayers on the January 29, 2019, meeting agenda.
Payment of Accounts: some good but mostly bad
For the first time in four years, the “Payment of Accounts” appears on the open agenda for the Commissioners Court. That reflects much needed openness and transparency from new County Judge Mark Keough.
Unfortunately, the agenda item includes 112 pages of single-spaced line items of spending totaling $14,416,916.32.
The spending items include Graves Humphries law firm collection payments of $8.748.52 for Wayne Mack and $10.928.41 for Matt Masden. Even though James Metts is no longer a JP, his forcing this collection practice on the County government continues to cause losses of almost $1,000,000 per year.
The spending also includes more than $30,000 of auto parts purchased as full retail prices without government discounts, $1,061.63 of credit card charges without explanation for the unnecessary Law Library, $10,000.00 of additional funds paid to Graves Humphries for technology upgrades which Metts and Judge Wayne Mack assured the Commissioners Court would be free to the taxpayers, $16,241.68 wasted on the duplicative services of engineer John Holzwarth, and $3.2 million on the TX 249 Tollway, also known as the Decimation of Hope Highway.
Metts’ remodeling project for his own office
Precinct 4 Montgomery County Commissioner James Metts has proposed a remodeling project for his own office. It seems that every time there is a new elected servant in office, that person shoves expenditures down the taxpayers’ throats so they have an office to their liking.
Metts has provided no budget for the remodeling. Metts has provided no plans for the remodeling. Metts has provided no explanation why the remodeling is worth taking funds earmarked for the road and bridge improvements of East Montgomery County to make his already lush office even more palatial.
Riley costing taxpayers a fortune to prosecute him
In the criminal case involving the criminal indictments of Precinct 2 Montgomery County Commissioner Charlie Riley, his political boss Marc Davenport, and former Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal, Montgomery County taxpayers are paying a fortune in fees to the special prosecutor, Christopher Downey of Houston, and his team of prosecutors.
Riley, Davenport, and Doyal have already cost the taxpayers $33,928.23 more than the entire budget for “Professional Services” for the Office of Court Operations during the 2019 Fiscal Year. In other words, the taxpayers are suffering the penalty for the alleged conduct of Riley, Davenport, and Doyal.
Ethics Committee appointments
Montgomery County remains in dire need of true ethics reform. Both County Judge Keough and State Representative Steve Toth (R-District 15) ran on platforms of bringing a robust – and enforceable – Code of Ethics to Montgomery County.
At present, the Code of Ethics remains a joke. Its provisions are unenforceable. The loopholes within the Code are as wide as the Palo Euro Canyon. As a result, there has never been one single ethics complaint, because the Code of Ethics doesn’t even proscribe the unethical conduct of Riley and Metts as obvious as it has been.
Two years ago, Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon recommended that the Commissioners Court “reach for the stars” in adopting a strong Code of Ethics. Instead, they reached to the dark center of the Earth to enact every loophole and gaping chasm they could find.
The Commissioners Court will appoint a new Ethics Committee. Undoubtedly, Riley and Metts will seek to place their closest friends on the Committee. Instead of independence, the Ethics Committee is anything but.
Montgomery County Animal Shelter Director Aaron Johnson is requesting that the Commissioners Court increase his budget by some revenue the Shelter has received. Johnson’s Animal Shelter has become a “killing field” where euthanasias have moved to catch up with adoptions.
Johnson’s staff has driven away many of the volunteers as a result of their hostility towards critique and criticism.
The animals have suffered. They’ll continue to suffer until the Commissioners Court steps in to bring the Shelter a new Director who places the animals and the humans who care for them above his bureaucratic goals.
Will the Commissioners Court fire IT Director Marshall Shirley?
One of the least popular Department directors in the County government is IT Director Marshall Shirley. Shirley has done some good but he runs his department inefficiently and without serious oversight of expenditures.
In an executive session, Shirley will receive a performance review. The review will not be a positive one, to say the very least. Nevertheless, this Commissioner’s Court doesn’t seem to have the gumption to can him and replace him with Bobby Powell, the true director of the IT Department on whom the entire County government relies to resolve IT problems.
Budget amendments (still for the last Fiscal Year)
As a continuing sign of how terribly managed the Montgomery County government continues to be, the Montgomery County Auditor, Rakesh Pandey, is having to offer a $734,000 budget amendment for Fiscal Year 2018 (last year) to clean up the books.
There’s a silver lining. At least Pandey is not trying to fool the public by offering a resolution that the budget amendment involving cleaning up accounting entries from a year ago is somehow an “emergency expenditure” that is a “grave public necessity,” one of the corrupt practices of former Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal and terminated County Auditor Phyllis Martin.
Budget Director Amanda Carter has proffered a report showing $266,352.15 in employee vacancies for the first three months of Fiscal Year 2019, which began October 1, 2018. There are $266,352.15 in quarterly savings and more than $1.04 million in annual savings which they taxpayers could enjoy, if the Commissioners Court were to leave those positions unfilled.
Attrition is the best and fairest way to handle the overspending and overhiring with respect to the salaries’ portion of the Montgomery County government budget.