Image: Marshall Shirley, the Information Technology Department Director whom the Montgomery County Commissioners Court terminated on Tuesday, January 29, 2019, during an Executive Session.
Conroe, January 30 – The Montgomery County Commissioners Court terminated Information Technology Director Marshall Shirley during a lengthy executive session at the end of the Commissioners Court meeting on Tuesday, January 29, 2019. Shirley had suffered performance problems for several years, but former County Judge Craig Doyal tolerated those issues, because the IT Director had worked with the political wishes of Doyal and former “chief of staff” jim fredricks.
Shirley did not attend the executive session. The four Commissioners and County Judge Mark Keough did participate. During various points in the meeting Human Resources Director Dodi Shaw and Precinct 3 Technology Director Charles Cobb participated in the executive session with the Commissioners Court members and County Attorney J.D. Lambright.
In the open session after the executive session, the Commissioners Court passed an oblique-sounding motion where they “appoint[ed Precinct 3 County] Commissioner James Noack to take any action necessary regarding the Information Technology Director.”
During the interim period, Cobb and Deputy Information Technology Director Bobby Powell will act as the co-directors of the IT Department.
Both Keough and Noack declined to provide any comments for this article. Shirley didn’t return telephone calls.
The IT Department has come under intense criticism for a number of reasons. First, poor performance has overwhelmed the IT Department. Development of the County government’s website has been tortured at best. During many periods the website has experienced grave operational difficulties. Second, the IT Department has suffered enormous difficult in budgeting and maintaining control of the costs of IT services and equipment. There was a strong perception among the members of the Commissioners Court that there was poor interaction and communication between the County IT Department and the County Purchasing Department. Third, the IT Department Director, Shirley, did not garner the respect of other County Department Directors who regularly worked with him.
The accession of Precinct 4 County Commissioner James Metts to the Commissioners Court certainly didn’t bode well for Shirley. Metts, who previously served as Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace, had sharply criticized Shirley for the IT Department’s slow progress in implementing the online court filing and docketing system both of Tyler Technologies and for Net Data, the latter system in use for four of the five Justice of the Peace courts. At one point, Metts as plaintiff even filed a lawsuit against Shirley and issued an order requiring Shirley to turn certain data over to Metts.
At least three members of the Commissioners Court have expressed that they felt Shirley had become disengaged from the Enterprise Resource Planning software implementation through which the County government is now proceeding. The co-directors for that implementation are Cobb and Powell, who have worked well together. Therefore, it’s a seamless transition to put Cobb and Powell in place as the co-directors of the entire IT Department in place of the aloof Shirley.
Several employees in the IT Department expressed surprise at Shirley’s termination. More than one employee expressed that Shirley’s very low key management approach made him quite popular in the IT Department.
The IT Department oversees a budget slightly in excess of $6.8 million as well as assisting with the technology budgets of the courts and other departments.
The Golden Hammer thanks the eight different Montgomery County government employees, over four Departments, who spoke with this newspaper for this story, on the condition of anonymity.