Montgomery County Government “For Sale” (Part 8): Did the January 11, 2016, meeting blow Rand’s philosophy out of the water? (Double entendre intended)

Montgomery County Government “For Sale” (Part 8): Did the January 11, 2016, meeting blow Rand’s philosophy out of the water? (Double entendre intended)

Image: A parasite fish inside of a mackerel’s mouth eating its tongue alive.

BEWARE: THERE IS SOME LANGUAGE IN THIS ARTICLE THAT MAY BE INAPPROPRIATE FOR YOUNGER READERS.

Conroe, November 7 – In Ayn Rand’s seminal novel Atlas Shrugged, the character Wesley Mouch began as a Washington lobbyist trying to assist businesses fend off new regulatory programs that would harm their ability to compete. Fairly early in the story, however, Mouch made an important discovery. There was far more money and power involved in working for a different group of businesses, those firms that didn’t want competition but instead sought government favor to destroy their competitors. Mouch, who became an economic dictator mid-way through the novel, was one of the leaders of the corrupt national government who worked with weaker, but politically connected firms, to give them an advantage over the strongest and most innovative firms.

There’s the paradox and arguably the hypocrisy, both with respect to Rand Henderson and Ayn Rand.

Montgomery County Sheriff Rand Henderson refers to himself as a “constitutional conservative.” Phonoscope Chief Executive Officer Lee Cook tells many people far and wide that he also is a “constitutional conservative” who believes that free markets should determine market choices.

That’s why the events of January 11, 2016, are highly disturbing about Henderson and Cook both of whom have become figures about whom Montgomery County citizens should now care, because through a connection with Henderson and corrupt local political boss Marc Davenport, Cook has wriggled immense favoritism in the award of rights to provide deep fiber optic cable service to the Montgomery County government with the ultimate plan to use the County government as a trunk line to expand the service into lucrative municipality, homeowners association, and private developer markets.

The whole arrangement looks far more like Mouch as economic dictator than Mouch as the lobbyist against government regulations, except that Davenport and Henderson are the economic dictators and Cook’s Phonoscope is the beneficiary of the destruction of competition.

January 11, 2016, meeting

The March, 2016, Republican Primary Election featured two very strong candidates for Montgomery County Sheriff who were running to succeed retiring Sheriff Tommy Gage whose term expired on December 31, 2016. The Sheriff’s Department has over 800 employees and manages by far the largest budget of any department in Montgomery County. There’s nothing wrong with those facts, because the primary purpose of a County government is to provide law enforcement.

Sheriff Gage had endorsed Captain Rand Henderson who was a high-performing Sheriff’s Deputy his entire career. Henderson’s opponent was City of Montgomery Chief of Police James Napolitano who had done a wonderful job for that city as well as providing law enforcement in several federal agencies including the United States Secret Service. The rank-and-file law enforcement officers supported their friend Henderson. Napolitano offered himself as a person who would change the way things are run.

Much to the chagrin of Sheriff Gage, Henderson became a part of the Davenport Ring, the group of candidates and elected officials who worked with Davenport and had Davenport consult him on his campaign. Napolitano utilized the consulting services of Woodlands public relations guru Paul Lazzaro and also worked closely with Kemah public relations expert Crystal Lee Laramore of Laramore Media Group. Davenport does not like his competition very much and despises Laramore, just as he despises locally-renowned political consultant Melanie Schoettle of MediaGenics Company.

As The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, previously reported, Henderson and Davenport had an unusual meeting at Phonoscope in late spring 2016 along with Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley who, at the time, was still a member of the Davenport Ring. Please see “Montgomery County Government ‘For Sale’ (Part 4): Secret Meeting with Davenport Ring Begets County Vendor Phonoscope’s Frightening Conrol,” October 18, 2017.  In that story, we reported the following:

“The relationship between the Montgomery County government and Phonoscope began in the strangest of ways, a secret meeting in the late spring of 2016 after Rand Henderson had beaten Jim Napolitano in the Republican Primary Election but before the indictments of Davenport, Riley, and County Judge Craig Doyal for alleged violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act.

“It turns out that Phonoscope’s Chief Executive Officer Lee Cook, who maintains close ties to the Republic of Texas and other right wing fringe groups, also happens to be close friends with Richard Mack, the former Sheriff of Graham County, Arizona, who met Henderson at some national law enforcement gatherings. Mack suggested that Henderson meet Cook, so they set up the secret meeting to discuss Phonoscope.

“Henderson, of course, won’t go anywhere without his ‘political brain,’ Davenport, so he invited Davenport to attend the meeting with Cook. Davenport wanted to bring a County government decision maker with him to the meeting, so Davenport told his then-puppet Riley to join them for the meeting.”

All of the foregoing is correct, except it turns out there was an earlier meeting without Riley but with additional participants.

As a result of Henderson’s connection to Phonoscope’s Cook through Richard Mack, Cook invited Henderson to Phonoscope’s headquarters on January 11, 2016, to discuss Cook’s interest in having Phonoscope do business with Montgomery County.

Davenport, Henderson, and Mack arrived at Phonoscope’s office around noon. They didn’t realize that Cook was playing the field still at that point and had arranged a meeting with Henderson’s Republican Primary challenger, Napolitano, on a separate day.

Henderson saw Laramore, turned to Cook, and said, “What the f–k is she doing here?” Davenport also made two very crude comments about Laramore to Cook right in front of Laramore.

Davenport, Henderson, and Mack did not reappear in Cook’s office later. Laramore, who attended the meeting with a leading conservative Republican activist from the Houston area, remained in the meeting which obviously did not make Henderson and Davenport very happy.

Cook’s meeting with Napolitano

Cook had arranged the Napolitano meeting with Laramore, who knew Cook through some mutual friends.

At Cook’s separate meeting with Montgomery Police Chief James Napolitano and his wife Angie Napolitano, Napolitano asked whether Cook had met with Henderson and then asked the question, “why are you meeting with both me and Henderson?”

Cook replied, “It’s good to know the Sheriff of Montgomery County because this could be good for Phonoscope.”

Cook then launched into an hour long discussion on two topics. First, Cook spent about half an hour on the subject of apple cider vinegar, which Cook professes everyone should take after every meal in order to maintain their youth. Second, Cook told the Napolitanos and the other attendees that he strongly believes that government should “adhere to constitutional principles and only participate in those limited activities” specifically enumerated in the United States and Texas Constitutions.

The attendees gave each other uncomfortable looks during the meeting while Cook discussed vinegar and the Constitution. One of the attendees, who requested confidentiality, told The Golden Hammer, “This man [Cook] needs some medical help far beyond vinegar.”

Cook hardly let Napolitano speak about his plans as Sheriff. Nevertheless, Cook told the Napolitanos at the end of the meeting that he would hold a fundraiser for them on January 19, 2016, so “Phonoscope can show its support for both of you.”

The Napolitano group left the meeting at their first opportunity.

Aftermath

Cook’s office staff called Napolitano to cancel the fundraiser a day before it was supposed to occur. Davenport and Henderson had told Cook that Napolitano “was not a serious candidate.”

Phonoscope and Cook have never had a formal contract with the Montgomery County government other than a January, 2017, purchase order with no pricing, no services, and no products which Phonoscope would provide to the County government. Nevertheless, Phonoscope trucks, equipment, cable, personnel, and related property have been all over the County government in past several months installing a deep fiber optic cable system.

Rather than going through the Commissioners Court for approval of the relationship between Phonoscope and the County government, Phonoscope and the Davenport Ring have taken a different two-fold approach: (1) develop a strong relationship with the Sheriff’s Office and install cable systems in the Jail and the Criminal Justice Center first and (2) proceed to install cable without any authority whatsoever at other County offices.

And who is Sheriff Henderson’s largest financial contributor?

You already know the answer. The great constitutionalist and vinegar-drinker who believes in limited government.

(Eleven people spoke to The Golden Hammer about this piece and requested anonymity for fear of reprisal.  The eleven include three Phonoscope employees, six County government employees, and two unaffiliated individuals. Chief Napolitano declined to give an interview. Sheriff Henderson did not return calls.)

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