Image: Jacqueline Lanell Felder, convicted of bribery and tampering with a governmental record, was a “very good employee” in the eyes of former Custodial Maintenance Director Wayne Mack.
Conroe, October 1 – The citizens should have seen the corruption coming from a distance, because the prelude began to brew and some of the signs were certainly out in the open. Montgomery County’s government in 2017 is very much a County government “for sale.”
The County government’s Purchasing and Information Technology Departments are under the management of an outsider channeling business opportunities to his favored vendors and directing the Commissioners Court to take the formal actions necessary for his bidding. Two members of the Commissioners Court – County Judge Craig Doyal and Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley – are under indictment for alleged violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act as a result of their close work with that outsider.
The outsider is not some fictional character in a Salman Rushdie novel. Rather, he’s Marc Davenport who lives in the home of an elected official in the County government, Treasurer Stephanne Davenport, and who issues orders and directions to her as Treasurer, to four of the five Justices of the Peace, to the Purchasing Department, to the IT Department, to the County Judge, to the Sheriff, to one of the Constables, and to a candidate for Justice of the Peace as well. If you don’t “roll” with him and his wife, you’re “one of the haters,” using the Davenports’ lingo. Please see “Conroe City Councilman Duane Ham: ‘The Davenports’ Threats Against County Judge Craig Doyal are an Insult to the Law Enforcement Community and the Citizens’ (The Davenports, Part 1),” The Golden Hammer, May 31, 2017.
Citizens had a chance to avoid this mess
2011 to 2013 was a critical turning point in the County government. The citizens had an opportunity to avoid this mess. But, after two decades of Republican Party hegemony, the voters and citizens figured that we were in good hands, since the “other party” didn’t even field opponents to face our candidates in the general election at the local level.
The Republican Party stands for something, doesn’t it? It’s the Party of “conservatives”, isn’t it? It’s the Party for fiscal restraint and lower government spending, right? Since 1964, the Montgomery County has been under the great leadership of Walter D. Wilkerson Jr., M.D., who is responsible for the development of a Grand Old Party that produced the reddest County in all of Texas, so the voters could relax and go about their business without a worry or care of concern that our County government is anything but a perfect extension of the Republican Party Platform, correct? No. No. No. No. Sadly.
In 2011, two major events occurred that should have warned the citizens that the Montgomery County government was quite sick. It was a County government at the turning point of so little accountability that it was a government “for sale.”
Custodial Maintenance Department
Since he became a Justice of the Peace for Precinct 1 in 2014, Wayne Mack’s management of his employees has been messy and disturbing. Please see “Wayne Mack’s Court: Wheelhouse of Inappropriate Behavior, Employee Idleness (The Davenports, Part 9),” The Golden Hammer, June 19, 2017. Mack’s employees in the Justice of the Peace Court spend substantial amounts of time posting obscenity on social media during business hours and engaging in political activities on his behalf.
Before Mack became a JP, he was the Head Janitor for the Montgomery County government. His formal self-proclaimed title was “Director, Custodial Maintenance.” His number two in that department was a lady by the name of Jacqueline Lanell Felder.
Mack described Felder as a “very good employee.” He elaborated, “I trusted her more than anybody in that department,” Head Janitor Mack explained in 2011. He even trusted Felder to pick up his children from school, although that raises the concern: why was Wayne Mack having a County employee pick up his children from school for him during County business hours?!
Mack’s judgment turned out to be quite terrible. Under Mack’s management, Felder set up a program to allow convicts who were in the Montgomery County Community Supervision program to pay her bribes in exchange for approving their community service without their ever having actually to work.
Felder didn’t act by herself. Another high-level manager, Deborah Garza, in Mack’s Custodial Maintenance Department also participated in the bribery scheme.
After the Montgomery County Grand Jury indicted Felder for bribery and tampering with governmental records, a second degree felony and a state jail felony, respectively, Felder eventually pled guilty in June, 2011, and received a five year prison sentence in the Institutional Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. She went to prison.
After the Montgomery County Grand Jury indicted Garza also for bribery and tampering with governmental records, Garza pled guilty and received a sentence of probation.
Amazingly, Felder was out of prison by November, 2011, after she received “shock probation” and instead served most of her sentence as probation.
The Felder and Garza bribery scandal raised many questions about Mack’s poor management of the Custodial Maintenance Department. Insiders to Mack’s Department have confirmed to The Golden Hammer that during the last two years of his direction of that Department, Mack was rarely there. Instead, he spent his County time politicking.
In 2014, after Mack won the Republican Primary Election to replace Judge Lanny Moriarty, who was quite ill, the Commissioners Court appointed Mack to complete Moriarty’s unexpired term.
The whole scenario raises important issues. How could voters look the other way from the disturbing bribery that had developed under Mack’s management? Doesn’t the Republican Party call for ethical government in its Platform? How did Mack get away with creating his new hyper-religious image without voters mindfully observing that there is an ugly side to this man both in the recent past and in the present?
How in the world could the citizens stand by and allow a lady convicted of bribery and the corruption of the community service program which should be a source of rehabilitation for probationers receive only the shortest of prison sentences?
Mack’s new “number two” after Felder’s indictment and imprisonment in the Custodial Maintenance Department was Lorena Garcia, the lady who openly lied to the public and the Commissioners Court during the 2017 “budget workshop.” Please see “Montgomery County’s Head Janitor Lorena Garcia’s Comments About ‘Sick Building Syndrome’ During Budget Hearings Revealed as Willful Lies to Get More Money for County Budget,” The Golden Hammer, August 20, 2017.
There clearly was some phenomenon that helped the citizens – and the Commissioners Court – to forget the very recent past. That phenomenon was not Marc Davenport. Rather, Davenport merely took advantage of it.
IJIS Committee: another sign of the mess to come during the same time period
During 2012 and 2013, the County formed an employee committee entitled “the Integrated Justice Steering Committee” (IJIS) to research and evaluate integrated software to store, retrieve, and manage court data. Only County employees were to serve on the IJIS Committee, but Metts insisted that Marc Davenport, whom Metts introduced as a “sworn deputy” in his Justice of the Peace Office, be permitted to participate in the meetings as well. Several employees who attended IJIS meetings, but have requested confidentiality of their identities, have described Davenport as “creepy,” “sleazy,” and “demanding.”
A dispute arose between Metts, Davenport, and some of the other justices of the peace on the one hand and all of the other courts – the 8 District Courts, the 5 County Courts at Law, and Precinct 3 JP Edie Connelly – on the other hand. For some reason, Metts and Davenport insisted that the Court should use a database program by the name of “NetData” on which to keep court files, so that an outside law firm, Graves Humphries Stahl, could then conduct collections of fines and fees for the courts. Judge Connelly, the five County Court Judges, and the eight District Judges did not feel comfortable permitting an outside law firm to contact County litigants for a variety of reasons, including due process, privacy concerns, and efficiency.
Eventually, the four Metts-Davenport courts (JP 1, JP 2, JP 4, and JP 5) went with the NetData software which does not permit the public to access court files online. Meanwhile, all of the other courts in Montgomery County utilize Tyler Technologies’ Odyssey database, which does permit public access. The Court collections of Judge Connelly’s JP3 Court are strikingly higher than all of the other four Justice of the Peace courts added together, so it’s very clear that the Odyssey database and the County’s collection efforts are far more efficient than NetData and Graves Humphries Stahl. Please see “Montgomery County Justice Courts Reveal Stark Financial Contrasts,” The Golden Hammer, June 22, 2017.
In the end, the County employees on the IJIS Committee allowed Davenport to have his way. Davenport dictated the database system for four of the five JPs. More importantly, Davenport dictated how JP fines and fees collection would occur.
At the beginning, in 2013, Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack stood up to JP James Metts and had quite a tense back-and-forth over the NetData and court collection issue. After Noack’s strong stance at the beginning, the Montgomery County Commissioners Court – Doyal, Riley, Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador, Noack, and Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark – purposefully has looked the other way and allowed Davenport to exert that control. They’re afraid of him.
Once again, however, in 2012 and 2013, the several County employees on the IJIS Committee had the opportunity to do something other than looking the other way. Rather than allowing Davenport and Metts to establish a rogue collection system, which has created a financial mess in four of the five Justice Courts, those employees should have taken the issue to open discussion before the Montgomery County Commissioners Court.
Of course, open discussion before the dysfunctional Commissioners Court is quite a challenge, especially with Doyal and his “chief of staff” jim fredricks so tightly controlling what even appears on the agenda at all.
Conclusion: The Prelude
Those two incidents, Mack’s bribery scandal within his janitorial department which burst into the open in 2011 and the NetData purchasing diversion which didn’t become an open subject of disagreement until late 2013, should have tipped the citizens of Montgomery County that it was time to step in and clean up the corruption.
The citizens continued to sleep.
As a result, Montgomery County’s government is fully for sale, especially after three years of Doyal’s County Judgeship:
- Davenport controls the purchasing and IT functions;
- Davenport directs Doyal and fredricks;
- engineering vendors run roughshod over County tax dollars;
- Doyal and Riley are almost singularly focused on construction of $73 million, 3.6 mile, tollroad at the far southwest edge of Montgomery County, also known as the “Decimation of Hope Highway” or the “Tx-249 Tollway.”
And there’s so much more that we haven’t even reported yet.
Next: Montgomery County Government for Sale! Part 2: Introduction to the dramatis personae.