Montgomery County government has a sexual harassment problem

Montgomery County government has a sexual harassment problem

Image: Montgomery County JP James Metts (left) and County Judge Craig Doyal (right).

Conroe, November 29 – Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace James Metts is not the only sexual harassment problem in the Montgomery County government, although he most definitely remains such a problem. The following factual circumstance is real and somewhat recent.

A former County Commissioner had several sexual relationships with County employees while he served as an elected official in the Montgomery County government. One of his girlfriends lost her job at a local nonprofit organization, so the Commissioner hired her to work for him. They eventually stopped sleeping together but had to work together in the uncomfortable circumstance of having broken up with each other after a long relationship.

He then had another sexual relationship with a different County employee who worked directly for him. They also broke up but had to continue to work together.

Finally, the Commissioner had a sexual relationship with an employee who reported directly to him and managed his office. They had a bad breakup. One day, she keyed one of the County vehicles in the Commissioner’s Precinct and caused substantial damage. The Commissioner quickly arranged for a transfer of the vandalizing former girlfriend to a constable’s office where she now works.

The foregoing factual scenario illustrates several of the major problems that sexual harassment and sexual relationships among County employees can cause. It’s obviously a terrible idea for a County supervisor to have a sexual relationship with one of his or her employees. The breakups, which often do occur, get ugly and often result in sexual harassment claims by one of the two people who had been in the previously consenting relationship.

It’s also apparent that sexual harassment and sexual relationships between a County government employee, who is a supervisor, and the supervisor’s employees is a form of abuse of power. Even if the relationship doesn’t start out as an abuse of power, it rapidly gets there.

Those are just some of the pitfalls in sexual harassment and sexual relationships between County employees.

Past sexual harassment problems in the Montgomery County government

Since these factual circumstances involve sex, there are many rumors and innuendos of sexual harassment and sexual relationships in the recent past in the Montgomery County government. Since this newspaper only deals in fact rather than rumor or hypothesis, there are some very specific scenarios which The Golden Hammer has confirmed:

JP James Metts and Delonna Snow.

In response to a formal Charge which JP employee Delonna Snow filed against Montgomery County and James Metts, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission determined Metts terminated Snow in November, 2006, in retaliation for Snow’s rejection of Metts’ sexual advances. The EEOC made the following findings:
  • Since May 2004, Snow “was subjected to harassment of a sexual nature by her immediate supervisor [Metts].”
  • “Among other things, the supervisor [Metts] discussed his sex life in…[Snow’s] presence and told jokes of a sexual nature.”
  • After Snow “complained of the harassment and continued to reject the advances of her immediate supervisor [Metts], he began systematically retaliating against her, ultimately terminating her employment.”
  • In 2004, Metts initially asked Snow “for dates, offered her gifts and money and created the impression among other staff that he and…[Snow] were romantically involved.”
  • Snow alleged that on the occasion when she “rejected his advances and refused his offer of money, he threatened to hit her.”
  • “The harassment stopped for a period after she complained, but started up again and intensified in August and September 2006.”
  • Metts “created a sexually hostile work environment by discussing his sex life in the presence of…[Snow], as well as other staff, and telling jokes of a sexual nature.”
  • Snow would tell Metts “that his comments were more information then [sic] she needed to know, refuse to participate in those discussions or leave the area.”
  • “Documentary evidence obtained during the investigation shows that Respondent [Montgomery County] failed to follow policy when…[Snow] was issued a Third Level disciplinary action and subjected to immediate termination of employment…” because Snow never received First or Second level disciplinary actions, a violation of the Montgomery County Employment Policy in place at the time.
  • Montgomery County admitted to EEOC that “the termination of…[Snow] was initiated and carried out by” Metts.
  • “Therefore, based on the analysis of the evidence, the Commission concludes that the evidence obtained during the investigation establishes that Respondent violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended with respect to Delonna Snow’s allegations of sex discrimination and retaliation.”
  • “Therefore, based on the analysis of the evidence, the Commission concludes that the evidence obtained during the investigation establishes that Respondent violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended with respect to Delonna Snow’s allegations of sex discrimination and retaliation.” – United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
On October 19, 2012, Snow filed a lawsuit Complaint in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas. In Snow’s lawsuit, Case 4:12-CV-03130, Delonna Snow versus Montgomery County, Texas, she told the court:
  •  Snow began working full-time as Metts’ Court Coordinator in September, 2003.
  • Snow had worked for 12 years for Precinct 1 without incident prior to working for Metts.
  • “Beginning in May 2004…[Snow] became aware of the perception that she was Judge Metts’ girlfriend and that they were romantically involved…That perception was reinforced by Judge Metts’ action and comments towards Ms. Snow and about her…In addition, on one occasion, Judge Metts refused to attend a Rotary Club dinner unless…[Snow] agreed to accompany him to the dinner, which was held in May 2004…During May and June 2004, Judge Metts increased his romantic advances towards Ms. Snow, as well as his efforts to pry into…[Snow’s] personal life.”
  • Judge Metts started asking Snow “questions about who she was dating, and continually asked her to go out with him.”
  • “Judge Metts tried to give…[Snow] gifts along with his attempts to get her to go out with him on a date.”
  • “On more than one occasion Judge Metts tried to give Plaintiff ‘spending’ money, which Plaintiff always refused.”
  • “On one occasion when…[Snow] refused to take Judge Metts’ money, Judge Metts became agitated and threatened to strike…[Snow].”
  • Snow complained to co-employee Jerry Sue Hayden, the mother of Precinct 4 Constable Kenneth “Rowdy” Hayden, and to Judge Metts’ campaign manager, Marc Davenport. After Davenport arranged a brief leave of absence for Snow, when Snow returned to the office “Judge Metts became more flirtatious and continued to require Ms. Snow to attend public events with him outside normal business hours.”
  • Metts’ advances continued and intensified into 2005, but in August 2005, “Judge Metts began excluding…[Snow] from staff meetings, even though…[Snow] was the office administrator.”
  • Metts continued making inappropriate sexual comments to Snow even after she got engaged in November, 2005.
  • Judge Metts finally found a girlfriend. “He would often tell the particulars of his relationship with Diane Rogers to Marsha Edwards (another Precinct 4 employee) in open areas of the office.”
  • “During 2006, Judge Metts continued to tell inappropriate stories about his sex life and jokes of a sexual nature at the office and within earshot of the employees…Ms. Snow continued to leave the area or in some instances tell Judge Metts that his comments were more information than she needed to know.”
  • “Judge Metts’ discussions about sex with his girlfriend intensified in August and September 0f 2006.”
  • “In October 2006, Ms. Rogers, Judge Metts’ girlfriend, was hired to work as the Juvenile Case Manger [sic].”
  • Later that month, Metts reduced Snow’s duties and changed the locks at his office, so that Snow no longer had a key to the office.
  • After attempting some pretexts to complain about Snow’s work, all of which Judge Metts’ Chief of Staff Brian Stanley determined were unfounded, Metts terminated Snow on November 30, 2006, without any First or Second Level Disciplinary action in violation of County policy.
  • Snow sued the County government for Sexual Harassment and Retaliation under Title VII.
On August 4, 2014, the Montgomery County Commissioners Court voted to pay $45,000 to Snow to settle the sexual harassment lawsuit. Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador made the motion and then-Precinct 2 County Commissioner Craig Doyal seconded the motion. All of the funds for the settlement came from taxpayer dollars paid into the County’s general fund and paid out to settle the sexual harassment claims as a result of Metts.
The Commissioners Court vote was unanimous in order to bring the messy Metts – Snow litigation finally to a close.
Snow left this community. Metts remains a JP, especially since the primary newspaper in existence at the time, The Courier, never reported the story.
Precinct 2 sexual relationships.
On March 13, 2012, Precinct 2 Operations Manager (now Commissioner) Charlie Riley terminated an administrative assistant after his wife, Deanne Riley, insisted that it was time for the lady to go. The lady had been a long time associate and employee of Riley, having served with him as a founding director and officer of the Magnolia Education Foundation. Deanne Riley, also a County employee, knew that the lady had had sexual relationships with two of the employees who worked in the Precinct 2 Commissioners Office and told several of her co-employees that she insisted her husband terminate her, because “I don’t trust the lady.”

During the afternoon after Riley terminated the lady, he received a telephone call from his boss, County Commissioner (now Judge) Craig Doyal who summoned Riley out to his truck parked in front of the Commissioner’s barn. Doyal and Riley engaged in a heated argument during which Riley told Doyal that he would resign as an employee of Montgomery County. Riley then left. The next morning Doyal convinced Riley to change his mind when Doyal agreed to sign the termination as the lady’s official boss. Officially, Riley and Doyal terminated her on March 14, 2012, as follows: “…the severity of the offense is so serious that this level of discipline [termination] is appropriate…It just came to my attention that on or about January 9, 2012, you returned a [county] printer to the office which you admitted using to prepare campaign materials [for Doyal’s political campaign!]…”

The lady sent several demand letters to the County’s Human Resources Department and hired an attorney to file an EEOC claim against Doyal and Montgomery County. The claim never went forward, because other events occurred which forced the lady to resolve her issues with the County and enlist Riley’s support to help her out in another matter.

The primary newspaper in existence at the time, The Courier, never reported the story.

Sheriff’s Office

During the tenure of Montgomery County Sheriff Guy Williams, whom the voters had originally elected as a reformer, there were numerous formal EEOC Charges filed against Sheriff’s Deputies and Montgomery County for sexual harassment of other Sheriff’s Office employees, particularly those who worked in the Montgomery County Jail.

During Sheriff Tommy Gage’s administration in Montgomery County, the number of sexual harassment charges dropped significantly.

James Metts’ current relationship with Diane Rogers, his Juvenile Case Manager

Amazingly, even after the County and Metts suffered the embarrassment of the Snow EEOC Charge and federal lawsuit, Metts seems to have continued in his ways.

Metts currenly has a romantic relationship with his Juvenile Case Manager, Dianne Rogers, for whom Metts is her direct County government supervisor. Rogers earns $42,340 per year in salary plus benefits and holds a full-time position with the County government.
Rogers only works until approximately 1 p.m. four days per week for a total of approximately 22.5 hours per week for what the County has designated and pays as a full-time position.
Metts and his girlfriend, who is a full-time County employee, also own a restaurant and flower shop in Splendora by the name of Sweetie Pie’s together. The public may often find Metts’ girlfriend managing their restaurant and flower shop during regular County business hours.
Metts, however, is largely absent from his office. He holds court approximately only six (6) days per month during a typical month. That works out to working in the courtroom or office only about twelve hours per week on average with another approximately 5.25 hours per week appearing at death scenes. In other words, Metts works less than 18 hours per week in return for his whopping $126,988.35 annual salary, plus County benefits of approximately $51,176.31, for total annual compensation of approximately $179,164.66.

Metts regularly brags to his court staff that he works “three full-time jobs.” As Metts explains it, he works as a JP, as a full-time “president of a logging/clearing business,” and as the co-manager of Sweetie Pies, the Splendora restaurant which he and his girlfriend Dianne Rogers operate together.

Metts and Rogers lived together. They are not married. The real peril for Montgomery County taxpayers would raise if Metts and Rogers ever ended their romantic relationship and broke up. That’s where the serious problems with sexual harassment claims easily arise in circumstances where County employees recklessly have sexual relationships with people whom they directly supervise.

The County government under Doyal has failed to address the sexual harassment problem

The Montgomery County government under County Judge Doyal, not surprisingly, has failed to address the sexual harassment problem. While it has a “sexual harassment” prohibition within its Employee Policy Manual, nothing prohibits a supervisor from engaging in a sexual relationship with his or her direct employee, as long as the relationship technically is consensual.

The Code of Ethics, which the Commissioners Court adopted in February, 2017, does not address sexual harassment or sexual relationships between a County supervisor and a County employee.

Here’s the current policy, which tracks policy language that is approximately fifteen years old:

“3.3-6 Sexual harassment includes unwelcome verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature (1) when submission to the conduct is made either an implicit or explicit term or condition of employment, i.e., promotion, training, amount of pay, time-keeping; (2) when submission to or rejection of the conduct is used as a basis for making employment decisions; (3) when the conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment; or (4) that denigrates or shows hostility toward a person because of his or her gender when the conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s work performance, or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

“A. Quid Pro Quo Harassment: Unwelcome sexual advances by a supervisor or manager who has the authority to affect the working conditions of the employee.

“B. Hostile Environment Harassment: Actions of managers, supervisors, co-workers, or third parties (customers, sales representatives, subcontractors, etc.) which includes but is not limited to:

1. Unwelcome sexual flirtations, propositions, touches, advances, sexually explicit letters, notes, e-mails, or gifts;

2. Unwelcome whistling, staring, or leers;

3. Conduct or remarks that are sexually suggestive or that demean or show hostility to a person because of the person’s gender, including jokes;

4. Graphic verbal comments about an individual’s body;

5. Sexually degrading words used to describe an individual;

6. The display in the workplace of sexually suggestive objects or pictures.”

As the former County Commissioner’s travails with his former partners illustrated, sexual relationships between County supervisors and his or her employees are fraught with great perils to the County government itself (and the taxpayers).

The Montgomery County government will continue to have sexual harassment problems until the County updates and strengthens its sexual harassment policy, prohibits sexual relationships among County employees particularly if they’re in a supervisor-employee situation, and provides regular supervisor and employee training to all County employees, including County Department Directors and elected officials, to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.

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