Image: June 15, 2018, press release from Precinct 3 Montgomery County Commissioner James Noack announcing his new “media relations team.”
Conroe, June 19 – With the announcement by Precinct 3 Montgomery County Commissioner James Noack of his new “media relations team,” Montgomery County taxpayers are now on the hook for over half a million dollars to pay our taxes to salaried employees whose job it is to make us feel better about the fact that we’re paying taxes to the Montgomery County government. Just among four County Departments that comprise a majority of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court plus Commissioner-Elect James Metts’ Precinct 4 JP Office there are six County employees whose jobs are to make their bosses look better in the public’s eyes.
On June 15, 2018, Noack has chosen a downright Davenportesque approach to his communications with the news media. Corrupt local political boss was well known for running interference for the members of the Davenport Ring, the group of politicians and elected servants who took their direction from Davenport. The news media and large swaths of the public could only communicate with members of the Davenport Ring by communicating with Marc Davenport.
Like the Davenport Ring, Noack has made clear that the news media is to contact his “media relations team” rather than the Commissioner himself. Who is Noack’s “media relations team”?
Not surprisingly, one certain member of Noack’s supposed road and bridge crew is also his newest employee who began working for Montgomery County on May 14, 2018, after Noack hired him in a secret maneuver that hid the major event from the remainder of the Commissioners Court as well as the public. The man heading up Noack’s “media relations” is Andy Dubois, former Editor of the Courier blog, whom Noack supposedly hired to become his “chief of staff” to replace Matthew Beasley, who will like become the Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace on January 1, 2019. The original story line was that Dubois would work as a member of a road crew to learn the business, go through training school to learn about to manage road and bridge operations, and then receive a salary “adjustment” to receive over $100,000 in annual salary alone beginning October 1, 2018, the beginning of Fiscal Year 2019.
Apparently, it took only one month for Noack and Dubois to determine that Dubois isn’t quite suited to working on road operations. With the addition of Dubois to Noack’s “media relations team,” Noack now has three highly paid public relations people on the staff the taxpayers are funding for Precinct 3:
- Dubois, currently listed as an Operator III, with salary of $43,775, approximate benefits of $17,641.33, and total compensation of $61,416.33;
- Evan Besong, Noack’s constituent relations director, with a salary of $98,663.68, cell phone allowance of $840.06, and approximate other benefits of $39,761.46, for total compensation of $139,265.20; and
- Cody Grimes, the other member of Noack’s “media relations team,” who receives $33,999.89 in salary, approximate benefits of $13,701.96, for total compensation of $47,701.85.
Three other members of the Commissioners Court also have public relations people on their taxpayer-funded staff. If you’ve ever wondered why Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal has such wonderful public relations, that’s because Doyal has jim fredricks, the other former editor of the Courier blog who is a County government employee, on Doyal’s staff. fredricks receives $118,178.27 salary, approximately $47,625.84 in benefits, and total compensation of $165,804.11. fredricks writes Doyal’s press releases and responds to press inquiries, unless it’s already afternoon nap time.
JP James Metts has employed Jamie Nash for several years as his director of community relations, even though it’s unclear why a judge would need such a person in his office. Nash, who spends almost all of her time writing the Montgomery County Police Reporter, a pro-Metts Internet aggregator, receives from the taxpayers total compensation of $42,929.78 comprising $30,598.56 in salary plus approximately $12,331.22 in benefits.
One of the more quiet public relations employees in the County government is Michael Guyton, whom Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark hired to improve his public relations. Although Guyton’s precise salary is not known at press time, a very conservative estimate would be that the Precinct 4 PR guy receives $40,000 in salary, approximately $16,000 in benefits, and total compensation of $56,000.
Even the federal government, with its terrible reputation for wasteful spending, has begun to address these inappropriate public relations expenditures. In a 2016 study that Republican Senator Mike Enzi, Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, requested, the United States Government Accountability Office distinguished “public relations” from “public communications” with the suggestion that government should not engage in the former but that limited instances of the latter might be okay under special circumstances.
The GAO defined “public relations” as “community relations and those activities dedicated to maintaining the image of the governmental unit or maintaining or promoting understanding and favorable relations with the community or public at large or any segment of the public.” The government watchdog defined “public communications” as “an effort to disseminate information to explain the activities” and services of a government organization.
The political function, public relations, clearly is what Dubois, Besong, Grimes, fredricks, Nash, and Guyton do for their bosses. “Public communications” more likely spring from County government departments whose purpose is to serve particular needs of the public.
It’s particularly disappointing that Doyal, Noack, Metts, and Clark would waste such a large amount of tax dollars for public relations. All four of them are talented elected politicians. All four of them are entirely capable of handling public relations themselves without placing the financial burden of those functions on the backs of the taxpayers. Taxpayers should never fund political functions for elected servants.