Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal: how bad can a County Judge be?

Craig Doyal wearing the hat on September 25, 2013 with Harris County Commissioner Cactus Jack Cagle. After Doyal desecrated the cowboy hat by wearing it as he announced the unpopular Decimation of Hope Highway project, “Save the Cowboy Hat!” became a theme of the March 6, 2018, Republican Primary Election where State Representative Mark Keough defeated Doyal for re-election with a landslide 57%-43% result.

Conroe, December 18 – Today’s December 18, 2018, meeting of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court will bring a close (with just 13 more days) to the tenure of Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal, who has illustrated just how bad a Texas County Judge can be. Doyal came into office on January 1, 2015, after serving three terms as the Precinct 2 County Commissioner. He has left a mess.

Doyal has a good mind and a lot of talent. Nevertheless, he’s an angry person who has permitted his emotions to overcome any good judgment he might have.

Doyal has a substantial degree of arrogance. He’s repeatedly made clear that he would go against the community’s wisdom if the issue were one about which he felt strongly. A prime example was Doyal’s backroom deal to finance and construct the TX 249 Tollway with community opposition over 90% even in Precinct 2 where Doyal and his sidekick, Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley, claimed there was support.

Criminal problems

Doyal’s criminal indictment by a Montgomery County Grand Jury for alleged violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act along with Riley and Doyal’s close ally, corrupt local political boss Marc Davenport, came to dominate his term of office as County Judge. More than 90% of Doyal’s political fundraising went to pay for his criminal defense attorney legal fees.

When Doyal worked with San Antonio real estate developer Rick Sheldon and convicted felon Pete Peters to establish a legal defense fund in order for Doyal to hire Houston criminal defense attorney Rusty Hardin, they discussed in an email that, after the criminal case ended, Doyal would be “looking for blood in the streets” apparently in reference to the level of pleasantry from Craig Doyal which the citizens could anticipate.

As Doyal leaves the office of County Judge in disgrace, he remains under indictment, since the Beaumont Court of Appeals reinstated the criminal case against him in early February, 2018.

The Open Meetings Act criminal case has hardly been Doyal’s only brush with the law during his tenure as Montgomery County Judge.

During 2017 and 2018, the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office and a Montgomery County Grand Jury investigated Doyal for actions he took while he was the Precinct 2 County Commissioner. Doyal avoided prosecution, because most of the wrongdoing occurred outside of the applicable statute of limitations period.

Suspicions about Doyal’s use of County employees, services, and property for himself personally and for his political campaigns began to arise after his then-Operations Manager Riley terminated Doyal’s secretary Melissa Goetz for taking a County computer and printer home with her to use them to work on Doyal’s political campaign. Riley’s wife, Deanne, pushed Riley to terminate her, because Deanne didn’t like allegations of romantic trysts involving Goetz which arose in the Precinct 2 office.

Doyal became furious with Riley and had a major confrontation with Riley inside of Doyal’s pickup truck. After Riley quit and then rescinded his resignation in March, 2012, Doyal agreed to Goetz’s termination. In return, Goetz sent a “tell-all” letter to several County government employees, which began to raise concerns about Doyal’s misuse of County government resources.

Page 1 of Melissa Goetz’s “tell all” letter to Craig Doyal.

What was very clear about the era of Doyal as County Commissioner and Riley as his Precinct Operations Manager was that they did a terrible job planning and constructing County roads in that Precinct at least since 2002. As a result, while Doyal and Riley focused on their political careers, mobility in Precinct 2 became the nightmare that it is today.

County spending

Montgomery County government spending has been nothing short of an explosive nightmare under Doyal. Doyal has tried to hide behind the GOP establishment rationale for high government spending – in violation of the basic conservative principles of Senator Barry Goldwater and President Ronald Reagan – which is to keep spending under a ceiling of the growth in population plus the inflation rate.

Doyal, however, has failed to keep County government spending below the population growth rate and inflation during his four years as County Judge. In fact, during the sixteen (16) years that Doyal has been in office, County government spending is even worse.

Since today is Doyal’s last Commissioners Court, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and only examine the four years he’s been in office.

During Doyal’s tenure as County Judge, Montgomery County’s governmental expenditures have grown from $278,204,975 in the annual budget to $344,381,573, a 24% increase. During the same time period, Montgomery County’s population has grown 6.9% (from 537,559 to 575,000) and the rate of inflation for the four year period was 5.1% total.

In other words, Doyal has grown County government spending 24%, while inflation plus population growth increases have only been 12%. Doyal has caused County government spending to double the rate of population growth plus inflation.

Even worse, during Doyal’s tenure, he has saddled Montgomery County citizens with a massive amount of new debt. During his four years in office, the County government’s debt has grown by 44%.

County government services haven’t improved at all. In fact, they’ve seemed to get a lot worse. Nevertheless, Doyal has grown the salary percentage of the total County Budget to 57.4%, an incredibly high number which is much higher than almost any other County government in Texas. At the same time, Doyal and his sidekick Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack have led salary increase for themselves so that their salaries are among the highest two or three of all counties in Texas.

Doyal has also thrust the wholly unnecessary Enterprise Resource Planning software, and its $15 million current cost (projected by many within the County government actually to exceed $32 million) on County taxpayers for many years to com.

Ethics, nepotism and conflicts

As County Judge, Doyal has pulled the County government’s ethics into a deep abyss. During his four years, his office has firmly fallen under the control of two major forces.

First, County government vendors – particularly engineering firms such as Halff, Binkley & Barfield, Costello, and Dannenbaum – seem to drive policy far more directly than citizen support of interest for projects. Those same vendors have filled Doyal’s criminal legal defense fund’s coffers.

Second, political boss Marc Davenport clearly has directed Doyal’s policies, particularly with respect to County purchasing and information technology decisions. When Davenport has issued directives, Doyal and his “chief of staff” jim fredricks have followed him entirely.

Doyal has engendered an attitude insider of the County government that its resources are there for the taking. He’s encouraged nepotism by Riley and Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador. More than anyone, however, Doyal championed his daughter’s career. When County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport proposed to “reorganize” her 6-person department, Doyal and Davenport tried to hide the real purpose behind the “reorganization” was to give Doyal’s daughter a major promotion and raise. When County Human Resources Director Dodi Shaw stood in the way of that action, Doyal, fredricks, and Davenport threatened Shaw’s job.

Economic development: growth of government is the driving force

Doyal has injected an interesting analytical outlook into the philosophy behind government efforts at economic development. Doyal has argued that a proper ground for government favoritism should be whether the government action will increase tax collections.

For example, Doyal has supported the crazed Montgomery County Airport, which has cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars and isn’t coming close to breaking even. Doyal’s rationale is that it will increase tax collections for the County government (which is questionable).

Similarly, Doyal’s use of Section 381 agreements and his proposals to pay for roads to subsidize his his favored real estate developers are costing the taxpayers a large fortune.

Tollroads

Nowhere has Doyal conducted himself with more duplicity than with the TX 249 Tollway. Doyal lied to the Texas Transportation Commission on June 27, 2017, that Montgomery County citizens were solidly behind building the TX 249 Extension through Montgomery County as a tollroad, when, in fact, the opposite was the truth.

The TX 249 Tollway’s Montgomery County portion is only 3.1 miles but will cost over $100 million to construct, making it one of the most expensive non-urban roads in American history.

Clearly, the entire purpose of tolling the road was to provide a mechanism for Doyal and Riley to funnel money to their favored political supports, Halff Associates engineers and others. If the road were built as a Texas Department of Transportation freeway, Doyal and Riley couldn’t have controlled the contract awards.

Montgomery County taxpayers will bear the brunt of the unnecessary tolls on a road that is wholly unnecessary, other than to build an opening for real estate developments for Doyal’s one or two favorite developer-supporters.

Meanwhile, the State Highway 242 flyovers continue to collect tolls, even though the County has retired the debt on those roads.

Secrecy

Secrecy is one of Doyal’s favorite tools:

  • Doyal has hidden hundreds of millions of dollars of spending on his secretive “consent” agendas to enable the Commissioners Court to pass those spending items without discussion of public disclosure;
  • Doyal instructed hundreds of County government employees not to communicate with citizens about County matters, unless providing the information was unavoidable under the Texas Public Information Act;
  • Doyal fired County Director of Infrastructure Mark Bosma and County Purchasing Director Darlou Zenor, because they were members of Doyal’s political “Hit List” and because Zenor released information to the public too readily;
  • Doyal has pushed exclusion of the public from County offices by placing locked doors between the citizens and the County government employees who work for them.

Transgender adoptions

A Doyal supporter?

Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal authored and sponsored a resolution supporting transgender adoptions in defiance of the Republican Party of Texas Platform at the November 14, 2017, Commissioners Court meeting. Incredibly, the four County Commissioners then blindly voted unanimously to adopt Doyal’s bizarre language in two resolutions supporting Montgomery County adoptions.

In support of “Montgomery County Adoption Day” and “Montgomery County Adoption Month,” Doyal authored and sponsored two resolutions both of which contained the following language:

“WHEREAS, there are no restrictions on who can adopt based on race, ethnicity, religious, sexual orientation or expression, gender identity or marital status; and…”

Many adoption organizations certainly do not permit adoptions for reasons of transgender behavior or gender identity. There is pending litigation in courts around the United States over whether transgender individuals have a right to adopt under the federal law. Only one federal appellate court has ruled on the issue.

Screen Shot of County Judge Craig Doyal’s Montgomery County Adoption Day Agenda item for the November 14, 2017, Commissioners Court meeting.
“Whereas” clause in resolution supporting adoptions, which the Montgomery County Commissioners Court passed unanimously on November 14, 2017.

Doyal’s resolution defied several planks of the Republican Party Platform adopted at the 2016 Republican Party of Texas Convention.

The Republican Party Platform contains an anti-transgender plank: “We should prohibit entities and their affiliates that contradict our beliefs or teach alternate lifestyles including homosexuality, transgender and other non-traditional lifestyles as normal.” The Platform also contains a “Gender Identity” Plank which provides, “We urge the enactment of legislation addressing individuals’ use of bathrooms, showers and locker rooms that correspond with their biologically determined sex.”

The Platform also addresses Doyal’s transgender adoption issue head-on: “We oppose any government agency from forcing faith-based adoption or foster care organizations to place children with same-sex couples.”

Many experts disagree with the Doyal-Obama position on transgender adoption. Dr. James Dobson, President of Focus on the Family, a national conservative organization, wrote in a commentary in Time in 2006, “Love alone is not enough to guarantee healthy growth and development…The two most loving women in the world cannot provide a daddy for a little boy, any more than the two most loving men can be complete role models for a little girl.”

Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal all dandied up to appear in a fashion show.

Bob Bagley, who has served on the Montgomery County Hospital District Board of Directors and ran for Precinct 4 County Commissioner, has been involved with social issues for several decades. Bagley told The Golden Hammer, “I’m a single man. My heart is with these children. I raised my three daughters mostly as a single dad. I think children need both a male and a female parent. God’s way is for a man and a woman to raise a child. Foster children especially need a sound family environment to help heal them and help them be able to grow.”

Bagley further explained that the majority of children who end up as the victims of sex trafficking, against which Bagley has fought for many years, have come from families where there is a missing father from the household to teach the children how men should treat women with respect.

Denise Schick of the Academic Council of the International Children’s Rights Institute wrote about her own experience as a child with a transgender father:

“I am one of those children. I was raised by a transgender father.

“I can testify to the emotional strain and confusion that my father’s life played in my sexual and gender identity. I sought out our neighbors for a foster father. Many times I pretended that one of my uncles or a friend’s father was my make-believe father.

“I was so hungry for my father; a transgender “mom” would not fit that need no matter how badly the adult wished it to.

“My father experimented with my make-up and clothes, and by 7th grade I had decided that alcohol was the easiest method to numb my own pain. By the beginning of high school, I wondered if life was worth living.

“There is nothing more painful for a daughter than to watch her dad put on a bra or have him wear your clothes. No daughter should have to place her clothes in her dresser drawers by a code so she can know if he had been pawing through her underclothes.

“It is not fair or healthy for a daughter to feel guilty about her developing body, or about becoming a woman. But in today’s world we encourage children to accept their parent’s sexual desires. We prioritize adult’s sexual preferences ahead of what is best for their children.

“As a culture we are very willing to address the emotional distress, isolation and other negative issues of people who come out as transgender adults. But we have not even begun to discuss the issues involved and the impact this has on their wives and children.

“I’m begging America to wake up to what is being done for the sake of society and for children worldwide! This cultural celebration of transgenderism, for me as a daughter of a transgender father, is misguided and insensitive.”

Terrible treatment of citizens

Doyal treated citizens in Commissioners Court meetings terribly. He would interrupt citizen comments, cut citizens off before they ran out of time, and make rude remarks while they spoke.

Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal directed a Sheriff’s Office Sergeant to throw Montgomery County Republican Party Vice Chairman Reagan Reed out of the April 24, 2018, meeting of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court in order to prevent Reed from speaking against the $95 million, 3 mile, TX 249 Tollway, also known as the Decimation of Hope Highway.

During April 24, 2018, citizen comments on the shameful $95 million Tollway that Doyal and Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley are shoving down the citizens’ throats, renowned conservative Republican Precinct Chairman Reagan Reed, who is also the Houston correspondent for Empower Texans, rose to make a comment and approached the podium. Doyal angrily pointed at Reed and said, “Have a seat please! You’re not signed up to speak!”

Reed said, “I got here more than 5 minutes early. Your clerk told me I would be allowed to speak.”

In the past, Doyal has allowed citizens to speak even if they didn’t sign up to speak at all. In the past two meetings, however, without any written rules or approval from the Commissioners Court, Doyal has created his own rules that citizens must sign up to speak to the Commissioners Court at least by 9:20 a.m. Doyal’s secretary, Sylvia Olszowy, confirmed on video that “we make up the rules however we feel” in a conversation with Republican Precinct Chair Ginger Russell videotaped early Tuesday morning.

Doyal repeated, “If you don’t have a seat, you’ll be removed.” Reed answered, “If you want that to be in the press, come on.”

Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack interrupted and said, “You’re breaking your own protocol. You have done this time and time again.”

Doyal hissed, “No, I’m not” similar to the manner in which a 3-year-old might protect a toy he just grabbed from another child on the playground.

Noack responded, “You have let people who have not signed up come and speak. Come on, Judge. The people want to have a voice. Give them one.” The audience overwhelmingly chimed in that Doyal should have allowed Reed, a highly-respected leader of the Republican Party, to speak.

The Sheriff’s Sergeant then pulled Reed out of the Commissioners’ meeting room, arrested Reed, and required Reed to stand outside of the meeting during the entire remainder of the Commissioners Court for almost two hours.

Terrible treatment of animals

For Doyal, employment decisions have always revolved around loyalty to him. County Department Directors, such as HR Director Dodi Shaw, Convention Center Director Scott Carpenter, Precinct 2 Constable Gene De Forest, and former County Purchasing Director Darlou Zenor found themselves on Doyal’s political “Hit List” to target them for termination. Doyal has always been jealous of Precinct 3 Montgomery County Commissioner James Noack, because both the citizens and County employees have generally favored Noack over the arrogant Doyal.

On March 27, 2017, Doyal essentially fired Animal Shelter Charles Jackson, who had only been a County government employee for three-and-a-half months. Jackson had made significant strides at the Shelter in the short time period he was there. He had vastly increase the live release rate of animals which came into the Shelter above 91.6%, a far cry above where the Shelter had been during all of 2016.

Nevertheless, Jackson made the political mistake of becoming too friendly with Noack. Doyal wanted an Animal Shelter Director who was loyal only to Doyal. Therefore, on Monday, March 27, 2017, Doyal and fredricks called Jackson into Doyal’s office and showered him with innuendo of employee mistreatment.

Jackson, a United States veteran who is a strong believer in the chain-of-command, found another job within two days and then turned his resignation in to Doyal on March 29, 2017.

The Animal Shelter lost one of the strongest Directors the institution ever had. More importantly, the homeless animals lost an ally who would move them into adoptive homes as quickly as possible.

Doyal didn’t care about Jackson’s stratospheric job performance. Instead, he wanted a “loyal to Doyal” Director regardless of the quality of care for the animals. Doyal got what he wanted in the Shelter’s current Director Aaron Johnson.

Conclusion

Only corrupt County government vendors, corrupt political bosses, and corrupt developers who don’t care to compete in free markets will miss Craig Doyal.

 

 

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