Conroe, April 2 – Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal and County government Purchasing Director Gilbert Jalomo received “The Golden Hammer Award” on Tuesday, March 20, 2018, for their obfuscation and deceit with respect to the Phonoscope deep fiber optic cable scandal. The award originally was to go to Doyal alone but Jalomo’s smoke-filled answer in response to questioning from Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack earned Jalomo the award.
The installation of Phonoscope cable in County buildings and property may ultimately cost County government taxpayers a lot more than the several hundred thousand dollars of direct tax dollars Doyal, Jalomo, and corrupt local political boss Marc Davenport are approving for the installations. What they’re actually doing is giving Phonoscope an enormous competitive advantage, possibly of monopolistic proportions, to use the County government Phonoscope installations as a trunkline for expanding its cable service to area municipalities, private developments, and homeowners associations. That’s specifically the plan, as Davenport has confirmed. But it’s also unfair competition when companies, such as Wavemedia of The Woodlands, seek to compete for cable customers, if the Doyal-Jalomo-Davenport bureaucracy has already given an advantage to Phonoscope.
“The Golden Hammer Award” is for those actions that people in government take that “hammer the taxpayers.” Phonoscope certainly is detrimental to the taxpayers all the way around, but especially in stifling fair competition.
On March 20, Noack engaged in the first discussion ever concerning Phonoscope during an open Commissioners Court meeting.
NOACK: “Purchasing, this is a topic that has raised a lot of question in the past and so could you explain how Phonoscope came to be in Montgomery County, where did this request come from, under this contract?”
JALOMO: “How it came to the County, I was not here. However, what would happen is, in this case, I would think IT would request products and services provided by Phonoscope, a vendor. Purchasing would get with IT, determine whether we could purchase this item through a coop. These contracts are really technical in nature and a lot of times you don’t really know what you’re going to come up with. It’s a cooperative effort with the vendor to build the scope of the work. We’re asking this Court to authorize the services that are needed by the department. The Court can authorize that and then we can issue a purchase order, develop the scope of the work within the contract terms, and then they’ll do the work.” (Emphasis added.)
NOACK: “This has gone through our Purchasing requirements and meets all the guidelines…
JALOMO (interrupts): “Yes, sir. Yes, sir.”
NOACK: “And as far as I’m concerned, it’s a public utility that has every right to be in the right-of-way installing their lines, if that’s necessary. Thank you.”
Despite Jalomo’s inability to answer Noack’s direct questions, the Commissioners Court approved Phonoscope proceeding, although they gave no specific approval for Phonoscope installations of fiber optic cable in County buildings or property for any specific price. County purchasing guidelines as well as Texas state law require that the Commissioners Court approve the specific pricing, terms, and conditions before County vendor may provide services to the County government. With Phonoscope, however, the brainchild of corrupt local political boss Marc Davenport, who has firmly controlled Doyal, Doyal’s “chief of staff” jim fredricks, and the Information Technology and Purchasing Departments on this major issue, compliance with purchasing guidelines or state law does not seem particularly important to the public servants in the County government.
Just on March 20 alone, the County government spent $744 on Phonoscope services, although there was no contract, backup documentation, or even purchase order to support the expenditure.
Jalomo clearly doesn’t understand how Phonoscope came into Montgomery County’s government. Perhaps, he ought to read the rest of this article to find out.
How did Phonoscope come into the Montgomery County government?
As this newspaper previously reported, Phonoscope and its CEO Lee Cook established a connection with the Montgomery County government through Davenport and his client puppet Rand Henderson, who is now the Montgomery County Sheriff, when Davenport and Henderson met Cook through a social meeting with Richard Mack, a former sheriff from Arizona. Davenport, Henderson, Cook, and a few others began to have meetings to discuss setting up a fiber optic cable system inside the Montgomery County government before Henderson had even won election as the County Sheriff in 2016.
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.
Phonoscope comes into Montgomery County but fails to comply with contracting requirements
After Henderson became Montgomery County Sheriff on January 1, 2017, one of his first acts was to welcome Phonoscope into the County government, even though the vendor never has had a contract which the Commissioners Court approved.
Here’s how it has worked.
Phonoscope has done business with some school districts and community colleges who use the Harris County Department of Education’s collective “buy board,” a cooperative purchasing program to assist governmental authorities and nonprofit organizations.
Jeff Drury, the Director of the “Choice Partners” “buy board,” which is actually a division of the Harris County Department of Education, gave an exclusive interview to The Golden Hammer this past Friday, January 12. Drury explained that “Choice Partners” is nothing but a “gateway to purchasing” by local government entities to assist them in streamlining their purchasing operations.
When local government entities purchase through Choice Partners, they must still authorize purchases in accordance with local government requirements, especially those requirements contained in the Texas Constitution and Chapter 262 of the Texas Local Government Code, according to Drury. Choice Partners merely assists in making the process of screening potential vendors easier by providing the results of the screening cooperatively to several entities.
Choice Partners pre-screened Phonoscope on December 13, 2016.
On January 24, 2017, Doyal and fredricks pulled a trick on the Commissioners Court. They placed on the secretive “consent agenda” an item to approve “the interlocal agreement with Choice Partners…with Phonoscope…” for “Technology Product and Services – Phonosonic, Inc.” (sic). (The foregoing word “sic” means that’s how it actually appears in the original.) The item on the January 24, 2017, Commissioners Court agenda, which, of course, the Commissioners Court blindly approved in a unanimous vote, contains no mention of services, no mention of products, no pricing, no quantities, no terms involving the Montgomery County government, and no purpose even for whatever the contract might be. Rather, the agenda item merely approved a future possible contract between Choice Partners, not Montgomery County, on the one hand and Phonoscope.
On March 7, 2017, Drury issued a certificate to Phonoscope that Phonoscope could do business with Montgomery County’s government, but, once again, it still required a contract. Nevertheless, as Drury noted during his interview with this newspaper, Phonoscope would still need a contract of some sort actually to provide products or services to the Montgomery County government.
On March 28, 2017, Doyal and fredricks again placed on the secretive “consent agenda” an approval of the certificate that Drury had issued to Phonoscope but, once again, there was no mention of services, no mention of products, no pricing, no quantities, no terms involving the Montgomery County government, and no purpose even for whatever the contract might be.
There has never been any approval for Phonoscope to install anything in a County government facility.
Secret email acknowledging lack of authority
On June 7, 2017, Phonoscope’s marketing director Jerome DeCuir wrote this email to Montgomery County IT Network and Operations Manager Bobby Powell:
“[Marc] Davenport told Mr. Cook [Lee Cook, Phonoscope’s Chief Executive Officer] this morning about the Commissioners Court sessions every other week and Mr. Cook asked that I ask if you have what you need from us to present or request approval to use us. Not sure how all it all works for approvals but if you need anything from let me know.”
In other words, Davenport, Phonoscope, Cook, DeCuir, Powell, fredricks, and Doyal from whom Powell takes orders know that they’ve needed Commissioners Court approval to use Phonoscope for deep fiber optic cable installation, but Doyal, at the direction of Davenport, has chosen to proceed with the massive installation anyway.
The money begins to flow
Despite the absence of any contract and despite the fact that the Commissioners Court never approved any installations of Phonoscope cable into any Montgomery County government facilities, the Sheriff, County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport, and her husband Marc Davenport who is not a County employee have supervised a massive installation of Phonoscope deep fiber optic cable inside Montgomery County government buildings, lands, facilities, and rights-of-way. Numerous employees have asked whether the purpose of the fiber optic cable system installation is so that Davenport can tap into the County’s private data transmissions.
Meanwhile, the money has flowed to Phonoscope nicely. On September 11, 2017, the County government paid Phonoscope $37,125.00.
On September 12, 2017, the County government paid Phonoscope $57,279.60.
On October 12, 2017, the County government paid Phonoscope $744.00.
On December 12, 2017, the County government paid Phonoscope $900.00.
All of those payments occurred without a contract or Commissioners Court approval. Those were only the 2017 payments over a few months. There are additional payments that have occurred during calendar year 2018.
The money also begins to flow
Meanwhile, the money has flowed to Henderson and Davenport nicely as well. Phonoscope’s Cook has stepped up to become Henderson’s largest political contributor, paying at least $10,000 to Henderson during Henderson’s last golf tournament fundraiser.
On January 5, 2018, Marc Davenport confirmed in writing in a social media post that Phonoscope is also a major political contributor to his wife, County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport.
Davenport’s January 5 tome is an important admission, because it draws his wife, County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport, directly into the Phonoscope scandal for the first time. Cook, who is Phonoscope’s CEO and owner, told The Golden Hammer that he met with both 2016 candidates for Montgomery County Sheriff with the idea that he wanted to have influence with the winner. The meeting with Montgomery Police Chief Jim Napolitano didn’t go as well as Cook’s meeting with Henderson, because Marc Davenport and Rand Henderson became very upset when they discovered Cook intended to meet with Napolitano at all. Please see “Montgomery County Government “For Sale” (Part 8): Did The January 11, 2016, Meeting Blow Rand’s Philosophy Out Of The Water? (Double Entendre Intended),” The Golden Hammer, November 7, 2017.
It’s important to note that Cook hasn’t paid enormous contributions to members of the Commissioners Court, because the Davenport-Phonoscope plan is to circumvent the authority of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court, which has the sole legal authority to approve a plan to install fiber optic cable inside all of the County buildings and properties. The only mention of any sort of approval by the Commissioners Court occurred when Doyal and Davenport tucked a purchase order totaling $0.00 for Phonoscope products and services in the “consent agenda” for the January 24, 2017, meeting. That purchase order contained no pricing, no terms, no conditions, and no authority to install cable in County facilities. To this date, there is no Commissioners Court approval, as Phonoscope’s Lee Cook and County officials were well aware as of June 7, 2017. Please see “Doyal, Davenport Proceed With Phonoscope Fiber Optic Installations Knowing They Need Commissioners Court Approval And Don’t Have It,” The Golden Hammer, January 2, 2018.
Doyal and the County Information Technology Department take orders from Davenport
Davenport, who is not a County employee and never has been one, takes enormous liberties directing County employees and County Departments. While JP James Metts has often introduced Davenport at County employee meetings as “my sworn deputy,” the County Human Resources Department has confirmed that Davenport has no County employee status, other than that he’s listed as dependent on Treasurer Stephanne Davenport’s health coverage.
Davenport directed County government Information Technology Director Marshall Shirley to set up a meeting to discuss Davenport’s directions for the implementation of the Phonoscope fiber optic cable system throughout the County government. Shirley and some of his employees tried to resist the meeting, but Davenport aggressively insisted on the meeting. When Shirley asked who would attend the planned meeting, Davenport responded, “Wednesday at 2:00 [September 21, 2016] will work. Rand Henderson is a stakeholder he will be joining me.” Henderson was the Sheriff-Elect at the time of the meeting and his forced participation in the technological planning with Shirley and his team.
Of course, one should ask the question why Shirley would follow the direction of Davenport at all. The answer arises from a plan in late summer, 2016, to install a deep fiber optic cable system at the East Montgomery County Fairgrounds. A nationally-renowned fiber optic cable vendor, WaveMedia, has bid for the Fairgrounds job and was the lowest bidder. Therefore, County Judge Doyal put the contract between WaveMedia and Montgomery County on the Commissioners Court agenda for an upcoming meeting in August, 2016.
Davenport has instructed Doyal to include Davenport on the distribution list for the draft Commissioners Court agenda, which is interesting, because Doyal will not share the draft agenda with other members of the Commissioners Court much of the time. Davenport caught the proposed WaveMedia contract, called Doyal, and demanded that Doyal remove the WaveMedia contract from the Commissioners Court agenda. At that point, Doyal’s “chief of staff” jim fredricks summoned Shirley and one of his top IT Department employees to Doyal’s office.
During that meeting with fredricks, Doyal, Shirley, and one other IT employee in attendance, Doyal got upset with Shirley for “trying to upset the apple cart.” Doyal told Shirley and his employee, “We cannot proceed with fiber optic cable installations, unless you’ve clear them with Marc Davenport first, so don’t put items on the agenda like that.”
Therefore, Shirley and his staff certainly know that they cannot proceed with fiber optic cable work, unless Davenport is involved in the direction of it.
On one other occasion in the spring of 2017, Doyal and fredricks summoned Shirley to Doyal’s office again for a meeting about Phonoscope. Doyal didn’t attend the meeting, as he had to fulfill a golf obligation. fredricks made clear to Shirley and his employee that “Marc Davenport makes the decisions about fiber optic cable installations; you don’t.”
Why does Doyal allow Davenport to boss him around? Fear. 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.
Very clearly, Marc Davenport continues to run the Montgomery County government’s purchasing and information technology functions.
Besides money to his wife, what will Davenport get out of the Phonoscope deal?
Davenport wrote in his January 5, 2018, social media post:
“Eric and I had lunch in the spring, knowing the tremendous market that there would be for 400 channels and 1 gig up/down constant internet for $200mo,. I told him it would be a smart move for investors to set up REIT or similar devise to finance and own the client base in the under served areas.”
Davenport admitted that he solicited an investment from the Publisher of The Golden Hammer into the Phonoscope fiber optic cable system! In summary, the Davenport plan is that he’ll help Phonoscope gain access into the Montgomery County government. Then Davenport will sell Phonoscope’s services to private sector customers, such as private real estate developers, municipalities, or homeowners associations who will be able to tap into Phonoscope’s County government trunkline.