The Golden Hammer Staff Reports
Conroe, July 13 – Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough has cloaked several major issues in secrecy to exclude the public from the Commissioners Court’s deliberations during the Tuesday, July 13, 2021, Regular Meeting. Keough’s secrecy regarding those matters portends financial disaster for local taxpayers.
Spay and neuter services for dogs
Under the secretive “consent” agenda, Keough has placed a major spending item, which vastly expands the reach of the Montgomery County government and will provide private spay and neuter services for dogs in Montgomery County. Under the proposal, the County government will spend a $50,000 grant from Petco for the spay and neuter drugs, but local taxpayers will foot the bills for County personnel, government-owned equipment, government facilities, and other government resources for the massive service, which Keough has included within his secretive resolution.
By placing the matter on the “consent” agenda, Keough has slated the matter for no discussion or public deliberation. Clearly, it’s a matter over which all of the private veterinarians in Montgomery County would have some concern, if Keough allowed public discussion of the topic.
In his “Contract with Montgomery County,” Keough promised voters in 2018, “I will ensure that the spending of public money will be related to the core functions of county government.” Nothing among a county government’s core functions under the Texas Constitution relates in any manner whatsoever to supplant private spay and neuter services for dogs.
Budget “funding factors”
Keough and his group inside the Sadler Administration Building have become all about hiding their intentions from local taxpayers. On Tuesday, July 13, Budget Director Amanda Carter will submit the proposed “funding factors for the Fiscal Year 2022 Budget.”
The meeting agenda discloses none of those “funding factors” and provides no information what they might even be or how much they will cost local taxpayers. The public will have no opportunity to comment on those critical items, which may cost property taxpayers millions of dollars, because Keough and Carter have hidden them from the public. Last week, this newspaper specifically asked for disclosure of those “factors.” Hiding behind the County Attorney’s Office, Keough and his Chief of Staff Jason Millsaps refused to disclose those items to the public.
Enterprise Resource Planning debacle
Keough has proposed a secret meeting behind closed doors concerning the $17 million Enterprise Resource Planning software “disaster” (using Precinct 3 Commissioner Noack’s words). The agenda reads, “Consultation with County Attorney concerning INFOR and legal questions regarding contracts. (Section 551.071).”
After costing local taxpayers $17 million for a software system, which not only doesn’t work but actually makes data even more incomprehensible than it was previously, it’s time for Keough and his cohorts on the Commissioners Court to come clean and discuss these matters out in the open.
Personal services agreement with Max McGee
Keough also placed a personal services and release of liability agreement on the agenda for County taxpayers to hire someone named Mac McGee as a certified peace officer working with the Constable Precinct 1. The agenda item is on the secret “consent agenda” so there will be no discussion or deliberation about the cost to local taxpayers for McGee’s services.
Lease agreement with Xylon Aviation
Keough has allowed County government spending to lose all semblance of control. Therefore, another $10,000 expense to local taxpayers, wholly outside of the current budget, comes as little surprise. Keough has placed the following item on his agenda for the meeting: “Consider, discuss and take appropriate action continuing the lease agreement between Montgomery County and Xylon Aviation, LLC for a real property lease of 11,500 square feet at 5022 Central Parkway. Lease terms are month to month at $10,000 per month. Authorize Montgomery County Auditor to pay currently owed amounts and all related costs and fees through December 31, 2021. Please name a funding source.”
Keough failed to attach the lease agreement to the agenda. Furthermore, he failed to disclose to the public the purpose of the County government leasing 11,500 square feet of hangar space at the money-losing Montgomery County Airport, which the County already owns (!).
Major Thoroughfare Plan
The Commissioners Court supposedly will discuss the following: “Consider, discuss and accept the updated Montgomery County Major Thoroughfare Plan as presented by BGE.” That Major Thoroughfare Plan has included the Woodlands Parkway Extension in every recent iteration.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that Keough and the other members of the Commissioners Court don’t want to disclose the contents of the current iteration of the Plan to the public prior to the Commissioners Court meeting. When the public doesn’t know, the public can’t comment or interfere with the machinations of Keough’s Commissioners Court behind the scenes with County vendors and developers.
Keough has turned obfuscation through the Meeting Agenda into a form of art. The following item, “Consultation with attorney regarding contemplated litigation related to employee matters – OPEB. (Section 551.071),” provides the public with no information whatsoever about what the executive session item intended will be. It’s a clear violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act and Texas Supreme Court rulings which require that executive session matters be made understandable to the public when meeting agenda postings occur.