Conroe, April 22 – The Montgomery County government’s Risk Management Department, under County Judge Craig Doyal’s supervision, has been a mess ever since Doyal came into office and politicized that department along with every other group of County employees for whom he could do so. The problems of the Risk Management Department have surfaced again during the past three days after Risk Management Director Virginia Little made a fool of herself four weeks ago during a Commissioners Court meeting.
On Wednesday, April 18, County Safety Officer Curtis Fitzgerald resigned. Fitzgerald was a key employee of the Department because most of the employees of the Risk Management Department don’t do very much and, at least, Fitzgerald did some work in handling the County’s workers compensation and occupational safety claims. Numerous County employees have reported to The Golden Hammer that Fitzgerald at least attempted to assist injured employees with the County’s benefits programs.
Another County Department Director, who spoke with The Golden Hammer on the condition of anonymity, spoke of Fitzgerald’s work for the County government as follows: “Curtis Fitzgerald was known for two main things in the County government. First, he stood outside of the County government buildings smoking a cigarette for lengthy periods of time every day. Second, he spent a huge amount of time, when not smoking, standing outside with female employees. We often spent several months trying to get him to do anything.”
Little had wanted to promote Fitzgerald to the position of Assistant Director of the Risk Management Department in a move that Doyal endorsed.
This newspaper has confirmed that Fitzgerald, who had very little experience or background in safety prior to joining the County government 12 years ago, had developed a very negative attitude about his work after Risk Management Department Director Virginia Little had promised Fitzgerald a promotion and substantial raise but failed to deliver on those completely-unauthorized promises. Little had no authority whatsoever to promise Fitzgerald and three other Risk Management employees that they would receive mid-year raises. The whole plan backfired when Little met stern resistance from Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack and a vocal majority of the Commissioners Court four weeks ago.
Another problem for the Risk Management Department arose with respect to the agenda for the April 24, 2018, Commissioners Court meeting. The County government owes $85,000 in payment to JP Morgan Chase Bank for the County’s workers’ compensation funding. When County Judge Doyal posted the meeting agenda on Friday, April 20, 2018, however, Little had forgotten to include the workers’ compensation funding with the payments the County needs to make and approve on April 24.
Late Friday, Doyal’s office helped Little attempt to overcome the agenda oversight by posting the payment on the County Judge’s web page, but the problem is that the $85,000 payment was left off of the agenda materials attached to the actual posted agenda for the April 24 meeting. It will have to be County Attorney J.D. Lambright’s call whether it will be legal, under the Texas Open Meetings Act, for the County to make the payment or not, after Little and Doyal failed to include the item with the posted agenda.
With lame duck Doyal’s endorsement, on March 27, 2018, Little asked the Commissioners Court to approve a massive salary grab for four of her top employees in her already top-heavy Department which suffers some of the worst management and operations in entire County government. The mid-year raises for the four employees averaged 24.4%, although one employee, Roddy Martin II, would receive a 56.9% increase in pay from the taxpayers under the attempted grab.
The problem began with Little’s poor management of her Department. She terminated her Assistant Director who made a salary of $83,559.58. She failed to fill a vacancy in a Risk Analyst position at $48,900.28 salary.
Little relied upon her failure to fill vacancies and her inability to keep competent staff as a pretext for a supposed need to give salary increases to four current members of her staff. Little plans to “Ducharme” the taxpayers of Montgomery County, a commonly-used reference citizens, hit hard by County property tax increases, have begun to utilize to refer to County government Department Directors who seek massive mid-year employee raises rather than seeking to justify those positions and the level of compensation during formal budget hearings.
Here are the specifics of how Little sought to Ducharme County taxpayers:
- Curtis Fitzgerald, a safety officer who made $85,364.55 in salary, would have received a major promotion to assistant director and earn $91,237.00, which is approximately $8,000 than the outgoing assistant director received. That’s a 6.9% mid-year raise.
- Roddy Martin, II, who has been an employee of Montgomery County for approximately six months and is a safety coordinator making $53,862.56, would receive a promotion to safety officer and a raise to $80,105.00, or a 56.9% increase!
- Dana Moreno and Jamie Meinkowsky are both risk analysts making $53,788.02, but Little sought to Ducharme them to risk administrator receiving $62,400.16, or 16.01% increases in pay mid-year.
Little’s Department’s salary grab and attempted Ducharmeing of the taxpayers reflects a terribly-run Department where the management clearly has no idea what functions are necessary. Remember, the current salaries and positions are the ones the Commissioners Court approved when Little asked for those salaries and positions approximately ten months ago.