Conroe, March 27 – Wise conservative Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack has called for abolishing the County Treasurer’s Office as an agenda item for the March 28, 2017, County Commissioners Court meeting. It’s not a proposal that the Commissioners Court should reject, but it requires some careful planning and analysis before making any decision one way or the other.
Noack’s Proposal and Argument; Davenport’s mum
Noack has placed an item for consideration on the Commissioners Court agenda, item 21A6, to “consider, discuss, and take action on seeking a constitutional amendment to eliminate the office of the Montgomery County Treasurer.”
Commissioner Noack explained, “I’m following Judge Doyal’s lead. He said we should reorganize the County government by eliminating unnecessary departments. In 2015, Doyal eliminated the Department of Infrastructure. This proposal takes a page out of Doyal’s playbook.” Noack has explained that he wants to reduce County spending by eliminating the Treasurer’s Department.
Noack said, “Just two weeks ago, County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport suggested a reorganization in the best interest of the taxpayers that eliminated $31,000 from her department’s spending. I’m proposing to eliminate it all.” Noack has made clear, however, that the functions and employees of the County Treasurer’s Department would transfer to other County departments.
The Golden Hammer contacted County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport for her response. Very courteously, Davenport stated that “I’ll decline to comment on Commissioner Noack’s proposal.” County Judge Craig Doyal did not return telephone calls to ask for his comment.
Is eliminating the Treasurer’s Office really wise at this point?
The Noack proposal to eliminate the Treasurer’s Office does not – hopefully – follow Doyal’s “playbook” when Doyal sought to eliminate the Infrastructure Department, whose Director in early 2015 was Mark Bosma, the gentleman who had run against Doyal in the 2014 Republican Runoff Election and clearly was Doyal’s nemesis within the Montgomery County government. Bosma is a member of Doyal’s “Hit List” of County employees who opposed Doyal politically. Bosma’s Infrastructure Department was actually a “super department” that included several other County Departments under his direction. Bosma’s Infrastructure operation oversaw the County’s Building Maintenance, Purchasing, Airport, Civic Center, Environmental Health and Permitting, Community Development, and Custodial Maintenance Departments.
Doyal’s elimination of the Infrastructure Department really only accomplished one objective for Doyal, getting rid of Bosma, who lost his job with Montgomery County. All of the departments under Infrastructure became separate County Departments whose spending and budgets have dramatically increased under Craig Doyal as County Judge. There have been no savings, efficiencies, or management improvements for the Montgomery County government or the citizens. To the contrary, Doyal drove a watchdog and nemesis, Bosma, away.
Therefore, The Golden Hammer and citizens of Montgomery County should hope that Noack is not following any sort of lead of Doyal in proposing to eliminate the County Treasurer’s Department.
Stephanne Davenport has done a good job as Treasurer, although her Office and the Office of the County Auditor both face troubles, conflicts, inefficiencies, and overspending problems.
The problems facing the County Auditor’s Office suggest that eliminating the Treasurer’s Department may be premature. The Auditor has an inherent conflict of interest that violates numerous Sections of the “Yellow Book” Generally Accepted Accounting Standards promulgated out of the United States Government Accountability Office. Montgomery County’s Auditor acts as “chief budget officer,” the County’s bookkeeper, the person who prepares the County’s financial statements, and the person who provides almost all of the data and information for the very limited outside audit the County receives from its supposedly “independent auditor.” In other words, the County Auditor prepares her own financial books and records and then audits herself. Montgomery County receives no true independent audit, since the outside auditor only conducts a limited “test” audit rather than a full “examination” audit. In fact, the auditor receives almost the entire audit from the County Auditor.
In violation of the direction of the Board of District Judges who appointed her and are to oversee her, County Auditor Phyllis Martin directly engages in internal County politics inside the Sadler Administration Building, participates in hiring decisions, works closely with political committees such as the recently appointed “Budget Review Committee,” and almost acts as a sixth member of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court. Her audits fail to meet dozens of the specific “Yellow Book” requirements for independent audits of governmental organizations.
One possible solution, which the Citizens Budget Committee and others as well are considering, is to move some of the functions out of the County Auditor’s Office into the County Treasurer’s Office. Many counties utilize the services of the County Treasurer to prepare the County Budget. Dividing the budget function from the audit function is an important separation to meet Generally Accepted Accounting Standards.
Another question with Noack’s proposal is simply where do the functions of the County Treasurer go if there is no County Treasurer? If the County must create a new department for those functions, then there would seem to be no efficiency gain. Noack is the leader of the movement to shift the centralized management of the County government currently under the County Judge back to the County Commissioners Court. Unless, a budget office were to act under the entire Commissioners Court as a whole, then elimination of the County Treasurer’s Office would shift the treasury and budget function entirely under the County Judge, precisely where it should not be.
Finally, there’s an important question that any proponent of eliminating the County Treasurer’s Office should answer: how much money will the elimination of that office cost or save the County? Before anyone gives a precise answer to that question, the County Commissioners Court should not act precipitously and chop a department. The County has actually spent more money by Craig Doyal’s political “hit” on Mark Bosma’s Infrastructure Department. Let’s not make that same mistake again.