Image: Precinct 3 Community Center Director Jeanie Stewart (left) and her husband Timothy Stewart (right), the heir apparent to the Montgomery County Building Maintenance Department, which operates as a family business and will continue to do so under Stewart.
Conroe, May 20 – Dirty politics and nepotism have taken over the process to select the next Director of the Montgomery County government’s Building Maintenance Department. Timothy Stewart, the husband of Precinct 3 Community Center Director Jeanie Stewart, will take the position regardless of the pretense of a genuine hiring process.
Once again, under Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal and Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley, politics trumps merit in decisions. What’s sad about this situation is that Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack is working with them this time. That all this planning has occurred in secret is another relict of the fact that the Commissioners Court turned control of the County government – in violation of Article V, Section 18, of the Texas Constitution – over to Doyal who makes many of these decisions in dark secrecy.
It’s a situation about which numerous County government employees are very upset. This newspaper, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, will usually run a story if we confirm it with two reliable sources. In this instance, we’ve confirmed these events with nine (9) employees in the Building Maintenance Department, four (4) employees in the Precinct 3 Commissioner Office, one (1) employee in the County Attorney’s Office, and two (2) employees in the County Human Resources Department. All requested anonymity. The common thread is that those employees fear that Doyal and Noack will act to terminate their employment. Several employees also mentioned that they fear that Dodi Shaw, the County Human Resources Department Director, who is a very professional and highly-trained Human Resources professional, is under enormous political and job pressure to tow the line on what’s happening.
The bottom line is that the County Judge and members of the Commissioners Court have – informally – decided they want Timothy Stewart as the next Director. The selection of a Building Maintenance Department Director is on the agenda for the Montgomery County Commissioners Court’s May 22, 2018, meeting. Of course, since the County Judge and Commissioners Court members like to operate in secret, they’ve scheduled that part of the meeting to occur in an executive session, as they want the public to be in the dark.
Why do they want Timothy Stewart as the next Building Maintenance Department Director? Two reasons: nepotism and politics.
It’s clear that Noack wants Stewart to be the next Building Maintenance Department Director, because he’s had a rocky relationship with that department since he came into office. The personal relationship between Noack and the Building Maintenance crews has been quite stormy. The employees don’t appreciate Noack’s personality. The politically ambitious Noack has not been happy with the job performance of some Building Maintenance employees.
Noack’s Director of the South County Community Center is Jeanie Stewart, the lady who ran for Montgomery County Clerk and lost to Mark Turnbull by a landslide in the March 6, 2018, Republican Primary Election. Mrs. Stewart was completely unfamiliar with the functions of the County Clerk’s Office as her performance in candidate forums revealed. Rather, Mrs. Stewart merely called for “change” without any rationale behind it. Her candidacy appeared to be little more than an unsuccessful and poorly-planned grab for power.
Now, it’s Mrs. Stewart’s husband’s turn. Noack told The Golden Hammer “I have no knowledge of the hiring of a new director. I have every intention of interviewing the most qualified candidates that have applied with the assistance of Human Resources.” That’s good, except for one thing. A job such as the Building Maintenance Department Director ought to have advertising outside of the County government job posting board. That board will not lead to applications from experienced people in the construction industry, because they wouldn’t normally think to look for a local government job. If the Commissioners Court were sincere in hiring an excellent person for the Building Maintenance Director job rather than a political crony, they’d advertise on public websites such as Indeed.com or Monster.com.
By the way, the Director job, a job that pays a bi-weekly salary of $4,031.42 to $5,077.06 in the construction industry would attract dozens, if not hundreds or even thousands, of job applicants, if the County advertised the position in a location where construction industry people could actually see the position. That’s $104,816.92 to $132,003.56 per year in salary alone. The employee benefits, under the County government’s ultra-liberal benefits program, would be in the range of $52,000 per year, so the total compensation would be around $150,000 to $180,000 per year! You’d get practically every experienced construction superintendent and project manager in the Greater Houston Area applying for that job (especially with the assurance that Craig Doyal will only be the County Judge through the end of the year.)
What’s made it so clear that Stewart already has the job? Well, for one thing, he’s just received a nice new office inside the Building Maintenance Department near Director Paul Case’s Office. There are many employees, including supervisors, who have considerably greater experience than Stewart. Nevertheless, Case has made clear that he’s grooming Stewart to succeed him.
The entire situation puts poor Dodi Shaw into another terrible position. Shaw rightfully fears for her job, because Doyal has had her on his infamous “Hit List” for four years. There are many elected servants who recognize Shaw’s professionalism and objectivity. The one particular protector Shaw has had over the past two years – since she stood up for the citizens against nepotism when County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport and Doyal tried to promote Doyal’s daughter to the position of Assistant County Treasurer – is Noack. Shaw knows that Noack wants Stewart for the job, because Noack wants a friend overseeing the Building Maintenance Department.
When seven Building Maintenance Department employees filed grievances against the County government in 2016 over the poor management and terrible construction practices of the troubled department, Shaw acted as the hearing officer for those grievances. But she took the unusual step of inviting Noack’s Constituent Relations Manager, Evan Besong, to sit in those hearings as well. The employees felt that Shaw and Besong ignored their concerns. Some of their concerns were minor and probably didn’t rise to the level of a grievance. Some of their concerns were quite serious, however, including, for example, the failure to have licensed electricians on electrical crews which resulted in the failure to ground light fixtures in one County building in which the public goes constantly. (The Golden Hammer made arrangements with another County elected servant to make sure that the problem was resolved, since the Building Maintenance Department management refused to address the serious public safety issue.)
Since the denial of the employee grievances, many of the senior employees of the Building Maintenance Department, including those with significant training, licensing, and experience have continued to have concerns about poor construction practices in the department that occur despite their complaints.
The problem with Stewart is that Doyal, Riley, Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador, and Noack want him in the position to continue current practices rather than to reform this troubled yet very important department, with the exception that he’ll be friendlier to Noack.
The Building Maintenance Department is already the worst in the County government for nepotism. It figures that the new Director of Building Maintenance will come into the job – after the secret Commissioners Court meeting on Tuesday or two weeks thereafter – because of his marriage to a County Department director whom an elected servant appointed to the position.
The Building Maintenance Department includes:
- Craig Case, the son of the Director Paul Case. In order to make the situation seem ethical, Craig is officially an employee of the County Engineer’s Office. Nevertheless, his business card shows he works for the Building Maintenance Department. Craig’s brand new plush office is in the Building Maintenance Department, and Craig, when he shows up to work part-time to receive a full-time salary, goes to the Building Maintenance Department.
- The Wright family. Rob Wright, the Assistant Director, his wife, and his son all work in the Building Maintenance Department.
- Bill Meador, Commissioner Meador’s brother, works in Building Maintenance, although the employees largely can’t ascertain what he does. They all like the affable Bill Meador, however.
- Angela Ford, the County’s director of determining what light bulbs to place in sockets, is the daughter of Jule Puckett, the secretary who retired last year as Commissioner Meador’s $130,000 per year administrative assistant.
- Stewart, the husband of Jeanie Stewart.
- There are at least two other families of employees inside the department.
Clearly, Doyal’s, Riley’s, and Meador’s primary interest in the political hiring of Stewart as the new Director is so that he will continue the nepotism.
It’s seriously doubtful that Stewart, someone who is a nepotistic hire himself, will clean up the nepotism in this County Department upon which other County employees’ and the public’s safety and health rely.