Image: Three members of the Davenport Ring in front of “Cash Only” sign from left to right, County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport, Precinct 4 JP James Metts, and Precinct 1 JP Wayne Mack.
New Caney, November 12 – Employees of James Metts’ Justice of the Peace, Precinct 4, Office have met with The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, on the condition of anonymity, to present the stark facts about Metts’ court operations. The facts have revealed the nepotism, indolence, and paranoia that have consumed Metts and the County Department he’s supposed to lead.
Metts’ employees find Metts’ conduct appalling and overbearing. They’re upset that the citizens of East Montgomery County and the taxpayers of the entire community are suffering as a result of Metts’ taking advantage of his situation.
Metts’ JP4 office is one of the five Justice of the Peace Courts in Montgomery County.
In net collections of fees and fines per case, Metts runs the second least efficient JP court in the community, which is particularly problematic because JP courts usually operate as revenue sources for county governments. His rate of collections of fees and fines imposed is the lowest of all of the five JP courts at 75%.
Metts, however, is largely absent from his office. He holds court approximately only six (6) days per month during a typical month. That works out to working in the courtroom or office only about twelve hours per week on average with another approximately 5.25 hours per week appearing at death scenes. In other words, Metts works less than 18 hours per week in return for his whopping $126,988.35 annual salary, plus County benefits of approximately $51,176.31, for total annual compensation of approximately $179,164.66.
Metts regularly brags to his court staff that he works “three full-time jobs.” As Metts explains it, he works as a JP, as a full-time “president of a logging/clearing business,” and as the co-manager of Sweetie Pies, the Splendora restaurant which he and his girlfriend Dianne Rogers operate together.
Metts’ court office is open only four days per week, Monday through Thursday, from 7:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. The employees who actually work a full 40-hour week – and there aren’t many of them – work from 7:15 a.m. until 5:45 p.m. with a 30 minute lunch break. Most of the employees in Metts’ office don’t work anything close to a full 40 hour week.
One of Metts’ tools for pushing himself forward politically is nepotism, the hiring of family members to work for him in his office. Without question, Mett’s most important hire is Jerry Sue Hayden, the mother of Precinct 4 Constable Kenneth “Rowdy” Hayden, who is Metts’ closest political ally in East Montgomery County and who is pushing for Metts to replace incumbent Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark, who is independent of the Davenport Ring, the group of politicians who work under the direction of corrupt local boss Marc Davenport. Metts, Wayne Mack, County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport, Splendora’s Jason Dunn who is running for Metts’ JP4 position in the 2018 Republican Primary Election, and a few others are the politicians who comprise the Davenport Ring.
Jerry Sue Hayden receives $50,669.63 in salary, plus approximately $20,419.86 in County benefits for total annual County compensation of approximately $71,089.49. Hayden usually leaves the office around 1 p.m. Often Hayden will get her personal grocery shopping done during the mornings when she would otherwise work in the JP4 office.
One of the two main employees who run Metts’ JP 4 office, however, is Rogers, who is Metts’ longtime girlfriend who lives with him at the Metts property off of Highway 105 and co-owns Sweetie Pie’s with him. Rogers runs their restaurant full-time but also receives a full-time salary as Metts’ Juvenile Case Coordinator. Rogers spends most of each morning focusing on purchasing for Sweetie Pie’s, which Rogers conducts from the JP office. She usually leaves the office right before 1 p.m. each day, the four days when she actually does come to work each week.
On days when Metts actually comes into the office, he and Rogers spend about 1.5 hours eating breakfast together in Metts’ office. For her part-time job, Rogers earns $42,340 per year annual salary, plus County benefits of approximately $17,063.02, for total annual compensation of $59,403.02.
Jane Metts Landers is Metts’ first cousin and receives $42,782.39 annual salary, $17,241.30 approximately in County benefits, and total annual compensation of $60,023.69. Landers also works about 5 hours per day for four days per week as a clerk in her cousin’s office.
Metts also causes the County taxpayers to pay Jamie Nash $30,598.56 in annual salary, plus $12,331.22 in benefits, and a total of $42,929.78 annual County compensation. Nash is supposedly a “communications coordinator” for the JP office, a position which none of the other courts in Montgomery County have. Metts’ employees report that Nash works approximately eighteen (18) hours per week in the office on average and spends most of her time collecting articles for the Montgomery County Police Reporter, an online blog Nash and her husband operate.
One of the other drains on Metts’ and Nash’s time is that they usually sit together in Nash’s office – behind a closed door – and watch the live feed of each Commissioners Court meeting every two weeks. That seems like a big waste of Metts’ time since his office operations should have very little to do with the workings of the Commissioners Court.
Let’s be fair to Metts. It would probably be very difficult for him to try to discipline his girlfriend, his first cousin, or the mother of East Montgomery County’s most popular politician.
The docket mess
Metts only hears civil cases approximately twice per month. While he’ll notice individuals to attend his civil dockets at 9 a.m., Metts will often spend more than an hour eating breakfast and socializing with Rogers before Metts will appear in the courtroom usually around 10:15 a.m.
Metts rarely even appears for his criminal dockets. The Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office operates essentially the entirety of Metts’ criminal dockets by meeting with each individual defendant and working out a plea or dismissal arrangement with each one of them.
Metts seems to enjoy the feeling of power from his juvenile docket, so he does actually handle those cases, although usually only three to four days per month.
As a result, it’s not surprising that Metts’ court suffers from the inefficiencies shown in the numbers in the chart above.
One of the other major problems in Metts’ court is that the files are generally difficult to read. Unlike the Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Court of Judge Edie Connelly, which is actually one of the most efficient JP courts in all of Texas, Metts has refused to permit his court to convert to the Tyler Odyssey computer database which would permit his staff to place all file documents into an electronic database. As a result, Metts’ court has a very incomplete electronic database on a cumbersome database system called NetData and paper files for every matter in Metts’ court. One of the issues that constantly arises among Metts and his staff is that, by maintaining paper files for traffic ticket cases, the tickets’ ink often fades and become illegible and impossible to read. Metts has had to dismiss approximately three dozen cases during the past year because the tickets are unreadable.
Politics and paranoia
One of the requirements for employees working in Metts’ JP office is that they provide cooking and food for all of Metts’ political events. Two weeks ago on Thursday at lunchtime, Metts invited approximately three hundred people to attend his annual “Thanksgiving” luncheon. Approximately one hundred and fifty people actually attended.
Metts required all of his employees in his JP4 office to take time off from their jobs and attend the event so that they could work as food servers. Worse yet, Metts also required every one of his employees to make a dish that would serve 300 people (!) at the employee’s cost without reimbursement from Metts or his political campaign. Metts has had substantial trouble raising money, as businesses and other citizens of East Montgomery County have begun to grow weary of Metts’ corrupt brand of politics.
On July 17, 2017, this newspaper published our first story providing some of the detail about Metts’ and Rogers’ ownership and operation of Sweetie Pie’s restaurant. On Tuesday, July 18, Metts announced to his staff during a brief meeting that employees could no longer have their personal cellphones at work as a result of the publication of the story in The Golden Hammer. Only Metts’ girlfriend Rogers, his cousin Landers, Hayden’s mother Jerry Sue Hayden, and one other favored employee could keep their personal cell phones with them during work hours. Additionally, no employee – other than Nash, Rogers, Hayden, Landers, and Metts – may use the Internet at the office, even during breaks.
One of Metts’ clerks told this newspaper, “The idea that James Metts is seriously contemplating trying to become a County Commissioner is frightening. The corruption, laziness, and nepotism that he would bring to the job of a road and bridge commissioner will take East Montgomery County back into the terrible graft and greed during the Reconstruction era after the Civil War.”
Asking Commissioner Clark
Metts didn’t respond to telephone calls.