Conroe, April 6 – A cache of documents The Golden Hammer has obtained has revealed a new twist to the hyper secrecy of Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal, the King of Government Darkness: he hides documents from his Commissioners Court colleagues and refuses to permit County Department heads to provide them with information, unless they make formal requests. Doyal’s secrecy policy towards his colleagues extends to County Commissioners Charlie Riley (Precinct 2), also known as the Prince of Government Darkness, James Noack (Precinct 3), and Jim Clark (Precinct 4).
Doyal and Riley are well known statewide as the King and Prince of Government Darkness, respectively, because they convinced a district judge to legislate from the bench by striking down the Texas Open Meetings Act, Section 143. As a result of Doyal’s and Riley’s legal victory on April 4, 2017, local government officials, thanks to Doyal and Riley, may knowingly conspire to circumvent the Open Meetings Act by meeting in numbers less than a quorum for the purpose of secret deliberations.
Violation of law regarding open records
Doyal has attempted to concentrate his political power over the County government by excluding the County Commissioners from their Constitutional duties to oversee and manage all county business after Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador and Riley, the Prince of Government Darkness, passed a resolution on January 26, 2015, taking away management and oversight from the County Commissioners Court. That resolution is pretty clearly a violation of the Texas Constitution, Article V, Section 18(b), which provides that “the County Commissioners Court…shall exercise such powers and jurisdiction over all county business.”
Doyal’s attempted concentration of power has gone several steps farther in his direction to County Department heads not to provide requested information to his Commissioners Court colleagues. During the February 28, 2017, Court meeting, both Noack and Clark complained that they had trouble getting information from County Departments, despite their Constitutional duty to oversee “all county business.” Doyal responded by stating that he would only permit them to receive information, after his approval, if the information pertained to a specific issue in their Commissioners Precinct.
Doyal is not following the law. Texas law is clear that County Commissioners have a duty and right to oversee “all county business,” not just those portions that Doyal decides they ought to know. As a County Commissioner and a member of the Commissioners Court, Noack, Doyal, and Riley have an “absolute” right to inspect all books and records of Montgomery County.
Meanwhile, The Golden Hammer has confirmed with representatives of each of Noack’s, Clark’s, and Riley’s Commissioners Precincts that Doyal does not provide them with access to County information, unless he approves the disclosure first. A source inside the County Attorney’s Office has informed The Golden Hammer that Doyal has instructed that office to permit Meador unfettered access to all County information.
There are many serious problems with Doyal’s hyper secrecy. The Dallas Court of Appeals ruled in 2014 in a case styled Dallas County versus Logan that “as the administrative head of county government, a commissioners court possesses broad implied powers to accomplish its legitimate directives.” By limiting their access to information, Doyal is limiting those implied powers in violation of the Texas Constitution and Texas law.
Public Information Act/Open Records Act
Doyal and Riley have not (yet) challenged the Public Information Act/Open Records Act in Texas, which declares “There is a strong policy in Texas in favor of open records” in Section 552.001 of the Texas Government Code.
The King and Prince of Government Darkness – Doyal and Riley – should consider the following legislative declaration, which they also have not (yet) challenged:
“Under the fundamental philosophy of the American constitutional form of representative government that adheres to the principle that government is the servant and not the master of the people, it is the policy of this state that each person is entitled, unless otherwise expressly provided by law, at all times to complete information about the affairs of government and the official acts of public officials and employees. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created. The provisions of this chapter shall be liberally construed to implement this policy.” (Emphasis added.)
Texas Government Code, Section 552.001.
Doyal and the County government over which he exerts dictatorial control have no authority whatsoever to prevent a member of the County Commissioners Court from obtaining information, records, or documents from the County. It’s another example, however, of the stale atmosphere of secrecy, closed government, and government acting as the master of the people rather than as their servant.