Conroe, May 22 – Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack’s brilliant proposal to defease just under $7 million of debt to achieve budget reductions through early payoff of long-term debt with funds which had accumulated in the debt service fund balance was the highlight of the April 23, 2019, Montgomery County Commissioners Court meeting. Through discussions with Montgomery County Auditor Rakesh Pandey, Noack confirmed that there were excess funds in the debt service fund balance and proposed using that money for a significant cash defeasance.
The Commissioners Court approved Noack’s proposal on a 5 to 0 vote. Precinct 4 County Commissioner James Metts suggested that an additional approximately $2.9 million in the debt service fund balance could also go to pay off additional debt, but the Commissioners Court chose to defer Metts’ proposal until a later date in order to assess whether those funds will actually be available.
The Golden Hammer‘s rating system follows the Platform of the Republican Party of Texas.
The Golden Hammer‘s ratings measure Commissioners Court votes that affect spending in comparison to the provisions of the Republican Party of Texas Platform. Points are good. The number of points depends upon the amount of money involved in each vote.
The Commissioners Court, all of whom claim to be Republicans, violated the Republican Party Platform on almost every vote during the March 26 meeting. They violated Plank 144 in particular, which provides:
“144. Government Spending: Government Spending is out of control at the federal, state, and local levels, and action is needed.”
The editorial staff of this newspaper sincerely hopes that Plank 144 is simple enough that even the members of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court might understand it.
Commissioners Court meeting, April 23, 2019, 9:30 a.m. All Court members were physically present.
Vote #1 – Bond defense (discussed above). Noack receives a 250 point bonus for ingenuity. Major vote. 25 points. “Yes” vote appropriate. Passed unanimously.
Vote #2 – Resolution to support House Bill 511 in the 86th Texas Legislature, concerning commercial vehicle safety standards. The bill, as passed, doesn’t apply to Montgomery County. What a stupid waste of time! 1 point. “Yes” vote okay. Passed unanimously.
Vote #3 – Accept time sheet audit from County Auditor Rakesh Pandey. Pandey did an excellent job on his internal audits and showed true independence when he audited the Commissioner Precinct 4 Office. With terminated County Auditor Phyllis Martin as his Chief of Staff, Precinct 4 Montgomery County Commissioner James Metts flunked an internal audit of his employees’ time sheets. Montgomery County Auditor Rakesh Pandey and his internal audit staff conducted the completed audit, which found twenty-nine (29) errors with respect to time entries and the submission of time cards and data for the period ending February 22, 2019.
County Auditor Pandey conducted a similar audit of the entire Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, which has approximately thirteen (13) times the number of employees as Metts, and found one (1) error. Pandey’s audit of Metts and Martin appears in its entirety at the end of this article.
When Martin was the County Auditor, she regularly passed Metts in internal audits for his Justice of the Peace Precinct 4 Department, even though many of his employees complained to staff in the County Auditor’s office of Martin with respect to discrepancies, as five (5) of his former employees have confirmed to The Golden Hammer.
5 points. Proper vote was “Yes” to approve County Auditor Pandey’s excellent work. Passed unanimously.
Vote #4 – The Commissioners Court is playing games with budget amendments again. They pulled $178,000 out of Commissioner Riley’s slush fund and $165,000 out of Commission Noack’s slush fund. Those are true budget amendments which should comply with the Local Government Code’s notice and hearing provisions to afford citizens the opportunity to consider and discuss those matters in an open meeting. Riley pulled $186 out of his much-needed road and bridge funds to pay for computer software for his office. It’s not a large amount of money, but Riley’s Commissioner Precinct 2 needs every dollar it can use for the dilapidated roads in that area, largely thanks to the failure of Riley and former Commissioner Craig Doyal to maintain those roads for two decades. The District Attorney Brett Ligon pulled $1.57 (you read that correctly) out of his slush fund to pay for “professional services.” How utterly bizarre! The total budget amendments were $784,000. A “no” vote is appropriate. Major vote. 25 points. Passed unanimously.
Vote #5 to 20 – The Commissioners Court took sixteen (16) purchasing actions without any deliberation, consideration, discussion, or review. The total financial impact of the purchasing decisions was slightly over $2.7 million. Under those circumstances, the appropriate vote would have been “No” as to all of them. 10 points each. Passed unanimously.
It’s important to note why these decisions are so terrible. Rather than allowing for a competitive bidding process for road projects and other engineering work and large purchases, the County government usually tries to waive bidding and allow the Commissioner to choose the contractor. The process is entirely politicized. Political contributions lead to purchasing decisions. The taxpayers pay a dear price.
Winston Heron and someone who identified himself as “Mr. Lopez” provided citizen comments.
Vote #19 – Only the most irresponsible child would spend $8,854,181.81 without looking or caring for what the money went. It’s almost like the Commissioners are methheads with tax dollars. Major vote. 25 points. Passed unanimously.
Vote #20 – County Treasurer Melanie Pryor Bush requested the reduction of her performance bond to reduce the bond premium from $18,000 per year to $3,000 per year. Excellent move, which the Treasurer’s Office should have done several years before Bush even came into office on January 1 of this year. 10 points. “Yes” vote appropriate. Passed unanimously.
Vote #21 – The Commissioners Court approved paying $5,925 for facilities from a water main break. 1 point. “Yes” vote appropriate.
Vote #22 – Approve assignment of tax abatement agreement from The Woodlands Land Development Company to Alight Solutions, as a result of the sale of property in The Woodlands Medical Research Park to Alight. That is an entirely inappropriate sue of a tax abatement (as are most of them. Major vote. 25 points. “No” vote appropriate. passed unanimously.
Vote #23 – Approve new tax abatement agreement with Gearn Offshore, Inc. This company was in default under its tax abatement agreement a month earlier. They barely came into compliance within a month. Gearn is an example of the failure of tax abatements as a mechanism to spur economic development. Passed unanimously. 10 points.
Vote #24 The Commissioners Court unanimously approved $1.4 million of purchases without review. The most striking aspect of the approval, however, was the approval of real estate title services without any price, contract, or description of services. Blind approval of spending other people’s money. Major vote. 25 points. “No” vote appropriate.
Vote #25 Beleaguered County taxpayers paid $847,710.98 for a parking lot on Airport Road. The Montgomery County Airport is a total waste of tax dollars and an utter joke on the taxpayers. Major vote. 25 points. “No” vote appropriate.
Jennifer Eckhart, Bill O’Sullivan, and another lady provided citizen comments.
Ratings for Commissioners Court meeting, April 23, 2019:
KEOUGH 41/337. Grade F.
MEADOR 41/337. Grade F.
RILEY 41/337. Grade F.
NOACK 291/. Grade B.
METTS 41/231. Grade F.
The following are the cumulative scores for Fiscal Year 2019, which began October 1, 2018.
KEOUGH 2,953/3,110. Grade A.
MEADOR -227/3,422. Grade F.
RILEY -1,997/3,422. Grade F.
NOACK 2,123/3,422. Grade D. Congratulations to Commissioner Noack for “soaring” out of the Failure category!
METTS 568/3,422. Grade F.
The citizens must remain vigilant.