Conroe, February 20 – During the February 13, 2018, Montgomery County Commissioners Court meeting, JP James Metts, who is running for a promotion to become Precinct 4 County Commissioner against incumbent Jim Clark in the March 6, 2018, Republican Primary Election, illustrated precisely why voters should get rid of the Davenport Ring of corrupt politicians and elected officials. Four of them are involved in contested races on the ballot.
Metts’ elitist friend County Judge Craig Doyal placed the following agenda item on the meeting notice: “Justice of the Peace Precinct 4: A Presentation to the Court on the state of the Justice Court.” Metts didn’t discuss the Justice Court at all during his lengthy presentation, because he wouldn’t want to have to admit that his office is only open for business four days per week, that Metts himself holds court usually only one day per week, that Metts didn’t show up for work for more than six weeks from Thanksgiving 2017 past the new year 2018, or that his office suffers from nepotism, sexual harassment, and outright corruption.
Instead, Metts turned the podium over to a salesman from Graves Humphries Stahl (GHS), the law firm that gets paid a percentage of the fees and fines which his court assesses, even though they do almost nothing. What GHS does is they add a 30% surcharge onto the fees and fines but then take 30% of the total amount collected. If you do the math, you’ll see that GHS actually takes 9% of the fees and fines in addition to the 30% surcharge.
What service does GHS provide for all of that money? They send a collection letter to each person who owes a fee or fine to Montgomery County through Metts’ court. GHS doesn’t do much but they do require the four out of five JP courts that use their so-called “services” to utilize a database program for all of their court files called NetData. NetData has caused all sorts of computer operations problems on the Montgomery County servers. More significantly, the NetData database is not available to the public, so citizens cannot view their court files online, as every other court in Montgomery County allows.
In the salesman’s presentation to the Commissioners Court, NetData tried to take credit for the full $6.4 million of fees and fines that the four out of five JP courts took in during 2015, 2016, and 2017. That’s pretty crazy, because the courts assessed those fees and disposed of the cases, not NetData or GHS.
In fact, in those four JP courts, the real collection mechanism, according to three County officials who spoke with The Golden Hammer on the condition of anonymity, is that those four JP courts issue warrants for the arrest of the people who owe the fees and fines. Though the OmniBase software program, those warrants go into the Texas Department of Public Safety database. When people seek to renew their Driver Licenses, their account receives a flag until they pay the warrants. The bottom line is that GHS and NetData don’t do much, if anything, to collect delinquent fees and fines.
Meanwhile, one of the five Justice of the Peace Courts in Montgomery County, Judge Edie Connelly’s Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Court, utilizes a wholly different system. First, Connelly has a County employee make a collection call to each person who owes a fee or fine within 30 days after adjudication, because Texas law requires that courts do that. Second, Connelly has a County employee send a collection letter to each person who owes a fee or fine within 30 days after adjudication, because Texas law requires that courts do that. Metts does not follow either of those two procedures – the call and the letter within 30 days – out of sheer laziness.
The remainder of Judge Connelly’s collection efforts occur through the County government’s in-house collection department under the direction of master collector Clegg DeWalt, who had a successfully career in the private collection industry before he came to work for County Clerk Mark Turnbull as the County’s master collector for the Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Court, the five County Courts at Law, and the eight District Courts. DeWalt does an amazing job with all of those collections, and, unlike Metts, GHS, or NetData, DeWalt follows the requirements of the Texas Administrative Code for those fee and fine collections.
Where Metts’ presentation was most misleading, however, is that, while he bragged about the total collections which might sound like a large amount of money, in actuality, the collections through GHS and NetData and Metts’ court in particular have been a total failure. Metts collects far less in fees and fines than the other JP courts (with the exception of Wayne Mack). Metts has only a 78% collection rate for fee and fines while Judge Connelly’s Precinct 3 Justice Court collects 96% of fees and fines without ever issuing warrants!
The numbers speak for themselves:
Since Metts and Marc Davenport directly caused the four JP courts – Precincts 1, 2, 4, and 5 – to utilize GHS and NetData as opposed to the County collection system, it’s pretty easy to add up the exact number of how much County taxpayers lost in uncollected fees and fines during calendar year 2017 as a result of the Davenport Ring: Metts and Davenport are responsible for the County government and the taxpayers losing $885,114.25 in collections, in comparison to the successfully collection rate in the Precinct 3 JP Court, just during calendar year 2017 alone.
If that’s not a clear reason to keep the Davenport Ring (Metts, Jason Dunn running to replace him as JP 4, Stephanne Davenport the corrupt County Treasurer, and Cynthia Jamieson running for District Clerk) out of office, nothing is.