Conroe, July 30 – On Tuesday, July 24, 2018, Montgomery County’s Sage, Bill O’Sullivan of The Woodlands, appeared before the Montgomery County Commissioner’s Court to discuss very briefly something that lame duck, anti-citizen, Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal didn’t want to hear about: the rights of citizens under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Doyal is an opponent of the First Amendment except when it applies to him.
Specifically, O’Sullivan discussed Doyal’s newest rule to limit total citizen comments on any one topic to thirty (30) minutes. If several citizens appear in the Commissioners Court to discuss an important issue each for three (3) minutes, there is a serious danger that Doyal might miss his early afternoon tee time and, thus, interfere with Doyal’s golf obligations.
Here’s the short comment the Sage provided to the Commissioners Court that almost caused Doyal to come out of his chair:
“Bill O’Sullivan, Precinct 3. I want to thank you for the clarification in the new rules of procedure. I want to mention about when you restrict the time for people to speak. I’ve been coming here a few weeks. (Laughter over the irony.) I can’t think of more than a few times when things have gone over a half hour. Those were pretty intense issues, probably the animal shelter and the road bond that went beyond that. So you have the power to extend that and I would just like the words that the power to extend not be unreasonably withheld.”
Doyal tried to argue with Doyal at that point, but Assistant County Attorney Amy Dunham looked over at the County Judge and made clear that Doyal’s argument with a citizen over a matter not on the Commissioners Court Agenda would violate the Texas Open Meetings Act (“TOMA”) under which Doyal and Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley are already under criminal indictment.
In his criminal case, Doyal has argued that TOMA is unconstitutional, because any restriction of the time, place, or manner in which he carries on secret communications with his Commissioners Court colleagues would violate his First Amendment right of free speech. In fact, longstanding United States Supreme Court precedent has held that reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions even on political speech are permissible.
Doyal’s clear view is that citizens have only limited constitutional rights, while the upper class – in Doyal’s world view – of elected officials have special rights. In fact, in his appellate brief, which Doyal filed with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals earlier this month, Doyal argued that public officials should get special protection from allegations that they violated criminal laws.