Conroe, December 18 – There are many perils facing Montgomery County citizens at the final Commissioners Court meeting of this extraordinarily corrupt county government. This article only summarizes the problems many of which County Judge Craig Doyal, the King of Secrecy, has hidden on the “consent agenda.”
After The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, yesterday broke the story about County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport’s attempt to cloak all county policies and procedures, especially her own, in secrecy, Doyal’s “chief of staff” jim fredricks attempted to distance Doyal from Davenport’s crazy move. That agenda item should die for lack of a motion, or, if Davenport wisens up, by withdrawal of the item altogether.
Here are the greatest perils facing the beleaguered citizens of Montgomery County, which doesn’t just suffer from a “black eye” for corruption. Montgomery County suffers from black and blue bruises all over after three years of mighty corruption under the administration of Doyal, Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley, Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador, County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport, and the entire Davenport Ring of corrupt officials and candidates (Stephanne Davenport, JP 4 candidate Jason Dunn, JP 1 Wayne Mack, JP 4 James Metts, Sheriff Rand Henderson, Precinct 4 Constable Rowdy Hayden, and, newest to the list, District Clerk candidate Cynthia Jamieson) who follow corrupt local political boss Marc Davenport’s direction. Sadly, sometimes Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack and Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark go along with the massive government spending of the “Freespending Five.”
Peril #1: the $95 million, 4.5 mile, Tx-249 Tollway, also known as the Decimation of Hope Highway.
Doyal has placed several items pertaining to the $95 million, 4.5 mile, Tx-249 Tollway, also known as the Decimation of Hope Highway, on the Commissioners Court agenda. For starters, Doyal wants the County to enter into an Advanced Funding Agreement for the 15 mile stretch of road, tolled thanks to Doyal’s lobbying of the Texas Transportation Commission in Austin, that will make Montgomery County taxpayers responsible for all right-of-way and real estate acquisitions in the future for the entire Tx-249 Tollway from Spring Creek to the edge of Grimes County.
Montgomery County taxpayers are facing many tens of millions of dollars for right-of-way and real estate acquisition and a likelihood of $77.5 million in liability for construction of frontage roads that neither TxDOT nor the County government have budgeted.
There’s also an agenda item for discussion of the status of the entire Tx-249 Tollway project during the Toll Road Authority portion of the Commissioners Court meeting. It’s likely that Doyal will try to rationalize the wrongdoing that’s already occurred. Doyal will you his favorite propaganda line, “I don’t like tollroads either, BUT…”
The bottom line with the Tx-249 Tollway is that Doyal, Riley, and Meador are shoving a $95 million tollroad down the citizens’ throats without voter approval and are creating potentially more than $100 million in directly liability to the County government for near-term future expenditures necessary to relieve design problems related to the project.
Why won’t Doyal, Riley, and Meador wait to see the result of the Proposition 2 referendum in the March 6, 2018, Republican Primary Election? Proposition 2 asks the voters to say “yes” or “no” to the proposition, “No governmental entity should ever construct or fund construction of toll roads without voter approval.”
Doyal doesn’t really care about the Tx-249 Tollway. He certainly doesn’t care about the citizens of Montgomery County. What he does care about is delivering on his promises to Halff Associates, Jones & Carter, Rick Sheldon, Varde Partners, and Land Tech Surveyors, Doyal’s major political and criminal legal defense fund contributors. Money flows to them only if Montgomery County builds the Decimation of Hope Highway.
Peril #2: Might Stephanne Davenport get her desired cloak of secrecy?
County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport has asked the County Commissioners Court to overrule the provisions of the Texas Open Records Act by declaring that all policies and procedures of the County government, or at least those in her tiny little Treasurer’s Office, receive treatment as “proprietary.” Specifically, Davenport seeks to hide her office’s “accounting procedures” and “procedures manual” from the public and her electoral foe Conroe ISD President Melanie Pryor Bush.
What Davenport is hiding is actually the absence of appropriate policies and the fact that her office is little more than a filing cabinet for car titles and bail bonds. Both former County Treasurer Martha Gustavsen and Bush have expressed their chagrin at Davenport’s efforts to destroy transparency and openness.
Peril #3: Cleaning up last year’s budget mess
After the poor job the Commissioners Court does with budgeting, it’s not a surprise that they’re continually cleaning up accounting messes. Even though the current budget year began on October 1, 2017, two-and-a-half months ago, they’re still cleaning up the books from last year.
They have a $10,855.17 budget amendment due to inappropriate expenditures outside of the Fiscal Year 2017 Budget. The Commissioners Court will vote for this amendment without reviewing it or discussing it, because the item is on the secretive “consent” agenda.
Peril #4: Messing around with the current budget mess
After witnessing the hasty and secretive method of passing the current budget for Fiscal Year 2018, it’s not surprising that the Commissioners Court must continue to pass budget amendments under the claimed auspices of an “emergency.” Here’s what the “emergencies” are, which are designated as such so that Doyal and the Commissioners can avoid opening the process up to public hearings required under Chapter 111 of the Texas Local Government Code:
- $1,145,823.33 of transfers of previous years’ fund balances for a variety of County departments. The list of transfers are incomprehensible even to someone who reviews the budget far more than the County Judge or Commissioners ever will. It’s corruption at its most acute.
- $6,339.04 in new funds for the Building Maintenance Department from some “miscellaneous” account.
- A transfer by Meador of $120,000 from his road material account for some undesignated machinery and equipment.
- A transfer by Noack of $477,314.30 from his road material account for a variety of undesignated expenditures, including “professional services.”
- A transfer by Precinct 5 Constable David Hill of $27,327.01 from “supplies” to “capital equipment and machinery” without any explanation.
- $400 to fund the Commissioners Court portrait from the “contingency” fund. That’s a “contingency”? Clark paid $100 to fund the $500 portrait out of his Precinct budget. A citizen also donated a portrait and frame of the Freespending Five but they wanted a bigger portrait of themselves to memorialize themselves as they see more fit.
Peril #5: Payment of accounts.
This item is always one of the worst in the Commissioners Court Agenda, because the Freespending Five don’t provide any oversight whatsoever. In almost 100 pages of $9,848,786.51 of spending, the County government will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on credit card charges without accounting, $9,400 to consultant Plante Moran without explanation, numerous payments to County officials without explanation, and $9,289.40 to contract engineer John Holzwarth for duplicating the work of the salaried County Engineer.
Peril #6: Purchasing
The Commissioners Court will approve over $2 million of purchasing without any review.
Peril #7: Payroll changes
The Commissioners Court used to include all payroll changes on the actual agenda in the old-fashioned days of transparency under former County Judge Alan B. Sadler. In the Doyal world of secrecy, payroll changes occur without any information or backup materials. The Freespending Five don’t even know what they’re approving when they vote to approve.
Peril #8: Library policies
The obsolete Memorial Library system has several new policies they’re asking the Commissioners Court to approve.
Don’t worry; it’s still a violation of library policy for a patron to take a photograph inside the library building.
Peril #9: Community Development Director gives herself a raise
As part of a grant application to aid flood victims, Community Development Director Joanne Ducharme proposes to give herself and two of her County employee staff persons, a $119,000 raise over two years.
The citizens are fortunate 2017 is coming to an end. Just imagine what joy 2018 might bring!