Image: Precinct 2 Montgomery County Commissioner Charlie Riley.
Conroe, April 11 – Precinct 2 Montgomery County Commissioner Charlie Riley has a chance to prove he’s not a liar when it comes to his promise to put a referendum before voters before building the Decimation of Hope Highway, the $85 million, 3 mile, TX 249 Tollway.
Riley, County Judge Craig Doyal, and Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador plan to issue bonds for the unpopular project under Chapter 284 of the Texas Transportation Code, as both their attorney Rich Muller of Sugar Land and Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack have confirmed.
Chapter 284 of the Texas Transportation Code not only does not prohibit a referendum to approve the issuance of revenue bonds for a road project but, in fact, it expressly authorizes such a voter referendum. Section 284.037 incorporates Chapter 252 of the Texas Local Government Code into its bond issuance provisions. Even with a citizens petition to challenge the bond, Texas law makes clear “In the absence of a petition, the governing body may, at its discretion, order the referendum.” That’s Section 252.045(b)(second sentence).
“…the governing body may, at its discretion, order the referendum.” Section 252.045(b)(second sentence), Texas Local Government Code.
Prior to the Commissioners Court meeting, Muller, County Judge Craig Doyal, Halff Associates engineer and Doyal best friend and business partner Bobby Jack Adams, and Doyal “chief of staff” jim fredricks conducted a secret meeting in Doyal’s office. During that meeting, the secretive four discussed a possible method by which they could trick the citizens of Montgomery County and block any referendum. Their attempt to manipulate the law under Chapter 284 of the Transportation Code ultimately resulted in their failure during the Commissioners Court meeting to get anything done.
Riley’s commitment to a voter referendum if at all possible in September
Riley had great enough difficulty just presenting a report about Precinct 2 road bond projects during a presentation to the Magnolia Area Republican Women at Magnolia High School on Monday, September 18, 2017. When Riley opened the event to questions from the floor, however, the Commissioner descended into a heightened state of befuddlement as almost all of the inquiries concerned the proposed $85 million, 3 mile, Tx-249 Tollway, a topic about which Riley revealed he has little understanding.
Calvin Russell, husband of a Republican Precinct Chair from Magnolia, asked Riley, “Commissioner, are you for or against [having a voter referendum on the proposed tollroad] and why?”
Riley timidly answered, “I’m not for or against it. The county attorneys said we couldn’t put anything like that on the ballot for a referendum for any opinion.” He paused and then added, “I would always want someone to be able to vote on something like that, especially if we’re using taxpayer funds…”
Commissioner Riley: “I’m not for or against it. The county attorneys said we couldn’t put anything like that on the ballot for a referendum for any opinion… I would always want someone to be able to vote on something like that, especially if we’re using taxpayer funds…”
Whatever “county attorneys” to whom Riley referred seems to be quite a mystery. There have been no executive session meetings with any attorneys concerning the Tx-249 Tollway project.
Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark said, “I’m not aware the County Attorney ever said we couldn’t bring it to the voters to see if they wanted the road. One of the tollroad attorneys, Rich Muller, said in Commissioners Court you can’t hold a voter referendum, but that’s only for the issuance of revenue bonds. I believe holding a referendum is what should be done. I am personally not in favor of tollroads.”
Commissioner Clark: “I’m not aware the County Attorney ever said we couldn’t bring it to the voters to see if they wanted the road. One of the tollroad attorneys, Rich Muller, said in Commissioners Court you can’t hold a voter referendum, but that’s only for the issuance of revenue bonds. I believe holding a referendum is what should be done. I am personally not in favor of tollroads.”
The reality is the opportunity
Riley, Doyal, and Muller discussed during the Tuesday, April 10, 2018, Commissioners Court meeting that they intend to raid the County’s general revenue fund for another $5 million that they want to use to pay for some of the construction of the unpopular Tollway. Clearly, that approach meets Riley’s “using taxpayer funds” as a condition for the referendum Riley explained he’d want.
In fact, Riley, Doyal, and Muller have already spent $10.25 million of taxpayer funds on the TX 249 Tollway project.
Therefore, Riley truly now has his opportunity. The statute under which Riley intends to issue the revenue bonds for the Tollway expressly permits the Commissioners Court to order the referendum. The referendum would give the voters of Montgomery County the right to approve or disapprove the project. 91% of Montgomery County voters expressed they didn’t want any tollroad construction or financing without voter approval when they passed Proposition 2 in the March 6 Republican Primary Election.
Although Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal argued that people outside of Montgomery County allegedly support the 3 mile road construction, which, at $85 million and more than $25 million per mile, will be one of the most expensive roads ever constructed in American history, Sugar Land attorney Rich Muller, who Doyal and Riley hired, using County tax dollars, to provide legal services in favor of their Tx-249 Tollway project, indicated otherwise when he spoke to the Commissioners Court on April 11, 2017. Muller admitted, “If every road you vote on, you list individually…I think we all know what the result of most of those elections would be.”