Image: Left, Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal, and, center, Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley.
Conroe and Magnolia, November 1 – The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, has confirmed that the Montgomery Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney’s Office have initiated a new investigation of Precinct 2 Montgomery County Commissioner Charlie Riley for abuse of public office and that a Montgomery County Grand Jury will begin to hear evidence in the investigation as early as next week. During the past three days, two current Precinct 2 employees, three former Precinct 2 employees, two Sheriff’s Deputies, and one additional County government employee have discussed the new investigation under the condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile, Riley has recently terminated four employees and demoted one other, because those employees previously testified to a Grand Jury earlier this year while some supported Riley’s electoral opponent in the Republican Runoff Election, Gregory Parker, the relative newcomer who came within 89 votes of besting Riley in the March 6 Republican Primary Election out of more than 15,000 cast.
Earlier criminal investigation
On April 3, 2018, Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon announced that the Grand Jury’s term had expired without indictments of Riley and Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal for abuse of office, primarily as a result of the expiration of the statute of limitations for the criminal conduct alleged during the investigation, which involved Riley’s and Doyal’s alleged misuse of public funds, employees, services, and property for personal and political purposes.
During an interview with The Golden Hammer on April 3, Ligon made the following points about Riley and Doyal:
“As a separate matter from the result of the criminal investigation, speaking for myself, the Commissioners Court appears to be bereft of a moral compass. ‘Chicanery’ is such a great word to describe them, because it deals with political obfuscation in dealing with the public. I join with MCLEA [the Montgomery County Law Enforcement Association] in believing it’s time for a change. They have a good County Attorney and they fail to listen to his advice. As long as their activity is constantly skirting the criminal law, they’re going to be investigated and their activity is going to be brought into question…”
Two weeks later, Ligon told an audience in Magnolia, “The reason I’m here is that I know that Commissioners shouldn’t threaten the DA. They shouldn’t say that they’ll take the scalp of the DA. County Commissioners shouldn’t threaten me.”
On April 24, 2017, a Liberty County Jury convicted Precinct 1 Liberty County Commissioner Mike McCarty of misuse of government personnel and misuse of government property (valued around $750), which resulted from his removal from office as a County Commissioner.
Riley’s mess of Commissioner Precinct Office
Riley is already under indictment for “official misconduct” in the form of alleged violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act. His criminal case is now pending before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals along with his co-defendants Doyal and local political boss Marc Davenport.
After Riley won a hotly-contested Republican Runoff Election on May 22, he unfortunately failed to put his nose to the grindstone. According to his employees, Riley comes to the office only two to three days per week and rarely works for more than a few hours. Riley depends on his Operations Manager Don Dean to run the road and bridge operations, while his recently-hired “chief of staff” Bruce Berger seems focused on monitoring whether Precinct 2 employees engage in activities which Riley might fear could get him into political trouble.
The early 2018 criminal investigation involved conduct alleged to have occurred while Doyal was the Precinct 2 County Commissioner and Riley served as his Operations Manager. Riley became a Montgomery County Commissioner on January 1, 2015, the same day when Doyal took the oath of office as County Judge.
Therefore, much of the conduct of the earlier Grand Jury investigation involved actions that occurred more than four (4) years ago when Doyal and Riley, as well as other County officials, allegedly directed the employees of the Precinct 2 Commissioner Office to provide them personal services.
According to the current and former County government employees with whom The Golden Hammer spoke over the past few days, Riley continued much of his use of public property, employees, services, and funds for his own, his family’s, and some of his friends’ personal enjoyment.
The current allegations against Riley include the following actions with respect to County government employees and property, which he allegedly took since he became a County Commissioner on January 1, 2015:
- Riley ordered his vehicle shop employees to work on his personal boat and camper to provide repairs and upgraded equipment on them;
- Riley had his shop crew replace the front end of his recreational vehicle after he had smashed it one weekend;
- Riley ordered his vehicle technicians to do work on his and his wife Deanne Riley’s personal vehicles;
- Don Dean, the Operations Manager, took County mowing equipment to Dean’s ranch to use there;
- Riley had County employees install brand new County government tires on Riley’s personal truck;
- Riley ordered his shop crew to put brakes and a water pump on Riley’s personal truck;
- Riley arranged for his employees to do work on the four-wheelers of his children;
- During one County business day, Riley ordered Shop Foreman Chris Decuir, shop employee Mason Ramsey, and Riley’s nephew, who works for the County government in Riley’s Precinct Office, to change a tire on Riley’s daughter’s horse trailer when her vehicle stopped off of Nichols Sawmill Road in the Heritage Point neighborhood;
- Riley’s nephew, Brady Copeland, whom many of the employees refer to as “Shady Brady,” took a County government tractor to his home for a week to do dirt work at Copeland’s property;
- Riley allowed Copeland to take a commercial recycling scale, used at the County’s Precinct 2 recycling facility, to Copeland’s home for several months to weigh his children’s pigs as they raised them for the local fair competitions;
- Riley permitted one of his supervisory employees, Allen Fleming, to take home chain saws and tires for Fleming’s boat and recreational vehicle;
- Riley ordered his County employees to install a stack on a barbecue cooker, which was either Riley’s or former Sheriff (and Riley’s best friend) Tommy Gage’s;
- Riley ordered his shop foreman to go to Riley’s home to remove an exercise machine from the house and put it outside so that some company could haul the machine away;
- Riley ordered his crew to work on his garage door at his house;
- Riley permitted Copeland, his nephew, to take street signs and copper to scrap dealers to sell so he could have the cash;
- Riley permitted Copeland to take an aluminum guardrail to sell for cash at a scrap yard in Magnolia for cash.
Two of the current County employees who provided confidential interviews for this newspaper separately estimated the value of the foregoing property and services Riley allegedly took from the County since he came into office on January 1, 2015, in the range of $20,000.
The one practice that got Riley and Doyal in the most trouble during the early 2018 criminal investigation was using County employees and property for their political campaigns. Several of the employees described how Riley ordered the employees to assemble political materials and leaflets utilizing Copeland’s sign department office tables as a staging area. Apparently, that practice stopped after Doyal became County Judge and Riley became the Commissioner.
During the past three weeks, Riley has fired Phil Scott, a long-time mowing supervisor, and his son Rowdy Scott. The father, Phil, testified before the Montgomery County Grand Jury earlier this year. On Monday, October 29, Riley fired Chris Decuir, who also testified before the Grand Jury. Riley also fired Greg Patton, a heavy equipment operator. On Tuesday, October 30, Riley demoted Mason Ramsey, a shop employee.
All of the fired and demoted employees supported Parker for County Commissioner in the Republican Runoff Election.
One of the employees said of Riley, “He’s a sorry vindictive person. We all voted against him.”
Sadly, Ligon’s April 3 comment, “As long as their activity is constantly skirting the criminal law, they’re going to be investigated and their activity is going to be brought into question…” seems eerily prescient.
As for the ongoing investigation, Ligon’s District Attorney’s Office correctly didn’t comment in response to this newspaper’s inquiry. Special Crimes Bureau Chief Tyler Dunman said, “Mr. Yollick, as per our standard policy, we are not able to confirm public integrity investigations. I know you can appreciate this confidentiality, especially during election season when there are so many that seek to weaponized our office for political gain. Thank you for your understanding.”
Riley didn’t respond to requests for comment.