Image: (Left to right) Pro-spending and elitist Montgomery County Auditor Phyllis Martin (known to many as the “Grand Duchess”) and anti-budget and ardent liberal Library Director Jerilynne Williams welcomed new Budget Office Director Amanda Carter into the Montgomery County government bureaucracy after the County Commissioners secretly voted to hire Carter and conducted a fake public vote on March 20, 2018.
Conroe, April 2 – New Montgomery County government Budget Office Director Amanda Carter has had a rough start in her new position. Her hiring came after a secret February 13, 2018, vote that was illegal under the Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA). During that vote, which improperly occurred during an executive session that contained no public disclosure in the meeting posting that it even concerned anything about hiring a Budget Office Director, Precinct 1 County Commissioner announced that “I vote for the young girl” when Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal asked for the Commissioners Court’s decision on the hiring after secret interviews of the two finalist candidates.
Executive sessions may not include votes in secret but only information gathering, such as interviews and consultations with legal counsel. Nevertheless, not ever paying much heed to TOMA, criminal indictees Doyal and Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley made a secret decision along with the remainder of the Commissioners Court behind closed doors on February 27, 2018.
It was a terrible continuation to a Budget Office that began with a terrible start.
Budget Office creation was ironically an effort to spend tax dollars
The very creation of Doyal’s “Budget Office” is troubling. On the morning of July 28, 2017, Doyal announced to the Commissioners Court during the “budget workshop,” which excluded any public participation in violation of the Texas Local Government Code, that the Montgomery County government’s portion of the Montgomery Central Appraisal District (“MCAD”) Budget for Fiscal Year 2018 would go down from $2,293,255 (Fiscal Year 2017) to $2,184,000 (Fiscal Year 2018), a $109,255 savings, as a result of the County’s passage of a 20% homestead exemption, the passage for which local political activist Kelli Cook is primarily responsible. MCAD charges its budget based upon tax collections for each governmental entity. Since the County’s property tax collections went down a small amount as a result of the 20% homestead exemption, MCAD’s charge to the County government declined during this Fiscal Year.
Doyal also had a $50,120.52 vacancy on his County Judge’s payroll for three years, although Doyal has taxed Montgomery County citizens for that amount each fiscal year. Doyal “contributed” those funds to the “Budget Office” as well.
Doyal told the Commissioners Court that the new County “Budget Office” would have a budget of $300,000 per year. Therefore, the Commissioners Court had to move another approximately $140,000 into the new bureaucratic political office Doyal has created.
Doyal told the Commissioners Court that he hoped that moving the “budget function” away from County Auditor Phyllis Martin will “allow her to do her auditor’s job,” but the Commissioners Court refused to reduce the County Auditor’s Office’s budget by $300,000 to reflect its diminished responsibilities. Instead, the irony of the new Budget Office was that it merely constitutes a new bureaucratic expenditure on the taxpayers’ shoulders.
Delays in hiring for the position; no philosophical direction
Doyal and the Commissioners Court delayed any efforts to hire for the new position. Both Doyal and Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack assured the public that the new Budget Office Director would have the opportunity to study the management efficiency of all County Departments prior to the budget process in order to determine whether waste and inefficiency could reducing government spending. Instead, Doyal waited until the last possible moment to bring the Budget Office Director into the County government, so that she will have almost no opportunity whatsoever to propose lower budgets for each County Department.
Worse yet, the hiring for the new Budget Office Director, which clearly should have waited until the new Montgomery County Judge, likely Republican Mark Keough, comes into office on January 1, 2019, involved no discussion whatsoever of philosophical direction. No one would seriously consider anyone as superficial as Doyal or his “chief of staff” jim fredricks to engage candidates for the job in the philosophy of John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Robert Nozick, or Milton Friedman.
What is striking, however, about the documents that constitute the work papers from the hiring process, which The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, obtained for the research for this article, is that there was no discussion with the candidates for the Budget Office Director position whether (1) they were conservative, (2) they understood that the Montgomery County community’s citizens are among the most conservative in Texas if not the entire nation, or (3) they understood that their job was to lower government spending rather than to become an apologist for government spending.
Clearly, Doyal and fredricks sought such an apologist for government spending. The entire premise of the Budget Office Director job description which they created in secret, behind closed doors, and without any opportunity for public input, was to create a bureaucracy to justify the growth in government spending that Doyal and fredricks so desperately want and which the voters of Montgomery County clearly rejected on March 6 in the Republican Primary Election when they turned Doyal out of office after less than one term in office.
Doyal and fredricks sought a pro-spending bureaucrat. They got a pro-spending bureaucrat in Carter.
The hiring process for bureaucrat Carter
The job description is little more than bureaucratic gobbledygook:
“This position is responsible for financial and resource planning for all of Montgomery County. [Publisher’s Note: No, it’s not. The citizens of Montgomery County are perfectly capable of making their own financial and resource plans, except for the finances and resources the County government confiscates from us through taxation!] The Budget Officer will assist the court in setting a budget policy, lead the budget process, review and analyze budget requests, collaborate with all department heads and elected officials to identify efficiencies and areas for improvement, participate in financial/budget committees and create short and long term budget plans. [Publisher’s Note: There is no statement that the Budget Officer should work to reduce government spending since Montgomery County’s citizens manage their own finances and resources conservatively and expect the County government to do likewise.] In addition to these responsibilities the Budget Officer will develop and maintain long-range budgetary financial models in internal controls for Montgomery County and implement best-in-class mechanisms for departmental budgetary review to identify opportunities to more effectively deploy the County’s financial resources.”
On Wednesday, March 28, 2018, County Auditor Phyllis Martin, also known as the “Grand Duchess,” directly contradicted the Budget Office Director job description when Martin told the Board of District Judges that she, not the Budget Office Director, will continue to prepare all long-range financial models for the budget and will exclusively handle the “revenue” (i.e., taxation) side of County budgets.
During the interviews, the discussions with the candidates for Budget Office Director didn’t touch upon conservative philosophy in budgeting in conservative Montgomery County. Rather, the primary issues were (1) was she “able to respectfully offer recommendations to Mayor/Police Chief” of the City of Rowlett, since, of course, Doyal and fredricks are rather sensitive about the manner of respect they receive from other bureaucrats within the County government, (2) was she “confident” since it’s important for bureaucrats to appear confident in front of the public (to avoid any sort of effective “mau-mauing”); clearly any Budget Office Director for Doyal and fredricks must be the Chief “Flak-Catcher”). The items that caught the attention of the interviewers during Carter’s discussions with them were three-fold:
- “Traffic citations down significantly” in the City of Rowlett, so she had to deal with that issue in the budget there. Since Doyal has supported the efforts of JP James Metts which have resulted in a marked decline in collection of fees and fines in the JP courts (even though the assessment of those fees and fines has risen), it makes sense that Carter will have to face a similar fiscal nightmare of Metts’ and Doyal’s making here in Montgomery County, thanks to their terrible decision to use the Graves Humphries Stahl/NetData collection system.
- “Very confident.” (Discussed above.)
- “Good government office background; better fit; more relevant experience.” fredricks and Doyal found Carter’s bureaucratic past and lack of any experience having to budget in the private sector very appealing, since balancing budgets would get in the way of their desired massive spending increases.
On February 13, 2018, without any public vote in the Commissioners Court, as the TOMA would require, Doyal offered Carter a job as Budget Officer at a starting annual salary of $104,817 per year, plus benefits. County Human Resources Director Dodi Shaw included a description of County benefits along with the offer letter.
Carter’s bureaucratic work habits appeared even before she accepted the position. On February 26, 2018, Carter complained to fredricks that she was used to three weeks of vacation with the City of Rowlett while Montgomery County only offered two weeks of vacation for employees with less than five years of service. That is not a good sign of someone’s work ethic in a new job that would pay her $32,000 per year more than she made as the Budget Officer for the City of Rowlett, or a 44% increase in her compensation in an area where the cost of living is quite a bit lower than in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
Nowhere in Carter’s background – her undergraduate training, her masters in public administration training, her government finance certification, or her experience with the City of Rowlett – did Carter go through full zero-based budget training. The Golden Hammer has confirmed that Rowlett’s budget merely uses base-line budgeting, which is the most effective method of ensuring that government budgets continue to grow from year to year. What is clear is that Montgomery County Sheriff Rand Henderson, Chief Deputy Sheriff Ken Culbreath, and Sheriff’s Office Finance Director Carol Thompson all have far more experience and knowledge of the zero-based budgeting that Montgomery County so desperately needs in order to achieve the $100 million of budget cuts so vitally necessary to save the backs of the taxpayers.
Additionally, it’s become apparent that no one in the County government cared that Carter presided over major spending increases in the City of Rowlett. Just with the Fiscal Year 2018 budget alone, the City of Rowlett increased tax collections by $2,587,349, a 9.5% increase in total spending. Less than half of those increases – $1,109,439 – came from new properties. In other words, Carter fits the Doyal-Riley tax increase methodology perfectly. As Budget Director for the City of Rowlett, she presided over spending increases each year to absorb all of the appraisal district property tax increases each year.
Two other aspects to Carter’s start which should frighten every Montgomery County citizen
Carter’s rough start occurred after the Montgomery County Commissioners Court pretended to vote publicly on March 20, 2018, to offer her the Budget Officer job after they had voted secretly – and illegally – to do so on February 13.
fredricks told Carter in a February 26 email, “You report ultimately to the entire court, although for Day to Day issues, monthly department head meetings, etc., our office will be your point of contact. You are free to communicate as needed with any members of the court.” (Emphasis added.) Hopefully, someone has taken Carter aside and explained to her that Doyal and fredricks have lost any mandate whatsoever from the citizens of Montgomery County who are at the top of the organizational chart of the County government.
Carter has only made one public decision so far and it revealed her pro-government-spending bent.
At the March 27, 2018, Commissioners Court meeting, Virginia Little, Director of the County Risk Management Department sought enormous salary increases in the middle of the year for four of her employees, a basic violation of the tenet of government budgeting that such increases should only occur during the budget process. Little announced, however, that she had consulted with Carter, and Carter approved Little’s request for the massive salary increases.
Carter has started out as little more than an apologist for bureaucratic largesse. That’s not surprising when her hire occurred after a secret process over which Doyal and fredricks presided.