Senator Creighton requests AG Paxton legal opinion, in response to Montgomery County government’s CARES Act funds grab

State Senator Brandon Creighton.

The Golden Hammer Staff Reports

Conroe and Austin, September 16 – Montgomery County’s government under the leadership of County Judge Mark Keough and Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley, the two biggest government spending proponents on the Commissioners Court, refused to acknowledge the $55 per capita distribution to local governments under Congress’ 2020 CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF). In response to the County Commissioners Court’s unanimous refusal to distribute the full $55 per capita to local governments in Montgomery County, Woodlands Township Board members Shelley Sekula-Gibbs and Gordy Bunch and other directors requested that Texas Senator Brandon Creighton ask Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton whether withholding the funds for distribution is legal, The Golden Hammer has confirmed with sources inside the Woodlands Township, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal.

Under the CARES Act, the United States Department of the Treasury allocated funds at the rate of the $55 per capita to state governments, which then distributed the funds to cities with a population of 500,000 or more and, otherwise, to county governments. Since no city or local government entity in Montgomery County even comes close to the population threshold, the money-hungry Montgomery County government, which has consistently increased spending at an enormous rate during the past twenty-three (23) years, set a policy of distributing the CRF funds only to the extent local governments could prove excess expenditures directly arising from a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a result of the County government’s restrictive policy for distribution of CRF funds, Montgomery County distributed far less than the $55 per capita to the local governments in the community.

At the March 9, 2021, Commissioners Court meeting, nasty recriminations broke out in response to critical remarks Township Chairman Bunch had made during a Township Board meeting. Please see “Montgomery County, Woodlands Township in warlike feeding frenzy over CARES Act funds; Noack said “I think an apology should be issued,” The Golden Hammer, March 22, 2021 https://thegoldenhammer.net/montgomery-county-woodlands-township-in-warlike-feeding-frenzy-over-cares-act-funds-noack-said-i-think-an-apology-should-be-issued/

During the March 9 discussion among the members of the Commissioners Court, Keough wouldn’t allow Sekula-Gibbs, a Township Director, to speak, but he did allow her to wait almost an hour later to make a citizen comment at the end of the meeting long after the Commissioners Court mouthed off. When Sekula-Gibbs finally was able to speak, Keough cut her off at exactly 3 minutes, even though Keough is known to allow his political allies, such as Dave Roberts, to speak more than twice that long.

Sekula-Gibbs told the Commissioners Court, “Last June of 2020, the Woodlands requested reimbursement for some legitimate CARES Act expenses that totaled $6.1 million for The Woodlands…We were reimbursed somewhere in the $280,000 range, not the $6.1 million, a far cry from it. We are interesting in receiving the rest of that $6.1 million for our residents. We think it is due to them…Texas received $11.2 billion in CARES Act money, and the jurisdictions which are over 500,000 in population received $3.2 billion. Jurisdictions of less than 500,000 population got $1.85 billion. The jurisdictions like Montgomery County, which are over 500,000 in population got that money directly. Then they were supposed to hand it down to qualified municipalities and jurisdictions, which would include The Woodlands. Those 500,000-plus jurisdictions are 6 cities and 12 counties.”

Sekula-Gibbs then explained an interesting comparison between Montgomery County and the others of those cities and counties of 500,000 or more in population, which received CARES Act funds. She explained, “When the Township didn’t receive what we were supposed to, we asked our Vice President of Finance to look at other counties to see how they did it. She reported at one of our meetings that she received responses from most of the counties that she requested information from. Out of the those…all of them allocated money to the smaller jurisdictions at the rate of $55 per capita. Williamson County gave in excess of $55 per capita…”

At precisely that point, Keough interrupted Sekula-Gibbs and told her, “Dr. Gibbs, your time is up.” Keough didn’t allow Sekula-Gibbs to explain that, under the formula all other 12 counties used to distribute CARES Act funds, the Woodlands Township would have received more than $7.5 million in additional CARES Act funds.

Sekula-Gibbs, as she was pulled away from the podium, added, “Montgomery County is the outlier…We look forward to hearing from you.”

Montgomery County’s government is, in fact, an outlier for massive government spending and a reputation as “the most corrupt county government in Texas,” as Keough noted during his 2018 campaign for Montgomery County Judge.

Creighton noted in his letter to General Paxton that Montgomery County’s government established its own criteria for the distribution of CRF funds. Rather than distributing the $55 per capita, the County Commissioners Court set the far more restrictive criteria, so that the cash-hungry County government could spend the funds itself.

Creighton’s full letter to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton follows.

Letter from Texas Senator Brandon Creighton, Republican of Conroe, to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, dated September _____, 2021.

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