Conroe, November 27 – Montgomery County government spending is totally out of control. Instead of reducing the budget for Fiscal Year 2018, the Budget is actually the highest governmental expenditure budget in the history of Montgomery County. Since 2000, the County Budget has grown 428% while population has only grown 84%. The County government’s spending growth greatly exceeds the rate of spending growth even of the federal government.
On November 28, 2017, at 9:30 a.m., the County Commissioners Court will meet primarily in order to spend more money. One agenda item alone – payment of accounts – involves spending $8,604,822.56 over 80 single-spaced pages of spending items. The Commissioners and the County Judge, Craig Doyal, will take no action whatsoever to review those accounts, which actually contain a number of accounting errors and questionable expenditures. They won’t even discuss the largest spending item on the agenda, because it’s part of their secretive “consent agenda.”
Doyal and his colleagues on the Commissioners Court truly love to spend money, especially when it’s other people’s tax dollars. Here are the seven worst examples of wasteful spending on the November 28 Commissioners Court meeting agenda. They’re in no particular order other than the order they appear on the agenda.
WASTEFUL SPENDING ITEM #1 – Tx-249 Tollroad
The Commissioners Court will spend another $153,102.41 of general revenue fund tax dollars on the $73 million, 3.6 mile, Tx-249 extension, also known as the Decimation of Hope Highway. The Texas Department of Transportation has made clear they’d build the road and pay for it.
Doyal and Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley, however, want to build the road, and put the County taxpayers on the hook for it, so they can control which engineering vendors get the vast amount of funds. It shouldn’t surprise you that the vendors on the Tx-249 Tollway project are among the biggest contributors to the campaign war chests and criminal legal defense funds of Doyal and Riley.
The expenditures on the agenda for November 28 are:
- $87,355.59 paid to Jones & Carter engineers, major Doyal and Riley contributors;
- $39,043.04 paid to CDM Smith, the company undertaking a study to show the financial advisability of the tollroad and also currently under indictment and investigation in about half a dozen countries, including the United States, for bribing government officials and overcharging clients;
- $26,703.78 to Halff Associates, the engineering firm of Bobby Adams, Doyal’s best friend and business partner.
WASTEFUL SPENDING ITEM #2 – Engineer John Holzwarth out of road bond money
Doyal and the County Commissioners will pay private engineer John Holzwarth $16,526.48 for his work during the past two weeks as the road engineer supervising County government road bond projects, which the taxpayers voted to approve in the November, 2015, road bond referendum.
Holzwarth’s work entirely duplicates the job duties of County Engineer Mark Mooney who receives an annual salary of $162,064.26 plus benefits approximating $65,311.90, for total compensation of approximately $227,376.16. Mooney, in fact, is the official “Road Engineer” for Montgomery County under the Texas Government Code.
The payments to Holzwarth are totally unnecessary. The County shouldn’t pay an outside contractor to do the job of a salaried employee who (supposedly) is on the job.
WASTEFUL SPENDING ITEM #3 – Credit card charges
The Commissioners Court agenda shows hundreds of pages of Citibank, N.A., charges to the County government’s credit card. There is no backup material along with the agenda to verify that they charges are actually for any of the accounts under which the County Auditor has listed them.
Montgomery County’s Auditor has violated numerous rules under the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles of the United States General Accountability Office. Under the constitutional duty of the Commissioners Court to oversee the operations of the County government, the Commissioners Court should lay their eyes on the backup for all of those credit card charges.
There are literally hundreds of credit card charges which exceed $100,000 for this two-week period alone. None of those charges have any backup or verification presented with them.
WASTEFUL SPENDING ITEM #4 – Meador raids his “asphalt and road materials” account
Without any explanation or any backup whatsoever, Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador is transferring $140,000 even from his “asphalt and road materials” account to his “machinery and equipment” account under a budget amendment.
Under the Texas Local Government Code, amendments to the approved budget may only occur if there is an emergency and a matter of “grave and urgent necessity.” This transfer of funds from Meador’s much-needed “asphalt and road materials” account has no justification or even the slightest explanation.
The “asphalt” accounts of the County Commissioners have become one of their two main “slush funds” to circumvent the strict requirements of the Texas Local Government Code with respect to budgeting.
WASTEFUL SPENDING ITEM #5 – Riley raids his “asphalt and road materials” account
Just like Meador, Riley is raiding his “asphalt and road materials” account to the tune of $154,957.00 for “vehicles.” There’s no explanation for what the vehicles are. Perhaps, Riley is purchasing more of those County-owned carts that he used at his campaign kickoff on October 14, 2017. Of course, that’s speculation, because Riley has provided no backup or explanation whatsoever.
If residents of Precinct 2 see that their road improvements are not moving along as fast as they should, now you know the reason why: the money for those projects is draining into other funds for Riley’s use.
WASTEFUL SPENDING ITEM #6 – Doyal’s “strategic plan”
Doyal wants the County government to pay an outside consulting firm a lot of money to formulate a “strategic plan” for Montgomery County. It’s unclear how much the wasteful expenditure will be but it’s obvious it will be quite a bit more than $49,500.
Doyal’s proposal raises some important question:
- Since we pay Doyal $169,000 per year to serve as our County Judge, why don’t we get him to formulate a strategic plan as part of what we pay the man?
- We’re less than four months away from a major election which will likely replace Doyal as County Judge with someone whose head is steadier. Why would we want to move forward on a strategic plan now when Doyal has done nothing on a strategic plan during his first three years in office?
- Is this strategic plan just a political image thing? If so, why doesn’t Doyal pay his campaign consultant out of his campaign funds to prepare the strategic plan?
- Why aren’t we going to spend the money instead on what is truly and desperately needed: a countywide mobility study, which Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark and Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack have called for over the past three years?
WASTEFUL SPENDING ITEM #7 – Meador’s new jobs
Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador wants to move $277,764 from his “asphalt and road materials” account and hire four new operator positions and give a giant raise to a current members of his road crew. With benefits and salaries, the average amount for the five positions will exceed $55,552.
Meador hardly utilizes his road crews right now as it is. His road and bridge employees usually spend about 1 to 2 hours at the end of three to four work days each week drinking beer with Meador behind his Commissioner’s barn.
As Noack has repeatedly said, these types of new positions should be part of the Commissioners Court budget process, not in the middle of the budget year.