Conroe, July 12 – Something remarkable happened in the Montgomery County Commissioners Court on Tuesday, July 10, 2018, when one member of the Court, Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack (R-The Woodlands), insisted on adherence to ethics over the recommendation of County Purchasing Director Gilbert Jalomo to award a contract to Tetratech Technologies. What was even more remarkable was that Noack’s motion to disregard Jalomo’s recommendation for the contract received a second from Precinct 1 County Commissioner Mike Meador with Charlie Riley, Precinct 2 Commissioner, joining to make the vote unanimous.
The circumstance concerned an Request for Proposal (RFP) for “All Hazards Preparedness, Planning, Consulting, and Recovery Services for Emergency Management.” It took Jalomo’s Purchasing Department six (6) months to prepare a recommendation to the Commissioners Court for the contract the idea for which was to have an emergency management contractor in place before the next hurricane or other natural disaster rather than after-the-fact. The Commissioners Court approved the terms of the RFP on January 23, 2018.
At the previous Commissioners Court meeting, on June 26, the Court deferred acting on Jalomo’s recommendation to hire Tetratech, because Noack expressed unhappiness with Tetratech’s performance as the contractor during and after the Harvey storm. Incredibly, however, Jalomo and County Judge Craig Doyal (who must be tone deaf to his colleagues and to the will of the citizens) brought the same matter back to the Court two weeks later on July 10 with the same recommendation to hire Tetratech.
Jalomo told the Commissioners, “The Court has a couple of options. We have Tetratech which is the most highly qualified, but a secondary is Hagerty Consulting…The initial thought is that we would award the primary to Tetratech but a secondary to Hagerty as secondary. This is for the buyouts.”
Noack responded, “Last time we talked about this in court, the discussion was that Tetratech was somewhat problematic.”
At that point, Noack dropped an ethics bomb on the discussion when he said, “Also, the guidelines when we put a product or service out to bid, we have a stipulation that states that attempts to contact any members of the Commissioners Court or any other County employee to influence a procurement decision may lead to immediate elimination of further consideration. I’d just like to add that my office has been contacted twice directly by a gentleman, Tom Combs, with Tetratech in my opinion to try to influence this decision. Because of that and the other problems we’ve previously had with them, I’d like to move forward in awarding this contract to Hagerty. That’s my motion.”
Meador seconded Noack’s motion and, without further discussion, Hagerty Consulting of Evanston, Illinois, received the contract by a unanimous vote of the Commissioners Court.
Noack raised an interesting point during the meeting, but his forceful action begs an important question. Could that language apply to other contracts as well? The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, will follow this story as it develops.