Image: Left to right, lobbyist Nelda Blair and Precinct 2 Montgomery County Commissioner Charlie Riley also known as “King of the Big Spenders of ‘Other Peoples’ Money.'”
The Golden Hammer Staff Reports
Conroe, January 14 – The Montgomery County Commissioners Court will go on a wild tax dollar spending spree at its first regular meeting of calendar year 2020, on Tuesday, January 14, at 9:30 a.m. With little oversight by the members of the Commissioners Court, the four County Commissioners – Precinct 1’s Mike Meador, Precinct 2’s Charliey Riley, Precinct 3’s James Noack, and Precinct 4’s James Metts – along with Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough, without even batting an eyelash, will spend more money in less than thirty seconds than the vast majority of Americans will earn during their entire working adult lives.
Without oversight or discussion, the Commissioners Court will spend $11,269,326.75. Here’s how it will happen. Montgomery County Judge Keough will call County Auditor Rakesh Pandey to the podium. Pandey will say “approve payment of accounts.” Without asking one question, making one comment, Judge Keough will ask, “Is there a motion?” One Commissioner will say “Moved.” Another Commissioner will say “Second.” Keough will then say “All those in favor?” That will be all of them. “All those against?” That will be none of them.
The Commissioners Court will have spent $11,269,326.75 in less than thirty (30) seconds. At that rate, they’d be spending $1.35 Billion per hour!
The rate of spending tax dollars is disconcerting. The primary problem, however, is the lack of oversight, lack of discussion, and complete lack of care. The Commissioners Court has a duty under the Texas Constitution to manage and oversee the business of the Montgomery County government. Looking the other way to allow the County Auditor to approve payment of $11,269,326.75 in expenditures is not management, not oversight, nor is it business. It’s a total disregard of duty.
More than anything else, the failure of members of the Commissioners Court to look at the one hundred and twenty-one page single-space spending report is the reason government has become so expensive to taxpayers. Clearly, there’s a mentality of “anything goes” as long as politicians find a plausible method of obfuscating the facts from the public.
Engineering and professional services contract payments are $4.207 million of the total $11.269 million of expenditures and suffer from the following problems, among others:
- There are no competitive bids.
- There is no oversight as to the pricing charged for services.
- County vendors may buy favor with members of the Commissioners Court through political contributions and certain gifts still allowable under the Code of Ethics, so the awarding of lucrative contracts to them constitutes an appearance of impropriety of not actual impropriety.
Another 420,184.09 of the expenditures are for local capital improvement projects, which all suffer from the same problems as the $4.207 spent on engineering and professional services.
No one, literally no one, examines whether prices for services or goods are competitive with what those same items would cost in the private open market.
For example, the Montgomery County Law Library, has proposed paying $635.00 for Westlaw. Westlaw is the most expensive of legal research services. The question citizens must ask is whether there is no less expensive alternative.
There are hundreds of credit card charges, which appear to have little backup and no explanation for their actual purpose. There are dozens of pages of retail expenditures for auto parts, hardware paint, and other building materials. Why does the County government not receive a government discount rather than paying the highest prices?
Quite simply, it’s time for the County Commissioners to do their jobs for which we’re paying them the exorbitant salaries of $175,000 per year plus lucrative benefits on the side.
It’s important to note that there are people within the Montgomery County government who are very sincere about financial reform, especially Judge Keough (the “People’s Judge” and Precinct 3 Montgomery County Commissioner James Noack who regularly exhibits the most preparation for each year’s budget workshops. The work of spending reform clearly begins each year with adoption of a budget which lowers the tax rate well below the effective tax rate, so that taxpayers will actually pay less each year in taxes. Nevertheless, that’s addressing spending on a large-scale level. Real spending reform must come from week-by-week oversight of actual expenditures to ensure that County taxpayers do not pay one cent above private market value rates for goods and services.