Steganography on Display: County Judge Doyal, Chief of Staff Fredricks Late-Friday Commissioners Court Agenda, Consisting of 16 Pages and 2,274 Pages of Backup Documents; Impossible for Commissioners, Public to Have Meaningful Notice

Leonardo loved steganography in his works.

Conroe, February 12 – Without providing any advance information to the rest of the Commissioners Court or the public, County Judge Craig Doyal and his Chief of Staff Jim Fredricks posted an agenda for the February 14, 2017, 9:30 a.m., Commissioners Court meeting with 2,274 pages of backup. Clearly, Doyal and Fredricks seek to prevent any ability for the Commissioners Court members of the public to have any meaningful notice or understanding of the items they seek to adopt.

The backup is missing two major items: (1) the proposed procedures of County Attorney J.D. Lambright regarding the weak Code of Ethics the Commissioners Court passed three weeks ago on January 24, (2) the payroll change request forms which would show requested raises, hirings, and terminations for the County payroll.

Steganography is the process of “hiding in plain view.” The term originates from a 1499 cryptography treatise by Johannes Trithemius, a German abbott, who wrote Steganographia. Special Prosecutor Lawrence Walsh popularized the term in 1989 when he spoke of the procedure of hiding harmful documents, responsive to subpoenas, by putting them inside document productions consisting of millions of pages. Recently County Attorney J.D. Lambright and his staff attempted steganography by hiding documents, revealing that he had written articles in the Courier blog under the byline “Catherine Dominguez,” in the middle of a production of irrelevant and worthless documents. The Golden Hammer found the documents anyway.

Doyal’s and Fredricks’ Commissioners Court agenda for February 14 includes a 10-page “Consent Agenda” which the Commissioners usually do not discuss and approve by one unanimous consent. The Consent Agenda tends to be where Doyal and Fredricks, along with Meador, Riley, and Clark, hide items they do not want to bring to the attention to the public.

The Agenda does not include a 3% across-the-board salary increase from County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport for her entire Department. The Agenda does not seem to include any requested pay raise for Lindsey Doyal, the daughter of County Judge Craig Doyal, who works for the County Treasurer as the “Payroll Coordinator,” although without the Human Resources backup documentation it’s impossible to determine what pay raises the County will perpetrate on the citizens on February 14.

Ethics Implementation: Secrecy and Lack of Transparency

Perhaps, the most significant agenda item is Item 27A, “Consider, discuss, and take appropriate action on the status and implementation of procedures related to the Montgomery County Code of Ethics,” an item assigned to County Attorney J.D. “Ice Man” Lambright. There is no backup to this item and nothing whatsoever presented with the posted agenda. Lambright would leave the public to guess what is happening with this vitally important implementation of the utterly weak ethics policy the Commissioners Court adopted on January 24, 2017.

Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District

Under Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack’s agenda items, he has made clear that he continues to support the appointment of former Conroe Mayor Webb Melder to the Board of Directors of the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District.

Homestead Exemption

Commissioner Noack has also included an agenda item for the meeting to take action up to 20% for the homestead exemption after the presentation by Tax Assessor-Collector Tammy McRae. Although this agenda item would likely apply to the Fiscal Year 2018 Budget, beginning October 1, 2017, it would be sound policy to set the goal for the inclusion of the full 20% exemption in the budget now so that such policy will assist in promoting spending reductions, which the County government and its desperate taxpayers so desperately need. Quite frankly, the less money in the hands of the perpetrators of this County government means the citizens would be that much better off.

Property Tax Reform

Commissioner Noack and Precinct 4 Commissioner Jim Clark have jointly offered a resolution to support meaningful tax reform at the state level. Of course, the Commissioners Court should adopt the resolution and support such efforts. More importantly, they should show REAL leadership and implement the most meaningful tax reform of all: drastic reductions in spending in the Montgomery County government. The “NIMBY” (not in my back yard) approach to spending reductions, in other words politicians trying to blame every other government institution but their own, is murdering the fiscal health of taxpayers in Montgomery County, in Texas, and in the rest of the United States of America.

Returning County Administrative/Management Structures Back to the Entire Commissioners Court

Commissioners Noack and Clark have wisely proposed to move the management of all County Departments back to the entire Commissioners Court rather than under the direction of Craig Doyal and his “chief of staff” Jim Fredricks. Doyal and Fredricks have no management background or experience. They’ve made a mess. The Commissioners Court should follow the Texas Constitution, Article V, Section 18(b) by fulfilling their duties as a whole Court to manage the entire County government.

Moving the County government away from Doyal and Fredricks, and their law puppet of secrecy County Attorney Lambright, would likely return openness and transparency to the County government that the citizens enjoyed when County Judge Alan Sadler and County Attorneys David Walker and Frank Bass were at the helm.

The Consent Agenda for the February 14 meeting includes the following items, among others:

110 single, spaced pages of payment items, that include, among many, many others:

  1. numerous Citibank credit card charges unidentified totaling thousands of dollars
  2. an $11,215 payment to Halff Associates engineers, the firm of Craig Doyal’s business partner and best friend out of the County Engineer’s Department
  3. numerous pages of payments to “North West Pest” out of the Precinct 1 “Road and Bridge” fund
  4. several payments to major political contributor Bob Smith’s firm Geoscience Engineering from various Precincts
  5. $247,000 of undocumented road and bridge fund expenditures from the Precinct 4 “Road and Bridge” fund
  6. a single invoice of $1,128,274.28 to Correct Care, the County health purveyor
  7. $241,267.21 on certificates of obligation
  8. $4,895.75 to Halff Associates, the firm of Doyal’s business partner and best friend for work on the Sheriff’s District 1 building (what is an engineering firm doing on a building already constructed and why is that explanation not on the agenda)
  9. $936,657.34 of payments to a variety of politically-contributing engineering and contracting firms supposedly under the road bonds
  10. payments over $6,000 to Barbara Adamick for road bond work from Precinct 2
  11. payments totaling $143,286.99 for the Tx-249 “Decimation of Hope Highway” project, that is 3.6 miles at the far southwest edge of Montgomery County, for a project that TxDOT has indicated they’d build any way, if Montgomery County did not spend the money, including $82,265.05 for Halff Associates
  12. 27 major budget amendments for Fiscal Year 2017 totaling
  13. transfers from the Precinct 1 Road and Asphalt fund to non-road expenditures totaling approximately $80,000, including more than $70,000 for a parallel taxiway extension at Meador’s pet project, the airport
  14. transfers to Precinct 1 for cell phones for employees
  15. $8,268.14 from the Precinct 1 Road and Bridge fund apparently to pay for flowers!!!!!!!! (Meador must have many Valentines.)
  16. Commissioner Noack is increasing his road and bridge fund from saving money from other accounts
  17. Commissioner Clark is carrying over more than $700,000 from road and bridge funds, which he did not spend, and putting them into other funds
  18. Paying $90,000 to the San Jacinto River Authority, the government authority that is attempting to monopolize the water market through the artifice of the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District which is preventing property owners from utilizing their own groundwater – this proposed grant by County Judge Doyal would benefit SJRA and ultimately the numerous engineers and contractors who contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to Doyal for his political fund and for his legal defense
  19. Approving an amendment to an Advance Funding Agreement between the State and Montgomery County for the Tx-249 “Decimation of Hope Highway” but only one of six pages of the amendment is even in the Commissioners Court packet, so Doyal and Fredricks are hiding the terms of the Amendment from the other Commissioners Court members and the public
  20. Approving various advertising proposals for requests for proposals for architecture and construction
  21. Approve dozens of contracts through the Purchasing Department that have little, if any, oversight and total just under $3,000,000
  22. Approving the Weaver and Tidwell audit contract that does not include a full examination audit
  23. Approve plats for several subdivisions three of which reveal calls on the legal descriptions which are facially incorrect – it’s apparent no one in the County Engineer’s Office reviewed the metes and bounds descriptions
  24. There is no documentation or backup for payroll change request forms! Item 9G1. That’s not steganography. That’s just outright hiding information from the public!
  25. Adopting a County HazMat policy.
  26. Sheriff Rand Henderson did an outstanding job presenting a comprehensive and detailed racial profiling report in compliance with requirements of the Texas Commissioner on Law Enforcement and the United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division.
  27. Adopt interlocal agreement with Harris County to rebuild Decker Prairie-Rosehill Road Bridge and split the local cost of that project, approximately $74,000 for each county.
  28. Acquire rights of way for the McCaleb Road expansion project. At least one call on the legal descriptions is facially incorrect.
  29. After the Consent Agenda, there are various law enforcement proposals, including more from Precinct 1 Constable Philip Cash who is reorganizing his Constable’s Office. Sheriff Henderson has gotten a grant to purchase noptic thermal image cameras for some of the vehicles in his Sheriff’s Office.

County Tax Assessor-Collector Tammy McRae will make a presentation, in response to the suggestion of Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack, in response to original reports in The Golden Hammer newspaper, concerning property tax exemptions that Montgomery County has failed to make available to homeowners subject to ad valorem taxes.

County Elections Administrator Suzie Harvey will certify that there were insufficient signatures on a petition to legalize the sale of all alcoholic beverages for offsite use for sale in the territory of the Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace.







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