Conroe, June 12 – At least three major items appear on the Montgomery County Commissioners Court’s “open agenda” which are about as far from genuinely “open” as possible, because there is no backup to identify what they’re really concerning. That’s one of Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal’s and his nap-happy “chief of staff” jim fredricks’ methods of hiding the Montgomery County government from full public view.
Upgrading the Commissioners Court Audio-Visual System
There’s an item on the agenda, “CONSIDER, DISCUSS AND TAKE APPROPRIATE ACTION ON PROPOSED UPGRADE TO COMMISSIONERS COURT AUDIO VISUAL SYSTEM AND ASSOCIATED EQUIPMENT,” but there’s nothing to back it up. There’s no proposed contract. There’s no price. There’s no proposed County vendor.
It’s all a deep dark secret. It’s all pretty silly, because there should be no reason to hide something so simple from the public on the Commissioners Court Agenda.
With respect to the “Lone Star Executive Airport,” or whatever the Commissioners Court now calls the failing airport in Commissioners Precinct 1 that 90% of the citizens of this County don’t even know is there, the Airport Maintenance Director James Brown has a proposal, “CONSIDER AND TAKE APPROPRIATE ACTION RELATING TO AMENDMENT OF AIRPORT ADVISORY BOARD BYLAWS AND APPROVE AMENDED AND RESTATED BYLAWS.”
Once again, Brown failed to submit the proposed bylaws to the Commissioners Court in time for the public to have an opportunity to view this super-secretive measure.
Airport Advisory Board Bylaws shouldn’t be that complex. There’s certainly no reason for secrecy.
The biggest of all: $50 million of road bond funds
Where Doyal’s and fredricks’ secrecy gets really serious is when the Commissioners Court discusses tens of millions of dollars. In this instance on June 12, the Commissioners Court will discuss the distribution of $50 million of road bond funds.
Doyal and fredricks have not made any proposal with respect to the distribution of the funds nor have they provided any backup material showing how the Commissioners Court has used the 2015 road bond referendum funds to date.
After voters approved the November 2015 road bond referendum – and after Doyal, Riley, and corrupt local political boss even suffered a criminal indictment over the manner in which they allegedly handled the negotiations for that referendum – they’ve only spent less than 42% of the funds available under the road bonds.
In Commissioners Precinct 2, until late 2017 when the County approached the March 6, 2018, Republican Primary Election, Commissioner Charlie Riley had not done any of the 19 projects on his road bond project list other than the Keenan Cutoff expansion, which Riley prioritized as first for his political allies at the Magnolia Independent School District.
In reality, other than Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack, the completion of road bond projects by the County Commissioners Court members is stunningly low. Since County Judge Craig Doyal has taken responsibility for all County operations since the Commissioners Court gave him that authority in January, 2015, the blame must fall squarely on Doyal’s shoulders.
In actuality, since each Commissioners Precinct received a $70 million allocation under the total $280 million road bond package, the amount which the Commissioners spent is actually a much lower percentage than the 42% number might otherwise indicate. Doyal and Riley and their colleagues have failed to issue half of the $280 million approved road bonds in the November, 2015, referendum. In actuality, the completion of road bond projects constitutes the following percentages:
Precinct 1 – Commissioner Mike Meador 35.6% completion
Precinct 2 – Commissioner Charlie Riley 38.3% completion
Precinct 3 – Commissioner James Noack 87.1% completion
Precinct 4 – Commissioner Jim Clark 5.1% completion.
With the gigantic mobility problems that Commissioners Precinct 2 now faces, largely as a result of Riley’s failure to act with respect to the widening of F.M. 1488, the widening of F.M. 2978, and numerous other projects, the fact that Riley has just left almost $44 million on the table unused during the past three years is breathtaking.
Without question, Clark in Precinct 4 shows the lowest percentage completion. Clark explained, “Many of those projects on the Precinct 4 road bond list involve road projects that require state matching funds. I’ve completed the projects on the road bond list that I could, but I’m working on pushing TxDOT [the Texas Department of Transportation] to approve those projects, but the bureaucracy moves slowly. I’ve been meeting with TxDOT representatives at least once every month for the last few years.”
Riley would not return telephone calls with respect to this issue.
The history of the 2015 road bond referendum is, unfortunately, quite ugly. Doyal and Riley led the May 2015 road bond referendum, which included a proposal for a Woodlands Parkway Extension that would go west from F.M. 2978 in order to bring more traffic to the TX 249 Tollway project, also known as the Decimation of Hope Highway. When CDM Smith, an engineering consultant, prepared its traffic and revenue study for the TX 249 Tollway project in 2014, one of the assumptions to support the necessary revenue for construction of Doyal’s and Riley’s Tollway was that the Woodlands Parkway Extension (“WPX”) would be complete to bring traffic to TX 249 before the Decimation of Hope Highway opened.
Voters, especially in Commissioners Precincts 2 and 3, fought against the May 2015 road bond referendum, because of the inclusion of WPX within the proposed road projects. That proposed road bond referendum received only 42% of the votes out of more than 28,000 cast Countywide.
As a result, Doyal and Riley hired corrupt local political consultant Marc Davenport to negotiate a new road bond package for them with representatives of the Texas Patriots PAC and others. Davenport negotiated with the Texas Patriots PAC but made the mistake of including Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark in discussions as well, so the efforts appeared to be a conspiracy to circumvent the requirements of the Texas Open Meetings Act (“TOMA”) which required that County Commissioners Court deliberations must be in open meetings so the public may listen to and view them. Clark claims that he didn’t know the discussions involved a majority of the members of the Commissioners Court when Davenport spoke with him. There were many other problems with the manner in which Doyal, Riley, and Davenport handled the proposed November 2015 road bond referendum.
In November 2015, a $280 million road bond referendum passed with the agreement that a later $70 million road bond referendum would occur for some additional projects. During the campaign for the referendum, Doyal and Riley argued that passage of the road bond referendum was essential so they could proceed with road projects as quickly as possible.
In June, 2016, a Montgomery County Grand Jury indicted Doyal, Riley, and Davenport for alleged violations of TOMA. In April, 2017, a visiting District Judge, Randy Clapp, dismissed the cases against them after Doyal, Riley, and Davenport argued that TOMA violated their rights of free speech. In February, 2018, the Beaumont Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal, reinstated the indictments against Doyal, Riley, and Davenport, and ordered the case to trial. Doyal, Riley, and Davenport are appealing the Court of Appeals decision. Meanwhile, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has intervened in the criminal case on the side of the prosecution and against Doyal, Riley, and Davenport.
The Sage, Bill O’Sullivan, who is also the Treasurer of the Texas Patriots PAC, in an exclusive interview with The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, explained, “We passed a negotiated bond. Our agreement allowed in the first three years that $280 million could be spent. After 2 years of the 3 in this period, Precincts 1, 2, and 4 are way behind. Precinct 3 is fine. I attribute Precinct 3’s progress to Commissioner James Noack having a mobility plan and implementing it.”
Noack also explained that he and “my Chief of Staff Matt Beasley worked very early on to plan for a south Montgomery County mobility study” which they completed almost five (5) years ago. Noack told this newspaper that having the mobility study in place definitely “made the difference in completing the road bond projects timely.”
Both Noack and Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark have repeatedly called for a countywide mobility plan to identify and resolve mobility project needs swiftly. Doyal, Riley, and Meador have resisted a countywide mobility plan, because they’re concerned that they would then have less ability to fund highly-profitable projects that would benefit all of their outside-of-Montgomery-County political supporters who are vendors. Doyal and Riley, in particular, have made clear that they would prefer to allow Harris County Commissioner Jack Cagle and the Houston-Galveston Area Council have greater control over Montgomery County road projects.
O’Sullivan further explained, “James Noack will complete more than what was on his list because the Rayford Road project up to now has come in under the estimated cost. When he saw that, he did not look at it as a slush fund but returned the funds to the next two prioritized roads and even those will be finished at least two years ahead of initially projections.”
O’Sullivan also noted, “Noack has been faithful to the south Montgomery County mobility plan. Two very high priorities were to complete road bond projects that aided the mobility for the new schools around Benders Landing near Riley Fuzzel Road. Commissioner Noack got those projects done quickly.”
In early October, 2017, Davenport, Doyal’s and Riley’s representative for road projects, contacted representatives of the Texas Patriots Tea Party PAC to see if they’ll go ahead and support another road bond project for an additional $70 million in funding. Davenport, Doyal, and Riley want as much money available for County government spending as possible.
O’Sullivan is appalled that there has been so little progress on the road bond projects. “When I think back a few years ago to all the desperate pleas of needing this money so we can build these much-needed roads, I now see it was all a sham. They’re not building. I just shake my head at all these plaintive pleas back about 2 yrs ago when they had the prior bond turned down, because they failed to list projects and supported the Woodlands Parkway Extension.
O’Sullivan concluded, “The mobility needs of this County are not being met, because of the failure of the leadership of this County to plan. Instead, they’re focused on their [Tx-249] tollroad, so they’re calling for the Woodlands Parkway Extension which isn’t even on the HGAC 5o-year Thoroughfare Plan. By failing to move forward with our mobility needs and proper planning, the Commissioners Court is turning Montgomery County’s roads into a ‘spaghetti loop.’”