Image: Precinct 4 Montgomery County Constable Kenneth “Rowdy” Hayden (center) and his Chief Deputy Barry Welch (left) are the subjects of a Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) investigation, the findings of which TCOLE’s Michael Watts and other investigators will present to the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unity on Tuesday morning. Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon appears in the background of the photograph in a gray suit.
Conroe and New Caney, July 31 – After a six week investigation of Precinct 4 County Constable Kenneth “Rowdy” Hayden and his Chief Deputy Barry Welch, Enforcement Investigation Sergeant Michael Watts of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) and at least one other TCOLE investigator will present their factual findings to the Public Integrity Unit of Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon on Tuesday, July 31, 2018. The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, has confirmed through two individuals inside of the DA’s office, one TCOLE Enforcement Division employee in Austin, and a former Montgomery County government employee, who requested anonymity since the case involves an ongoing investigation and they fear reprisal, that the meeting will occur in Conroe in the DA’s office.
TCOLE’s decision to pursue prosecution of the serious case with respect to Hayden and Welch raises serious questions whether Ligon should recuse himself and ask for the appointment of a special prosecutor (formally known as a prosecutor pro tem) due to Ligon’s strong political and personal ties to Hayden.
Watts works under the direction of TCOLE Enforcement Captain Doug Skolaut of Austin. Skolaut has been directly involved in the Hayden-Welch investigation, which sources inside TCOLE say is very unusual.
The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) has investigate Hayden and Welch over whether or not they turned in false training and certification documents to the state agency with respect to a civil law class they supposedly took a year ago. The documents involve instances where Hayden and Welch were course students and also circumstances where they provided training to others. Civil law is the centerpiece of the constitutional duties of a Constable under Texas law, since their required duties involve service of civil process, such as lawsuits and civil complaints.
TCOLE investigators spent a full day examining records in Hayden’s Constable’s Office in New Caney on Thursday, June 7, 2018. The investigators returned to Hayden’s Office for another day of investigation on Tuesday, June 12. They have also investigated records at the City of Roman Forest, which is the official “training provider” for law enforcement agencies in East Montgomery County. Skolaut, Watts, and other TCOLE investigators have returned to Montgomery County to interview witnesses and review internal documents inside of law enforcement agencies.
Hayden spoke with The Golden Hammer on Thursday, June 14, and confirmed the pendency of the investigation. He did, however, state, “We’ve provided TCOLE with information that we believe shows that we are in full compliance with TCOLE regulations and with Texas law.” Hayden explained that he provided the information to TCOLE on Wednesday, June 13, but that he could not comment further about the matter because it is an ongoing investigation.
”I try to provide the best public safety and law enforcement services to keep the people of East Montgomery County safe,” Hayden told this newspaper. “Serving this community is what I love to do.”
TCOLE is the main regulatory agency for all certified peace officers in the State of Texas, including sheriffs, deputies, constables and their deputies, marshals, police officers, and other similar law enforcement positions. All law enforcement officers must take 40 hours of continuing education, training, and certifications every two (2) years. Constables and their deputies must have 20 hours every two years in civil process, since that is the primary statutory duty of constables under Texas law.
In recent years, TCOLE and local law enforcement agencies have become far more strict to ensure compliance with the education, training, and certification requirements. Just recently, two high profile matters occurred in Montgomery County concerning TCOLE training.
Earlier this year, in April, 2018, The Golden Hammer published a letter concerning some TCOLE-required training that a Sheriff’s Captain allowed one of his subordinates to take for him. The Captain resigned his commission the following morning.
In 2015, an investigation arising out of the law enforcement training and licensure of Houston Texans football star Mario Williams resulted in the order that Lone Star College close its police academy down for numerous instances of non-compliance with TCOLE regulations and related state law.
The investigation by TCOLE arose from the names and signatures of Hayden and Welch appearing on the training roster which the training instructor turned into TCOLE, when there were reports that Hayden and Welch did not attend the class. Training instructors are responsible for student attendance and for the accuracy of certifications submitted to the state regulatory agency.
Ligon’s appearance of conflict of interest
Ligon and Hayden are close personal friends who have known each other since they worked together as detention officers in the Montgomery County Jail before Ligon went to law school and before Hayden became a certified peace officer. They have supported each other politically as well as worked together on prosecution of some important cases that arose in East Montgomery County.
In the 2018 Republican Primary Election, Hayden and Ligon together supported JP James Metts who successfully challenged incumbent Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark.
In 2015, Ligon recused himself from the pending investigation of Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal, Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley, Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark, and local political boss Marc Davenport for alleged violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act, because Davenport was working for Ligon’s First Assistant District Attorney as a consultant at the time. After the recusal, then 9th District Judge Kelly Case appointed Houston attorney Christopher Downey as the prosecutor pro tem, or special prosecutor, in the case. Downey remains the prosecutor prosecuting Doyal, Riley, and Davenport under the pending criminal indictment, which a Montgomery County Grand Jury handed down in June, 2016.
Ligon and his Assistant District Attorneys are outstanding prosecutors. That doesn’t eliminate the perception, however, that intense politics would swirl around Ligon’s consideration of whether to prosecute his close friend.
As this newspaper has confirmed that TCOLE’s investigators wish to pursue criminal prosecution in this matter, the public integrity of this matter would appear stronger if a prosecutor from outside of Montgomery County were involved. If Hayden and Welch are vindicated, no one would question the actions of an outside prosecutor.