Image: Sugar Land lawyer Rich Muller spoke to the Montgomery County Commissioners Court on Tuesday, April 10, 2018. Before the meeting, Muller met with County Judge Craig Doyal, “chief of staff” jim fredricks, and Doyal’s best friend and business partner Bobby Jack Adams, the engineer with Halff Associates, Inc., the TX 249 “project manager,” to discuss how they could circumvent Texas Transportation Code Chapter 284’s right of the citizens to petition to seek a referendum to vote up or down on the $76 million-plus project.
Conroe, April 13 – A raucous discussion of the $76 to $85 million, 3 mile, TX 249 Tollway, also known as the Decimation of Hope Highway, occurred during the April 10, 2018, meeting of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court. Precinct 2 Montgomery County Commissioner Charlie Riley had placed two major items on the meeting agenda, letting a $56 million construction contract to Austin-based SpawGlass Construction to build the unpopular tollroad, and approving issuance and sale of $56 million of revenue bonds.
Things didn’t work out as Riley and Doyal had hoped, however.
The day before the meeting, Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack had spoken with County tollroad lawyer, Rich Muller of Sugar Land, who confirmed that Riley and Doyal hoped to issue the revenue bonds for the Decimation of Hope Highway under Chapter 284 of the Texas Transportation Code. As a result, Noack announced on Monday, April 9, that he intended to lead a drive to gather petition signatures to call for a voter referendum on whether the County government should issue the bonds to finance construction of the road, the total amount of which would be in the range of $76 to $85 million.
Texas Transportation Code Chapter 284 explicitly allows the County government to call for a referendum to allow voters to approve or disapprove the road financing which, in a normal County government, would precede the letting of the contract for the construction. Since Riley and Doyal have made clear they wouldn’t support a citizen referendum, despite Riley’s public promises to the contrary, Noack would lead a petition drive to require that the County government hold a voter referendum before issuance of the revenue bonds.
Of course, Montgomery County’s government is no normal government nor is this tollroad project normal. The driving force behind the 3-mile Decimation of Hope Highway is the enormous desire of Riley and Doyal to funnel public dollars to their closest friends who have established and funded their criminal legal defense funds to defend the pending criminal indictments pending against them for official misconduct in the form of alleged violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act.
If the Texas Department of Transportation built the 3 mile Decimation of Hope Highway as a free road, then Riley and Doyal couldn’t control who would receive the funds. Specifically, they couldn’t funnel money into the hands of Halff Associates, Inc., the firm of Doyal’s best friend and business partner Bobby Jack Adams, and of Jones & Carter, the other engineering firm that helped with the establishment of Doyal’s legal defense fund.
If the Texas Department of Transportation didn’t build the 15.3 mile section of the TX 249 Extension as a tollroad immediately adjacent to and north of the 3 mile Decimation of Hope Highway section, then Riley and Doyal’s tollroad wouldn’t make any sense. In other words, a 3 mile tollroad next to a 15.3 mile free road would be pretty strange. Therefore, Riley and Doyal strenuously lobbied the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to build the 15.3 mile section as a tollroad.
The County Commissioners of little Grimes County lobbied TxDOT to give them a free road through that community. But Doyal and Riley told TxDOT on June 27, 2018, and in their behind-the-scenes lobbying that Montgomery County citizens were “unified in support” of a tollroad.
Noack’s threat of a petition drive to require a referendum on the Decimation of Hope Highway revenue bonds is a serious threat, indeed. As a result, Muller, Doyal, Adams, and Doyal’s “chief of staff” jim fredricks held a meeting right before the Commissioners Court meeting on Tuesday during which they decided on a way to award the $56 million construction contract for the tollroad in April, even though they couldn’t possibly issue the revenue bonds before some time in July, according to the tollroad financial advisors.
Normally, a County government would only enter into a contract after the County obtained the financing for the road. But the Transportation Code possibly cuts off the time for gathering the petitions, and presenting them to the County to require the voter referendum on the project, when the County government enters into the construction contract, which, of course, in a normal situation would only after occur after issuance of the bonds.
Since Riley and Doyal are trying to manipulate the process to block citizen participation in any form, they have worked with Muller on the idea of issuing the contract, i.e., “letting” the contract, before issuance of the revenue bonds so they could try to stop a citizen petition calling for a referendum.
Wait a minute! How do you pay for a contract before you have the money?!
Muller, Doyal, Riley, fredricks, and Adams had a problem on Tuesday. How would they pay for a construction contract, which they wanted to “let” in April, when they knew that they wouldn’t have the money from the sale of bonds until July?
As a result, Riley, Doyal, Muller, Adams, and fredricks, through their financial advisors, presented a proposal during the April 10 Commissioners Court meeting that they would “borrow” another $5 million by grabbing those funds from the County’s general revenue funds so they could at least make a down payment to SpawGlass Construction at the time they “let” the construction contract.
The idea behind this proposal was to cut off a citizen petition to call for a referendum, because the last thing in the world Riley and his cohorts would want is to allow the voters the opportunity to approve or disapprove the financing of $76 to $85 million, when TxDOT would build the road for free!
And that’s where the problem on April 10 arose that stopped Riley and Doyal completely. They had failed to place the proposal to borrow $5 million (!!!) from County taxpayers on the meeting agenda, a problem which County Attorney J.D. Lambright, Noack, Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark, and a citizen made clear prevented them entirely from proceeding.
At least for another two weeks, until the April 24, 2018, Commissioners Court meeting, Riley, Doyal, and their money-funneling colleagues will have to wait. Meanwhile, State Senator Brandon Creighton, State Representative Mark Keough, Clark, and Noack are strenuously lobbying TxDOT to build the 3 mile TX 249 Extension as a free road.
Montgomery County citizens can breathe a very short sigh of relief before Doyal and Riley bring the Sword of Damocles down upon them.