Image: The Prince (Charlie Riley) and King (Craig Doyal) of Government Darkness hugging at the Prince’s February 18, 2016, fundraiser.

Conroe, April 5 – Since Visiting District Judge Randy Clapp struck down Texas Open Meetings Act (“TOMA”) Section 143 as unconstitutional and dismissed the criminal cases against Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal, Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley, and political consultant Marc Davenport early yesterday afternoon, the question that people have posed to The Golden Hammer more than any other has been: what does it all mean?

The easy and short answer is that CRAIG DOYAL AND CHARLIE RILEY, THE KING AND PRINCE OF GOVERNMENT DARKNESS, HAVE WON! Doyal and Riley now represent the following principles:

  • Government Secrecy. Government should run in secrecy and away from public scrutiny. Transparency in government is dead.
  • Judicial Activism. Judges should legislate from the bench. Doyal and Riley argued over the last five days that the judge should decide TOMA is unconstitutional, because “it is bad policy.” They conflated policy rationales with constitutionality determinations, even though appellate courts have consistently said that the two arguments have absolutely nothing to do with each other. In the extreme liberal world of Doyal and Riley, if a judge doesn’t like a law, he can decide not to enforce it.
  • Government Corruption. Consent agendas with hidden contracts and spending proposals amounting to millions of dollars, hidden nepotism (remember Riley is the founder of the “Riley 2-step” and Doyal has surreptitiously pushed for promotions and salary increases for his daughter Lindsey), multi-million dollar contracts to officials’ business partners and best friends. toothless ethics policies, the “Hit List,” massively wasteful spending on outside-of-county vendors who fund legal defenses and give tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions, and, of course, secret deliberations over County government matters on a consistent basis.

Doyal, as the power hungry County Judge, has closed the County government to citizen scrutiny. Despite the policies of openness and transparency contained within the TOMA and the Texas Public Information Act, Doyal has locked the doors to County offices, bullied employees into fearing any communication with citizens who have questions about the County government, secretly fired County Department heads, secretly intimidated at least one County Department head (Animal Shelter Director Charles Jackson) into resigning, prevented disclosure of documents, instructed County Departments not to communicate with the outside world, and even worked vociferously to hide a major asbestos exposure inside the Montgomery County Courthouse from public scrutiny.

How bad can it be? Even worse. Almost every time, The Golden Hammer breaks a story – and, don’t worry, a lot more are coming – it’s about something that Doyal, Riley, and their cronies inside the County government have hidden.

Doyal and Riley have made a complete mess of Montgomery County. What’s so frightening about their work in the TOMA criminal case is that their path of destruction has widened to include the entire State of Texas.

You can already imagine Doyal, Riley, and their legal spokesmen trying to propagandize to the effect “well, gosh, we only got one bad little statute inside of the Open Meetings Act struck down…the rest of it is intact.”

No. They struck down the most important provision of TOMA of all. It’s the statute that keeps governments open more than any other. Section 143 is truly the key to “open government” in Texas. That’s why many elected officials hate it so much.

Please understand. Section 144 is the provision that says it’s a crime for government officials to meet as a quorum in a secret meeting. In the case of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court that would mean that three of the five members can’t meet unless it’s a public meeting with proper notice. Only the most stupid of officials, who just don’t know how to count to 3, would run into that problem.

Section 143 is the real heart and soul of TOMA and has been the key to open government in Texas for four decades. It says it’s a crime for government officials to meet in numbers less than a quorum if they’re doing so with the intent of circumventing the anti-quorum rules of TOMA. In other words, if 2 Commissioners Court members meet and conduct public business and decide an issue with the intent that they’ll get a third person to join them later on the issue, that’s a crime. Doyal and Riley could meet and talk about a County issue by themselves. But if they met and decided a County issue with the idea that either one of them or someone else (such as their agent Davenport) would go to a third Commissioner for his support, then that’s a violation.

Section 143 is the real heart and soul of TOMA, because it prevents government officials from getting together and counting and solidifying votes on an issue before there is an open and candid discussion about it in a properly noticed, open meeting.

Now, however, thanks to Doyal and Riley, elected officials in Montgomery County and across Texas can get away with secret deliberations as long as they don’t physically meet in a quorum. Thanks to Doyal and Riley, government secrecy has received rock-solid legal protection. The only remedy citizens might have against it is to get angry about the secrecy and vote the bad guys out of office. But how do you know about the bad stuff they’ve done if they’ve done it in secret?!

The bottom line answer to the question, “what does this all mean,” is:

  • The State of Texas, both Attorney General Ken Paxton and Special Prosecutors Christopher Downey and his team, are appealing this terrible decision of Judge Clapp. Hopefully, the appellate courts will view this ridiculous ruling with the same respect they gave to former 9th District Judge Kelly Case when he ruled that anti-Internet child solicitation criminal laws were unconstitutional. That appeal will take years. Doyal and Riley will cost the State and the County hundreds of thousands of dollars.
  • Doyal and Riley will tighten up the secret County government that they’re creating. Employee intimidation by them will increase. Doyal’s “lockjaw” policy will continue to prevail.
  • Guess what, however? The citizens of this community will ultimately prevail against the “Establishment.” We’ve had enough. The Golden Hammer and others are blowing the lid off of the secrecy of our County government. They’ll institute more defenses. We’ll keep fighting.
  • Commissioner Jim Clark didn’t make a mistake at all, by turning “state’s evidence,” although Doyal and Riley won’t probably invite him to their Easter egg hunts this year. Clark stood apart from his colleagues and made a stand for reform. He did NOT argue against the constitutionality of TOMA. He didn’t argue against TOMA at all. For that major difference, reformers must give Clark credit.

The King of Government Darkness will eventually lose. The Prince to Government Darkness will eventually lose.

If one of the most conservative Republican counties in the United States of America cannot rein in County government spending and cannot bring openness and transparency to government inefficiency, waste, and corruption, then, guess what, kids? We’ve all lost. The Golden Hammer hopes that you will join us to prevent that from happening.



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