A committee intended to prevent conflicts of interest could soon become a web of conflicts of interest itself, thanks to the Montgomery County Commissioners Court.
The commissioners are scheming to stack their newly created “ethics committee” with government employees and former elected officials. Not a single conservative grassroots activist is on the list of nominees.
The list of nominees for the Montgomery County Ethics Commission has been posted on the secretive consent agenda for the Tuesday, November 12, commissioners court meeting. Since it is on the consent agenda, it will not be discussed and voted on publicly at the meeting. Thus, the county commissioners will be appointing members to the committee that is responsible for policing them.
The ethics commission was enabled by House Bill 1495, which passed in the last legislative session. HB 1495 allowed the Montgomery County Commissioners Court to create an ethics commission that would have the authority to enforce the county ethics policy and would be responsible for policing the behavior of county officials.
HB 1495 outlines the process for selecting members of the Ethics Committee. Each of the members of the commissioners court gets to appoint someone. The Civil Service Commission, Dispute Resolution Center, and Montgomery County Bar Association each get to offer two nominees.
The county currently has an ethics committee; however, the committee has no ability to enforce the rules and has not even met since the introductory meeting held when it was formed. Commissioners even voted to remove a member of the previous ethics committee for calling out an elected official for unethical behavior.
While the current ethics committee is ineffective, at least it is harmless. The new ethics committee could end up being far more sinister since it wields actual power.
Given that the Montgomery County commissioners’ numerous scandals are the very reason the ethics commission was created, the fact that they are planning to stack the commission with their employees has raised alarm bells.
The government employees and former elected officials being nominated are as follows:
- County Judge Mark Keough’s nominee is Amanda Whittington, a longtime county employee who, until recently, worked for Keough as an administrative assistant. Before that, she worked as a court coordinator for the 284th District Court.
- Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Meador is nominating the City of Conroe’s Community Development Director Nancy Mikeska, a zealous pro-big government bureaucrat.
- Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley’s pick is City of Magnolia’s Planning and Zoning Commissioner Anne Sundquist, who, until recently, had been a member of the Magnolia City Council.
- Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack was the only member of the court who did not appoint a government employee. Noack’s nominee is defense attorney Casey Loring.
- The worst conflict of interest, however, comes from Precinct 4 Commissioner James Metts, who is appointing his former chief of staff, Brian Stanley. Stanley worked under Metts when he was the Precinct 4 justice of the peace and is a close political ally. Stanley recently retired in August 2019.
Most of the nominees selected by the organizations do not present such a direct conflict of interest; a couple of their nominees are notable, however. Tony Fuller, one of the Civil Service Commission’s nominees, is a left-wing professor at Lone Star College. Fuller ran for Conroe City Council in 2016. Francis Bourgeois has served as an elected member of the Montgomery County Hospital District Board, although that was years ago, and he had a reputation for supporting reforms.
Texas Scorecard could not find any county government connection with Bill Dornbos, Charles John McBridge, Janet Spielvogel, or Adam Looney.
The commissioners court will make the appointments at their November 12 meeting, which starts at 9:30 a.m. The court meets at the Alan B. Sadler Building at 501 N Thompson St, Conroe, TX 77301.
Reagan Reed is a former member of the previous Montgomery County Ethics Committee. He was removed by the commissioners after speaking out against the unethical behavior of an elected official.