The Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office has confirmed they are reviewing a complaint claiming a commissioner violated the law by creating a government job and installing his wife.
Commissioner Charlie Riley proposed creating a new administrative position in the Pct. 5 Constable’s office. It was later revealed to the public that Riley’s wife, Deanne would fill the position. Deanne Riley had just lost her job as the administrative manager for the outgoing sheriff who is retiring.
Amid criticism from taxpayers during public comment, the commissioners voted to create the position for Riley’s wife in a 3-1 vote (Riley abstained) at their December 20th meeting. Mrs. Riley will receive a salary of $58,000 annually.
The opening of the new position was not posted anywhere by the county’s Human Resources Department, and Deanne Riley was the only one to apply and be reviewed for the job. A new administrative position was also created in Charlie Riley’s office for another employee laid off from the sheriff’s office. Similarly, the opening was never posted.
“Its a very clear line in [state law] that you can’t appoint nor can you create a position that can be filled by an immediate family member.” Said former State Rep. Steve Toth, “And then we read in the paper today that the DA’s office is reviewing nepotism claims.”
State law expressly forbids nepotism, or the creation of government jobs for relatives of elected officials in Texas Government Code Sec. 573.041. However, hiring family members is a common practice in Montgomery County, with all the commissioners having relatives working for the county except for one.
James Noack, the only commissioner with no relatives on the county payroll, and also the lone “no” vote on hiring Riley’s wife, has called for sweeping reform of the county’s nepotism policy:
“I want a complete review of hiring practices, performance evaluations, salary reviews and reporting structures for all cases of nepotism,” said Noack. “Furthermore, I expect strict adherence to the state nepotism law and am seeking assistance from the district attorney, county attorney and Human Resources Department to investigate this issue.”
Noack remarked that Montgomery County operated more like a family business than a large employer, with elected officials having spouses, children, and siblings working for county government.
Riley is currently under indictment for an unrelated charge of violating the Texas Open Meetings Act. His trial is set for March 27.