After an investigation into the communications that led to the creation of a $280 million road bond, three members of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court have been indicted by a grand jury and booked into the county jail.
County Judge Craig Doyal, and Commissioners Charlie Riley and Jim Clark have been charged with conspiracy to circumvent (Texas Government Code § 551.143), a violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act.
Texas County Commissioners are required to conduct their meetings with a quorum present and in public. By sending e-mails pertaining to the road bond back and forth between local political consultant Marc Davenport, who was also indicted, the commissioners allegedly broke the law and did not meet the legal requirements for a meeting.
The Statute states that an offense is committed if the group, “knowingly conspires to circumvent this chapter by meeting in numbers less than a quorum for the purpose of secret deliberations in violation of this chapter.”
The indictment is the latest development in an ongoing controversy about road bonds and debt in the fast growing county north of Houston.
After Montgomery County voters shot down a $350 million road bond in May 2015 and demanded more fiscal responsibility and transparency from county government, the Court scrambled to put a revised version of the bond on the ballot again before the deadline for the November 2015 election. Between the regularly scheduled public court sessions, the three members of the court were engaging in discussion behind the scenes on resurrecting the bond proposal. Emails were sent to Davenport and forwarded to the members of the court. After an ongoing discussion, the commissioners called a special meeting on August 24th right before the November election deadline and voted to place a $280 million bond on the ballot.
Amid accusations that the private discussions of the commissioners violated the Open Meetings Act, 9th District Judge Kelly Case appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the case. A grand jury has been deliberating the charges since January, and handed down the indictments after an extension.
The Commissioners voluntarily turned themselves into the county jail, and have subsequently been bonded out. If convicted, they are facing up to six months behind bars. All three members of Commissioners Court who have been indicted are scheduled to be up for reelection in 2018.