Upon being indicted and charged with conspiring to circumvent the Texas Open Meetings Act, Montgomery County Commissioners Court Judge Craig Doyal has been suspended from office without pay by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct (SCJC).
Doyal and County Commissioners Charlie Riley and Jim Clark were indicted on June 24th, and were alleged to have violated the Texas Open Meetings Act by privately communicating proposals behind the scenes concerning a $280 million road bond.
Following the indictment, the SCJC deliberated action and issued the suspension, effective immediately, via email during the June 28th regular Commissioners Court hearing. Doyal continued to preside over the hearing, but did not return after the court resumed following executive session.
The statement cited Rule 15 of the Procedural Rules for the Removal or Retirement of Judges, which says that, “Any judge may be suspended from office with or without pay by the Commission immediately upon being indicted by a state or federal grand jury for a felony offense or charged with a misdemeanor involving official misconduct.”
In the order of suspension, the commission states, “Having considered the indictment, the Commission concluded that Craig Doyal is charged with one (1) count of violating chapter 551 of the Texas Government Code, known as the Texas Open Meetings Act, wherein that charge constitutes a Class B misdemeanor offense involving official misconduct.”
“Accordingly, it is ordered that Craig Doyal shall be suspended, without pay, from the office of Montgomery County Judge, located in Conroe, Montgomery County, Texas. It is further ordered that such suspension be effective immediately and shall remain in effect until further order from the commission.”
Doyal will have 30 days to request a post-suspension hearing to make the case that his performance of duty would not be impaired by the indictment.
If convicted, Doyal and the Commissioners are facing a $100 to $500 fine and up to six months in jail. They could also be looking at removal from office under Section 87.031 of the Local Government Code, which dictates that conviction of a misdemeanor involving official misconduct constitutes immediate removal from office.