Four years after restructuring county government to give himself unilateral control over departments, departing Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal has decided to strip power from the county judge’s office before his successor, State Rep. Mark Keough (R–The Woodlands), takes office at the beginning of 2019.
Upon being sworn in back in 2015, one of Doyal’s very first actions was to restructure county government so all departments would report to him alone rather than to the commissioners court as a whole. Although most counties have a decentralized court, the Montgomery County commissioners went along with Doyal’s proposal and willingly ceded their constitutional authority to Doyal.
The move was controversial at the time, with opponents accusing Doyal of a power grab. However, as soon as the new structure was implemented, Doyal added fuel to the controversy by promptly firing infrastructure director Mark Bosma, a whistleblower and Doyal’s defeated opponent in the 2014 election.
Doyal allegedly drafted a “hit list” of county employees that had supported Bosma. Purchasing director and Bosma’s friend Darlou Zenor was fired, and Doyal has repeatedly endeavored to fire Dodi Shaw, director of human resources and another Bosma ally.
Since then, Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack, who was the lone “no” vote against Doyal’s restructuring, has sought to have it reversed twice. He has been joined by Precinct 4 Commissioner Jim Clark, but each time they have been voted down 3-2.
“Delegating these responsibilities to just one sole authority has created a dictator on our court,” said Noack at the time.
Doyal defended the restructure, arguing that it was more efficient and saved money. However, in his last month in office, he has apparently had a change of heart and reversed course entirely. At their December 11 meeting, the court voted unanimously to take power away from the judge’s office.
While Keough promised during the campaign to devolve power back to the court once sworn in, he will find the judge’s office stripped of much of its power before he even gets there. The fact that Doyal is stripping the same power he sought for himself away from his successor casts doubt as to his motives, and also speaks to the fear commissioners have towards Keough’s promised reforms.