Commentary: Jennifer Eckhart
In Commissioners Court on March 8, 2022, the Agenda included an item for the Court to discuss removing certain duties, including payroll, from our duly re-elected Treasurer Melanie Bush. Their reasoning for such a move were the mistakes that had incurred during a major ERP (enterprise resource planning) system changeover. Financial, IT and business professionals testified that these errors were all part of the process of such a significant and challenging conversion. People also testified to the competency and character of Melanie Bush. Citizens repeatedly stated that removing duties from a trusted elected official would be subverting our recent Primary vote. (https://montgomerycountytx.swagit.com/play/03092022-644 – Item 7 Citizens)
The Commissioners refused reasonable explanations for what caused the errors, now fixed, and not repeated. They refused to accept that a few errors were the fault of outside parties that acknowledged their part in writing.
Judge Mark Keough expressed his concern with the following warning,
“One of the biggest issues for me, we’ve got our community, the public community, 53,000 people or so recently voted and previously voted to put our Treasurer in place with the understanding that she would do payroll, investments, and payables. As painful as it is, elections have consequences. I think, in my judgement, at this point, to pull those things from her, denies the people what they voted for.” (https://montgomerycountytx.swagit.com/play/03092022-644 Item 14 2 of 2. 23:00)
Yet the Commissioners voted to go ahead and create a new payroll department and remove these functions away from the oversight of our Treasurer. Judge Keough was the lone vote against this move. He just campaigned on and repeatedly stated that this was the best Commissioners Court ever, and they all needed to be re-elected so they could continue the work. Is this what he meant?
Interestingly, they had already designated Phyllis Martin, Commissioner Mett’s current Chief of Staff to be the head of this new department. This certainly infers they pre-determined the outcome of this issue before ever addressing it in open court. You would think after previous indictments, the Commissioners would never even be close to breaking TOMA (Texas Open Meeting Act) rules. Phyllis Martin was the previous County Auditor, who was not re-appointed due to the findings in an external third-party audit conducted on her and her department in 2018.
Treasurer Melanie Bush has maintained the trust of this community to execute her duties. Phyllis Martin is not an elected official and does not have the same fiduciary responsibilities to the people of Montgomery County.
In response to this egregious act, We the People, headed by Kristen Plaisance, served the Commissioners Court with a Notice of Maladministration. (https://montgomerycountytx.swagit.com/play/03292022-902 Item 7 Citizens)
The Notice is at the bottom of this email. The Court ignored our Notice and forged ahead with a new payroll Department, even bypassing posting the positions with HR. We the People will move to the next step in the process.
If you would like to take a more active part in the process, please contact me at Jennifer@Elect-Eckhart.com
Below: Document presented in response to the County Court’s actions.