On Monday, Montgomery County’s Director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, Darren Hess, was charged with a felony and arrested in his office. Hess is being charged with tampering with a government record with intent to defraud or harm, a state jail felony.
Allegedly, Hess attempted to use a faked Department of Homeland Security document to get credit for completing a training course he did not complete. Hess has been suspended from his county job while the investigation is ongoing. He has been released from jail on bond.
Investigation into Hess’ alleged felony began in December of 2021 after the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) received a complaint. The training certificate submitted by Hess was visibly different from those of the other two MCFMO employees who completed the course. Hess has admitted to investigators that he did not complete the training.
Hess is not the first Montgomery County official to get in trouble for allegedly falsifying training documents. In 2019, Precinct 4 Constable Rowdy Hayden was reprimanded by TCOLE after a year-long investigation into allegations that Hayden’s office falsified documents claiming to have completed training. Hayden faced having his license suspended, however, after an appeal TCOLE decided not to suspend his license and issued a reprimand instead, stating:
“As the chief administrator, you are responsible for ensuring that all reports and documents required of your agency are accurately and timely submitted to TCOLE. See 37 Tex. Admin. Code § 211.29(a). Our investigation revealed that your agency failed to properly account for and report credit for legislatively required continuing education, including reporting requirements related to meeting the established length of the course.”
As the misbehavior of the Precinct 4 Constable’s Office indicates, Hess is not an isolated case. The repeated incidences of county officials failing to complete training and falsifying documents are indicative of a culture of questionable ethics among certain areas of county government. The citizens of Montgomery County deserve greater transparency from their government.
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