By Beth O’Brien, reporting for Bluebonnet News of Montgomery County
An ethics policy is in place in Montgomery County, but County Judge Mark Keough said one of the concerns he had when he ran for office was that there was potentially some ethical issues, and they needed some more “teeth” in the current policy.
“That’s basically what we have done, but it still has to be developed. We needed authorization from the state to be able to allow us to develop this committee,” Keough said at Tuesday’s Montgomery County Commissioners Court meeting. “Senator Brandon Creighton and Representative Steve Toth presented a bill, we got it passed and here we are. We’re really just at the beginning, and it’s not the Commissioners’ issue in this to come up with certain policies and procedures, but that’s all part of the process that will be worked on over a period of time.”
Tuesday’s court action of approving a resolution moved ahead the process of having an Ethics Commission.
Keough said it was the late Montgomery County Attorney J.D. Lambright, who had worked on the Ethics Commission plans previously.
“The community also felt that there needed to be something, if you will, that they could have an input on, where there were ethical issues that were addressed,” Keough said. “Whether it be conflicts of interest or whatever the case may be, like using county property unauthorized.”
Keough said Chambers and El Paso counties also approved creating ethics commissions after a bill was passed during the last legislative session.
“It couldn’t have been done without Senator Creighton and Representative Steve Toth, plus Representatives Will Metcalf and Cecil Bell, who worked relentlessly on this,” Keough said. “It got done and today is the day it begins.”
The next step is appointing members to the 10-member Ethics Commission. Keough said hopefully within the next 90 days they will appoint members, and the Commission will then be in place.
“On the resolution (approved Tuesday), it names a number of different groups that would be associated with it, people from within our County and our County organizations, plus individuals that we believe can do the job and would do the job, as a Commissioners Court,” Keough said.
Some of those groups include the Montgomery County Civil Service Commission, the Montgomery County Bar Association and the Montgomery County Dispute Resolution Center.
“I think it will be an example to the rest of Texas,” Keough said. “Now, have we had any issues? No. Will they meet on a somewhat regular basis? Yes. They will decide actually what their schedule is, and as issues arise, it will move forward.”
Keough said this doesn’t just apply to the Commissioners Court or County Judge as this applies to all elected officials throughout the County and individuals in places of prominence.