Montgomery County Commissioners Court voted 3-2 to remove Reagan Reed from the county’s Ethics Committee after controversy surrounding a blog he published on Texas Scorecard, a blog published by nonprofit PAC Empower Texans, where Reed is the Houston correspondent.
Reed said the Ethics Committee, which ensures the county’s ethics code meets the Texas Department of Transportation’s Internal Compliance Program requirements, has never met since its first meeting years ago.
“I am being removed from the Ethics Committee for speaking out about the unethical behavior of an elected official. I am not here to speak today because I want to be on the Ethics Committee, because quite frankly the committee doesn’t really do anything, and I don’t really care—this is much bigger than me,” Reed said at the June 25 meeting. “I did not give up my First Amendment rights when I joined the Ethics Committee. People say someone on the Ethics Committee shouldn’t be speaking anything about politicians, [but]I disagree—that’s exactly who we need on the Ethics Committee, someone informed about what’s going on and willing to speak out. … This is political.”
Officials said Reed’s blog from June 13 was about Precinct 4 Constable Kenneth “Rowdy” Hayden facing a possible six-month suspension by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement concerning overlooked civil case paperwork and training violations, a ruling Hayden appealed.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Jim Metts brought the item to Commissioners Court, which was approved by Metts as well as commissioners Charlie Riley and Mike Meador. Residents who sided with Metts during public comment alleged Reed’s blog was defamatory to Hayden and Metts.
“[When I] made motion to put him on [the Ethics Committee], I had confidence in him to make good decisions,” Metts said. “I no longer have that confidence today.”
Thirty-three citizens signed up for public comment at the June 25 meeting, with 18 speaking in favor of keeping Reed on the committee and eight in favor of removing him. Others deferred their time. Reed’s proponents alleged he made corrections to the blog in question, supported his character and said he should not be removed for speaking out about ethics of elected officials.
Judge Mark Keough and Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack voted in favor of keeping Reed on the committee. However, although Noack voted against Reed’s removal, he disagreed with Reed’s decision to write about Hayden’s possible suspension.
“I’m friends with both Reagan [Reed] and Rowdy [Hayden], and I have a tremendous amount of respect for both of them,” Noack said. “Reagan … I completely disagree with your belief that it is acceptable for a member of a committee to openly criticize people in government [whom]they’re going to have to make a decision about in the future.”
Noack said he believes those on the Ethics Committee should be above reproach by staying clear of publicly commenting on issues that might come before them.
“I believe the biggest issue we have is a member of the Ethics Committee writing a story about an ethics concern involving a topic that could bring that person before the committee you serve on. … I don’t think you’d want to stand before a judge who was openly commenting on your behavior in the paper,” Noack said. “Could it call into question your ability to remain impartial? Absolutely I think it could. The remedy to that would be for you to recuse yourself.”
Metts said Noack articulated the reason Metts brought the item to court.
“No offense to either side of the aisle, but [Noack is] the one person today who has come close to why this is on [the agenda],” Metts said. “I do think [Reed] needs to be removed.”
Keough said he believes what Reed posted was not illegal and did not violate any code of conduct.
“Even well-meaning statements demand tremendous discretion,” Keough said. “The takeaway is we need a group of standards for those who serve on this committee, rather than our own views of what they can and can’t do.”