Montgomery County appoints 5 new board members to ESD 10 following resignations

The Magnolia Volunteer Fire Department's board did not discuss personnel matters publicly at the March 8 meeting. (Eva Vigh/Community Impact Newspaper)
The Magnolia Volunteer Fire Department's board did not discuss personnel matters publicly at the March 8 meeting. (Eva Vigh/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Magnolia Volunteer Fire Department's board did not discuss personnel matters publicly at the March 8 meeting. (Eva Vigh/Community Impact Newspaper)

Following the resignation of all five board members of Emergency Services District No. 10, Montgomery County commissioners approved five new board members March 9: Charles McDonald, Larry Smith, Heath Schultz, Kelly Violette and Jeff Cunningham.

Violette—who serves as the executive director of the Tomball Economic Development Corp.—and McDonald will serve one-year terms, and the remaining three will serve two-year terms ending Dec. 31, 2022, officials said.

The item, which was presented by Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley, was approved without discussion. In all but three counties in Texas, county commissioners appoint a board of five commissioners to govern ESDs, said Cliff Avery, executive director of the Texas State Association of Fire and Emergency Districts.

Riley said he received resignation letters from the previous board members, who were: former Sheriff Tommy Gage, Robert "Bob" Buschardt, Tate Robinson, Johnnie Bryant and Scot Wall. Community Impact Newspaper has filed an open records request for copies of the resignation letters.

"It is true that the whole ESD board for ESD 10 has resigned. There's some issues [that] need to be solved," Riley said in a previous interview.

Although Riley did not provide a reason for the resignations, they follow a lawsuit filed by former Assistant Fire Chief Chuck Grant that alleges misconduct within the Magnolia Volunteer Fire Department, which is funded by ESD 10. According to the lawsuit, MVFD Director of Communications Elisa Noriega was promoted to assistant fire chief in November and her salary was increased to $142,000 by Fire Chief Gary Vincent, despite allegedly having minimal qualifications.

A special ESD 10 board meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. March 9 at the Magnolia Volunteer Fire Department Station No. 181, located on 18215 Buddy Riley Blvd., Magnolia, where personnel and other related issues will be discussed, according to the agenda.

During a March 8 meeting of the MVFD board, board members said they would not discuss personnel matters during open session. During the meeting, officials clarified that the fire department is a separate entity from the ESD, and that the fire department only controls the budget for payroll and operations.

Lesha Roberts, a wife of a firefighter employed at the department, said during public comment that she was frustrated with the lack of communication throughout the process.

“Apparently in executive session Gary Vincent was either fired, suspended, we don’t really know because this fire board has not come out with any official statement,” she said, referring to a previous meeting. “This board has not in my opinion done a good job communicating with their employees. Nobody knows what’s going on.”

In a previous interview, Riley told Community Impact Newspaper that Vincent is "temporarily on leave.”

Roberts also alleged that the ESD board had received an anonymous letter before the lawsuit that exposed Vincent’s misconduct, but no action was taken at the time.

“Well apparently that letter made its way to the [county district attorney’s office], and now they’re investigating,” she said.

First Assistant District Attorney Michael Holley said the office can neither confirm nor deny it is investigating this matter.

Anna Lotz contributed to this report.
By Eva Vigh
Eva Vigh joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2018 as a reporter for Spring and Klein. Prior to this position, she covered upstream oil and gas news for a drilling contractors' association.


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