By: Sherrie Shorten
CONROE – Members of the Montgomery County Tea Party, Montgomery County Republican Party, and the Republican Women’s groups packed Commisioners Court on Tuesday, March 8, 2022 to stand in solidarity with County Treasurer Melanie Bush.
The Court’s agenda called for “removing all non-statutory or constitutional duties of the County Treasurer; including personnel responsible for such duties, physical location of the Treasurer’s Department, and the reassignment of said duties and personnel.”
As citizens spoke on Treasurer Bush’s behalf, they were adamant that the people elected the Treasurer, therefore the Commissioners Court did not have the right to negate the will of the voters. Citizen after citizen spoke of their confidence in Treasurer Bush and vouched for her “competence.” Others suggested “kinks” in the software could take one to two years to work out, so Bush should be allowed to continue to prepare payroll.
Speaking as a citizen and resident of Montgomery County, District Court Judge Kristin Bays described a payroll error in her office causing her court employees to be paid for 240 hours each instead of 80 hours for the pay period. She described how her employees were initially told the transaction would be voided, but the employees were stressed because voiding the direct deposit would also remove the correct paycheck in their account and they had bills to pay. Then, the employees were asked to write personal checks back to the county for the overpayment.
While Treasurer Bush claimed the payroll errors described by Judge Bays occurred because it was the very first payroll using InFor, the Montgomery County Gazette has received information from other county employees who were overpaid by thousands of dollars as recently as during the last quarter of 2021.
County employees were asked to return their overpayments by bringing their paper payroll check to the Treasurer’s Office, let the county cash the check, give the employee the correct amount, and the Treasurer’s Office keeps the overpayment.
Other county employees, whose checks were direct deposited, claim they have been asked to withdraw the overpayment in cash from their bank accounts and drop the cash off to the Treasurer’s Office.
After an Executive Session discussion, Commissioner Noack went into great detail to explain the many examples of payroll errors, including 80 email complaints from employees gathered in less than one month. Please view the following video to hear his description of the payroll problems employees are experiencing.
While Treasurer Bush claims she was unaware the removal of her duties was on the agenda until after the agenda was published, she was aware of every error discussed publicly and claims every error has been fixed. However, due to the system, she cannot guarantee there will not be errors in the future.
Commissioner Metts made clear his reasons for agreeing with the decision to remove payroll from the Treasurer’s Office was based solely on his experiences with his employees and the evidence he has gathered in this situation. “Any decision that I may make or not make today in regards to this case has nothing to do with my thoughts or feelings or not feelings about Ms. Bush or anybody else in this.”
Commissioner Walker stated, “Our job as Commissioners is taking care of those employees…I’m a working man too, and I’ve been out there on those streets working and stuff in my past and I wouldn’t work for someone that couldn’t pay me or get my stuff right.”
Ultimately, the Commissioners voted 4 to 1 (with County Judge Keough dissenting) to remove payroll from Treasurer Bush’s office and form a new county payroll department. Phyllis Martin was assigned as the sole employee in the payroll department, transferring from Precinct 4.
Ms. Martin was involved in the selection of the InFor system and understands the need for the system to integrate with the general ledger so internal audits performed by the County Auditor can resume.