Conservatorship stalled: Liberty County officials push back on bid to have state take over

Liberty County Commissioners Court meets on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month in the County Court at Law on the second floor of the courthouse in Liberty.

A request to take away Liberty County’s autonomy in governing local affairs appears to be going nowhere. The 30-day third special session of the 88th Texas State Legislature began last Monday, Oct. 9, and so far no resolution regarding the conservatorship request for Liberty County and Colony Ridge has been filed.

“It’s a non-issue and not even a conversation,” said State Rep. Ernest Bailes (R-District), who represents Liberty County.

The four lawmakers pushing for conservatorship of Liberty County and the Colony Ridge development – Rep. Steve Toth (R-House District 15), Rep. Brian Harrison (R-House District 10), Rep. Nate Schatzline (R-District 93) and Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R-District 94) – cited concerns over illegal immigration and lawlessness in the Colony Ridge communities south of Plum Grove in a letter they submitted to Governor Greg Abbott.

In a surprising twist, Toth filed a bill asking that the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) maintain a substation in Liberty County. However, Liberty County officials argue that there has been a Texas DPS substation in the county for decades and, therefore, the bill is unwarranted. The DPS office is headquartered in the Pct. 3 annex at the new law enforcement center on SH 146 north of Liberty. Prior to that, it was located on Layl Drive in Liberty.

“If they want to put more state troopers here, we welcome it,” said Liberty County Attorney Matthew Poston, “but we hope this is in addition to, and not a replacement of, the troopers we already have assigned and headquartered here.”

On Tuesday, Oct. 16, county commissioners are expected to open and review bids for construction of a new northwest county annex in Colony Ridge where offices will be located for the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office and the Pct. 6 Constable’s Office.

While Poston and other county officials believe the conservatorship request was a baseless political maneuver, they must take it seriously as two weeks remain in the special session. Last Tuesday, commissioners court authorized Poston to look into hiring an outside legal firm to defend the County from its own state. The motion by commissioners was unfunded, but Poston estimates that the potential cost to defend Liberty County in a conservatorship request could cost between $100,000 to $200,000.

“I’ve never seen anything like this, never imagined anything like this. It should be an unthinkable request and it’s an embarrassment to the people who are doing it. Neither Steve Toth nor any of the others who signed on that letter ever called me, ever called our county judge, ever called anybody here to see what the full story is. They’re making arguments in bad faith,” said Poston.

In 2016, when it became apparent that Liberty County was facing a population explosion due to the Colony Ridge development, which now has an estimated population of 40,000, roughly 4-5 times the size of Cleveland, Dayton or Liberty, County Judge Jay Knight, Pct. 2 Commissioner Greg Arthur and other County officials spoke before the Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Relations and begged lawmakers to give counties the ability to shape growth rather than have the growth shape the county. Instead of changing laws to help counties, laws were changed in favor of developers, Poston said.

“For years, in order to avoid the problems that we’re seeing up in Plum Grove right now, we have asked for changes to the law and consistently every time they have told us no. In my opinion, it’s all about the developers’ lobby at that point and you have to understand that I’m very confident that the lobby for folks who are somehow engaged in the in the sale of real estate is huge. You’re not just talking about developers; you’re talking about everybody from title companies, surveyors, to insurance companies, a very large interested group whose bottom line is directly dependent on how quick counties approve plats,” Poston said.

According to Poston, when development of Colony Ridge first began, the rule was that Texas counties had 45 days to review plats to ensure they complied with the law. At the end of the 45 days, there were two options – approve or deny. If they denied the plat without cause, they faced potential legal action from a developer.

“After Judge Knight, the former county attorney and current judge Wes Hinch and Commissioner Greg Arthur went to Austin, the next changes to the development codes were to reduce the amount of time counties had to review – from 45 days down to 30, where it is currently. You can read the AG’s opinions in this area, you can read the legislative history behind these bills and it is not hard to see vested interest in this. We believe very much in the power and right to contract and are not looking to interfere with that, but we are looking for rules that manage growth,” Poston said.

Liberty County has been forced to follow the law to its own detriment, Poston said.

“The only thing that we had to do after that was follow the law. We’ve done that even though it’s resulted in some very catastrophic effects on the school districts, even though we know it’s going to affect our ability to provide the services that we are here to provide. We followed the law and now they are angry with us for following the law. Why is it that all the solutions have to involve us going against the law?” he said.

Two other illegal immigration-related bills that appear to be gaining some traction in the third special session are Senate Bill 11, sponsored by Senator Brian Birdwell (R-District 22, Granbury), which would make it a new crime for illegally entering Texas from Mexico and would authorize state police to arrest those who violate the law, and Senate Bill 4, sponsored by Senator Pete Flores (R-District 24, Pleasanton), which would stiffen the penalty of first-time criminal offenders convicted of a misdemeanor. The punishment would jump to a felony if the offender was an illegal immigrant with a criminal record.

Previous articleLiberty County Jail arrest report, Oct. 15, 2023
Next articleMedical Moment: Get on your feet and keep them healthy
Before creating Bluebonnet News in 2018, Vanesa Brashier was a community editor for the Houston Chronicle/Houston Community Newspapers. During part of her 12 years at the newspapers, she was assigned as the digital editor and managing editor for the Humble Observer, Kingwood Observer, East Montgomery County Observer and the Lake Houston Observer, and the editor of the Dayton News, Cleveland Advocate and Eastex Advocate. Over the years, she has earned more than two dozen writing awards, including Journalist of the Year.


  1. I think the state should take over, there’s too much property theft from the county clerk having ability to change deed records, and her husband that hears the case when someone takes a theft of property to court” DENIED!.. perfect racket to taking land from the poor.. and the dead. Or get those two out.

  2. Liberty County is going to grow because there no where for Houston to expand. Every direction out of the Houston Metroplex is full except to the East. Developers are already buying land all over the place. A little here, a little there. I have 3 acres out 563 that I paid $1500.00 for 20 years ago and have been offered $85000.00 for it by a developer out of Houston. They will buy us out and turn Liberty County into East Houston — crime and all. You can fight progress but you won’t win in the long run. Between taxes and corrupt government we don’t have a chance .

  3. State needs to take over… it’s a lawless slum that attracts the criminal degenerates of society. Citizens in E. Montgomery and Liberty counties suffer and shouldn’t have to live in fear of being crime victims, especially when we pay crazy high property taxes, but get little to no policing.

    These residents of this slum have no respect for the law, the land, their neighbors, or even themselves. They have no intention to assimilate or civilize themselves, therefore have no place in a civilized society. It’s a slap in the face to every law abiding citizen that this type of crap is allowed to continue unchecked.

  4. Now I won’t say names so as to not get y’all’s b00ty tickled, but silent reposters and people in the comments, love to throw around that immigrants are moving into Colony Ridge (which isn’t new btw, its been around since 2010)/city of Liberty outskirts and “oh no they’re uncivilized, they don’t do anything for the community, they have to assimilate!?!11!!” Let’s all be so for real right now. What you’re saying is a mask for what you *really* mean. The only reason for Abbott’s fat @ss to care about it right now is because of the way the current session is going. The co-owner of Colony Ridge has gone ON THE RECORD that the people who have bought plots are US citizens who are also OWNERS to small businesses in the surrounding areas. There is nothing that obligates him, by the state of Texas, to verify the status of your status by the looks of your person. You lot have gotten non-credible information from Facebook and whatever apps y’all use to pander a narrative that fits your backwards and racist Big Thicket thumpin’ thinking. ISWIS.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.