High-ranking Montgomery County official accused of having someone else take mandatory training course required by employer

Darren Hess has been charged with tampering with a governmental record to defraud/ harm. (KPRC)

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Texas – Montgomery County Director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security Darren Hess is accused of cheating in a mandatory training course, barely present on some days and having someone else take his final exam, according to an affidavit.

Hess has been charged with tampering with a governmental record to defraud/ harm.

According to documents, Hess was formerly an assistant fire marshal with the Montgomery County Fire Marshal’s Office. Records show that Hess has been a peace officer for 24 years and, during those years, has been required to abide by TCOLE licensing standards, including obtaining the required training hours.

Hess was named deputy emergency management coordinator for Montgomery County in Feb. 2016, and was transferred to that civilian position the same month.

Records show he was employed full time until March 2020, and then his pay status was reclassified to “other.”

This status change allowed Hess to continue his status as an active peace officer, similar to that of a reserve peace officer, the documents explain.

In doing that, Hess continued to be bound by the statutory requirements of all peace officers in Texas, which include completing 40 hours of TCOLE approved training - a continuing education credit - between Sept. 1, 2019 and Aug. 31, 2021.

The complaint alleges that Hess had attended a four-day, 28 hour training course with three other MCFMO employees in July 2021, however, he only attended portions for the first three days and missed the entire fourth day.

The complaint also stated that someone else completed the written post-test for Hess on day four, and Hess did not participate in the large-scale capstone exercise with the rest of the class.

The course they were referring to was the Preventive Radiological / Nuclear Detection Team Operations Course provided by the US Department of Homeland Security and was taught by a grant-funded group out of Nevada, Counterterrorism Operations Support (CTOS).

According to documents, an investigator interviewed three full-time MCFMO employees who confirmed that they attended the Team Operations Course training and that Hess was not present for at least one of the four days, and did not appear to take the post-test.

The investigator was also provided with the certificates of completions for attendees and noted that Hess’ certificate was “visibly different” from those of the other two MCFMO employees who completed the course.

Investigators interviewed a program manager who allegedly admitted that Hess was not present on the fourth day of training and said that he actually took the post-test for Hess. The program manager told investigators he notified Hess that he had “taken care of the test” for him, documents state.

Hess allegedly admitted to investigators that he only completed three days of the class, but said he thought the program manager was “joking” about taking the test on his behalf.

Hess told investigators that he did turn in a document sent to him, but denied knowing it was a certificate of completion, claiming he never opened it. Hess said he believed it to be a document requesting credit for the days and hours he attended.

Based off evidence, investigators felt they had probable cause to move forward with charges.

The Montgomery County Judge’s Office released a statement, that read: “While Mr. Hess’ arrest stem from allegations not related to his responsibilities in OEM, he is on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation.”