GALVESTON — A former deputy constable who has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Galveston County testified in court Wednesday that he did not initially report former Precinct 7 Constable Pam Matranga’s alleged lewd behavior to the county’s human resources department out of embarrassment and fear that he would not be taken seriously.
James Gist, 52, said Matranga made repeated, unwanted sexual advances toward him from May to October 2011, including at least one occasion when he said the former constable pulled her shirt over Gist’s head and pressed her breasts against his neck.
He said Matranga went beyond the pranks and “locker room humor” that were common among officers in the constable’s office.
Matranga used a homophobic slur to refer to Gist when he rejected her advances and peppered her conversation with a “whole list of pseudonyms for her vagina,” once entreating the then-deputy to “help yourself to some duck taco,” Gist said.
A jury of seven men and five women will decide whether Gist, now a sergeant in the Clear Lake Shores Police Department, is entitled to monetary damages for the alleged harassment, hostile work environment and retaliation.
Matranga, who lost a re-election bid in the May 2012 primary, and the Precinct 7 Constable’s Office were named as defendants in the lawsuit filed that same year, but have since been dismissed.
The county retaliated against Gist’s allegations, and through “officers, managing agents and its supervisors,” allowed the harassment to occur, according to the lawsuit.
Gist resigned from the constable’s office in 2011 after the district attorney’s office launched a criminal investigation into allegations that he bugged Matranga’s office, although he was never indicted or charged.
Gist said Wednesday he purchased a video recording device online to try and tape some of Matranga’s alleged harassment, but the device was confiscated before it recorded any lewd behavior.
Gist said he did not want to approach the county’s human resources without proof of the alleged harassment and was concerned that reporting the behavior could jeopardize his job or the careers of his co-workers.
“I’m a man in a profession that’s primarily male-dominated,” which also contributed to his reluctance to report the alleged harassment at first, Gist said.
He said Matranga had “pull and clout,” and bragged about her connections to other elected officials in the county.
“She thought she was above the law,” he said.
The county and Matranga have denied any wrongdoing.
The county took no retaliatory action against Gist, who had a duty to report any complaint to the human resources department, according to a motion for summary judgment filed by the county in August. The county took no “tangible employment action” against Gist.
According to the motion, Matranga’s use of the phrase “duck taco” was in disdain of men in the constable’s office, including Gist, who used the phrase “duck sausage” to refer to male genitalia.
The motion also argues that Gist was a prankster, who recorded a video of Matranga after she urinated on the roadside of Interstate 10 while employees of the constable’s office were on a trip to a conference in San Antonio.
Gist said that at the time, Matranga found the video amusing.
The trial is set to resume today in Galveston’s 122nd District Court.