BACLIFF — A former Galveston County deputy constable who resigned last year after the district attorney’s office launched a criminal investigation into allegations that he bugged Precinct 7 Constable Pam Matranga’s office filed a lawsuit Wednesday accusing the constable of sexual harassment.
The lawsuit filed in the 405th District Court by James P. Gist follows a complaint filed in January with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The lawsuit which names the county and Matranga as defendants alleges Matranga made ”unwanted and uninvited sexual advances” toward Gist. The lawsuit alleges Matranga tampered with evidence namely a recording Gist said he had to document the harassment.
Matranga who said the lawsuit comes just 12 days before early voting in a hotly contested primary race said Gist is seeking revenge because she refused to alter ”a legal document as he requested.” She said Gist had threatened her that ”it’s going to get messy” when she refused his request and that the lawsuit is Gist’s part of making good on that promise.
In a series of allegations listed in the lawsuit Gist maintains Matranga would lift her shirt over his head and press his head into her cleavage. He also alleges the constable would make crude statements and gestures.
Another accusation stated Matranga offered to give Gist a week’s vacation to work an extra job by suggesting through body language he could perform an oral sex act on her.
”Plaintiff rebuffed her advances and walked away” the lawsuit claims.
In another instance Gist alleges while at his house Matranga told his girlfriend she needed to perform oral sex on Gist.
The lawsuit also states Gist had a recording device on his desk ”in an effort to record and collect evidence of defendant Matranga’s sexual harassment.”
In October The Daily News confirmed that the Galveston County District Attorney’s Office launched an investigation with Gist as the focus for alleged bugging of the constable’s office.
On Wednesday Assistant District Attorney Kevin Petroff confirmed the investigation was ongoing.
Gist’s lawsuit states he was suspended soon after Matranga found the recording device on his desk. He later found out that a criminal investigation had been launched and resigned to avoid being fired.
He also accused Matranga of retaliation.
Matranga would not specifically address the accusations in the lawsuit but said ”I was good to him and took care of him like anyone on my staff.”
She said she might have joked around but nothing she did warranted an accusation of sexual harassment.
”I’m a jester I am not a girlie girl” she said. ”I think a lot of things have been taken out of context.”
Matranga who has worked for the county for 18 years as a clerk deputy constable and constable said as a woman she had been the subject of sexual harassment her entire career. She insisted she would not subject one of her employees to the same treatment.
”I believe in what I do and what I have done for the precinct” Matranga said. ”We’ve effected some great changes over here and done some great things. I guess it will be up to the voters as to how they want to view this. I ask for everyone’s patience until this is all over with.”
Matranga for the first time since she was elected is facing a primary challenge. In the May 29 Republican primary Harris County sheriff’s deputy Rick Sharp who was for a time last year a top lieutenant to embattled Galveston County District Clerk Jason Murray and former Galveston County sheriff’s Sgt. Andy Kerstens are challenging Matranga.