GALVESTON — A former Galveston County constable accused of sexually harassing a former deputy denied the allegations and testified in court Thursday that bawdy language was regularly used by employees of the constable’s office.

Former Precinct 7 Constable Pam Matranga said pranks and jokes of a sexual nature were common at law enforcement agencies, and the constable’s office was no exception.

For a woman to succeed in a profession often dominated by men, it’s important to hold one’s own, Matranga said.

“This is how it is in the police world,” she said. “If you want to survive, you have to toughen your skin.”

Matranga, who has been accused of inviting former deputy James Gist to “help yourself to some duck taco” when he bent down to pick up a dropped pen near the constable, said no one in the office ever indicated that the jokes or humorous behavior were unwelcome.

Gist’s sexual harassment lawsuit against the county argues that he was the target of repeated advances from Matranga, and was “shirted” when he said Matranga lifted her shirt over his head and forced her breasts against him.

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 originally named as defendants in the lawsuit filed against the county, 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 a video camera Gist said he purchased to record the alleged sexual harassment, although he was never indicted or charged.

Matranga later underwent sexual harassment training after Gist had resigned and also filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 

Several former county employees testified Thursday that the constable and deputies of Precinct 7 circa 2011, when most of the alleged harassment is said to have occurred, appeared to be a “tight-knit” group who seemed comfortable making what could be considered inappropriate jokes with each other.

Christina Webster, a former deputy constable in Precinct 7, said she never saw Matranga make sexual advances toward employees. 

Webster said Matranga would jokingly threaten to “shirt” employees, or lift up her shirt over a deputy’s head. 

Webster said Gist was upset when she was promoted to acting deputy chief.

Joyce Davis, a longtime friend of Matranga’s who said she regularly accompanied employees of the constable’s office to lunch and conferences, said the office was comfortable with crude humor. 

She said Gist once put on a dress belonging to Matranga while the deputies were at a conference in San Antonio — she said Matranga had lent the dress to Gist’s wife — and wore it at the deputies’ hotel as a joke.

Employees of the Precinct 7 Constable’s Office were open with each other, and the subject of “shirting” was a joke among the deputies, Davis said.

“None of us had any secrets,” Davis said. “We were like family.”

Closing arguments in the trial are set for today in Galveston’s 122nd District Court.

Contact reporter Alex Macon at 409-683-5241 or alex.macon@galvnews.com.

(19) comments

Miss Priss

And may I add there are other law enforcement offices that don't tolerate that old school sexual harassment behavior.

Mike Leahy

“None of us had any secrets,” Davis said. “We were like family.”

This individual must have quite an interesting concept of what families are like.

But, thank you for one more day of "Duck Taco" in print; it is just too good for adequately express.

Robert Young

Gist put on a dress? Sgt. Sissy at Clear lake Shores.LOL

Chris Gimenez

Matranga's a scary "woman". Quit during the middle of her shift in Bayou Vista because she had some kind of menopausal moment. Not someone who should be in law enforcement much less in a supervisory position.

RonShelby
Ron Shelby

BV, your realize that the statement you put on yesterdays and on todays could be considered slander and could be sued for it. After leaving office, she is no longer returns to being a private citizen, not a public figures.

-Yesterday you implied you knew what she was thinking and that you knew her motivations.
-Today you implay you know her state of mind and health situation.

Both days offensive, very derogatory, and possibly liabolous as it might impact the way a future employer looks at her.

Chris Gimenez

You know Little Ron, I always seem to get under your and truth(less)serum's skin when I refuse to fall for your bloviating comments. Obviously you're not used to having your opinions challenged and the only way you know how to respond is to offer threats from a profession or background in. Why is that?

Since it's obvious you have little or no insight into how employers hire I'll try to help you out. I'm pretty sure any future employer considering making a job offer to Ms. Matranga is going to look at her background and employment history and how she conducted herself in her various positions-no pun intended. Hire/Don't Hire decisions are usually made on quantifiable information in that person's background-any criminal history, any drug use history, any lengthy gaps in employment that could be a cause for concern, in what manner did they leave their last position; ie: terminated with cause, quit with notice, quit without notice, inability to get along with other employees, etc. I wouldn't think too many employers are trolling public forums for comments and then making decisions based on those comments but maybe you're smarter than you sound.

Chris Gimenez

Correction:
Obviously you're not used to having your opinions challenged and the only way you know how to respond is to offer threats from a profession or background (that you have absolutely no expertise) in.

RonShelby
Ron Shelby

http://www.khou.com/news/local/Ex-Bayou-Vista-councilman-charged-with-deadly-conduct--119921149.html

Enlighten us.

Chris Gimenez

Ron, since you also think you're an attorney be sure to send Ms. Matranga your legal referral. You're as much a buffoon as truthserum.

Ron (aka, truthserum), I'm always happy to oblige those who are "challenged" in their ability to gather all the data before opening their mouths.

http://www.galvestondailynews.com/news/article_8c06d920-da8f-50a3-8e87-9a47e39830fa.html

http://www.galvestondailynews.com/news/article_9eb828cb-6402-5202-9715-a9b69533207d.html

Let me say this again and I'm going to be really simple in my wording so that even you can understand it.

District Attorney Jack Roady charged me in retaliation for forcing the facts on him about the fraud and misconduct in Bayou Vista involving FEMA monies and current and former elected officials and law enforcement.

He then lied to the AG's Office in order to keep from having to give me my file info and to cover up for his misconduct. Of course he had help in his act of retaliation from Sgt. Bruce Balchunas of the GCSO. I dare either one of these individuals to sue me civilly. They know the last thing they want the public to know is that I'm telling the truth and that they lied.
ChrisGimenez
Bayou Vista

Comment deleted.
Chris Gimenez

You mean he's asking his employees if they want some "Duck Taco"? How do you get much more crude than that?

Robert Buckner

BV resident, Ron may have a point about the comments. miceal, the new term "duck taco" may be the new rage soon since "twerking" is already getting old, I'm still laughing too. I am also interested in the final outcome of this case.

Chris Gimenez

Robert, maybe Ron has you convinced of his legal prowess but someone with his alleged background can't even complete a grammatically correct sentence so maybe he's venturing beyond what little expertise he actually has when he talks about libel and slander.

Robert Buckner

Maybe so bvresident but the "duck taco" still makes me laugh.

Chris Gimenez

Robert, I've always considered myself wise in gutter-speak vernacular but the Duck Taco bit was something I'd never heard of. You gotta admit this whole thing sheds light on the unprofessionalism evident in many areas of law enforcement.

Robert Buckner

bvresident, of course you are entitled to your opinion and we're all aware of your displeasure with local law enforcement and the DA's office and I do not blame you if I'd been in your shoes. I'm still a strong backer of public servants in general and feel most are very good at what they do. In this case, what supposedly occurred was in the office and not in public for the most part. Law enforcement personnel experience a lot more in their daily work than most of us do in a decade that builds a lot of inner stress. They may find outlets to relieve some pent up emotions that many may find to be bizarre or at least abnormal. I'm not going to judge Matranga or Gist, that is what this trial is about. I'm not about to speculate on Matranga's reason for quitting a job either as I wasn't there. Whatever happened in that office wasn't in the public. If what she did was so horrible then why isn't several deputy constables complaining? I just don't know but I think the term "duck taco" is hilarious. Have a nice day sir and chill out some

Chris Gimenez

Well Robert, maybe some LE personnel have elevated levels of stress in their daily work but I'm not sure I'll apply that to a Constable's Office in Galveston County. Sounds to me like they had too much idle time on their hands what with all the horseplay and conference attending.

Regardless of what comprises their daily work, sexual harassment should never be a "stress reliever". That sounds a bit like making excuses for bad behavior and I think you may be trying to attribute certain opinions to me that I don't have about LE and public officials. Mr. Shelby asked to be enlightened about the abuse I suffered at the hands of our DA and I obliged him. Simple enough.

It seems to me that the ones who are having "chill problems" are Shelby and truthserum. Whether Ms. Matranga's alleged harassment was directed at solely Mr. Gist or included others isn't something I know. However, those accused of sexual harassment don't often target every individual under their supervision but rather single out one or two.

My opinion about Ms. Matranga is just that and isn't any more or less valid than any others on here. If someone wants to try to attack me because my opinion is different from theirs then I'll respond.

Paula_Smith
Bacliff Jumper

Idle time? Really? This J.P. Court, located in the largest unincorporated area of the county has no idle time I assure you. Redistricting makes it more intense. We need laser focused intense professionals. The past is some big tough law enforcer offended by an advance. What? That's never happened to you? Or it just never equalled settlement before?

Chris Gimenez

Well Paula, evidently Ms. Matranga didn't understand they had no idle time because she was wasn't minding the citizen's business. The jury obviously didn't take her harassment of Mr. Gist as lightly as you think we should. $550,000 in back pay and damages and $97,000 in legal fees. Bam!

Joel Martin

I'm trying to get "Duck Taco" and "Pussy Riot" in the same sentence. Any suggestions?

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