GALVESTON — A former deputy constable was sexually harassed by his former boss, and will receive more than $550,000 in back pay and damages from the county, a Galveston jury decided Friday.

After deliberating for about five hours, the jury of seven men and five women issued a unanimous verdict that determined Galveston County was not legally excused from responsibility for the alleged lewd behavior of former Precinct 7 Constable Pam Matranga, who was accused of forcing her breasts against James Gist and making bawdy propositions to the former deputy constable, among other things.

Gist was placed on leave by the county shortly before his resignation because of his opposition to discriminatory employment practices in the constable’s office, according to the jury’s verdict.

The county will also be required to pay about $97,000 in attorney’s fees for Anthony Griffin, who represented Gist in the trial.

In a closing statement to the jury, Griffin argued that voters made a mistake in electing Matranga, who abused her authority as an elected official to sexually harass Gist.

“It was about sex, and it was about power,” Griffin said. “The only way she could engage in such conduct is because of that badge on her blouse.”

He argued that Matranga’s behavior violated county policy as well as state civil rights laws. 

Griffin said the county did not take action to correct the behavior despite “everybody in Galveston County” knowing Matranga’s reputation for making inappropriate jokes and lifting her shirt over employees’ heads.  

Gist, now a sergeant in the Clear Lake Shores Police Department, 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, who lost a re-election bid in the May 2012 primary, later underwent sexual harassment training after Gist had resigned and filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Attorney Barry Willey, who represented Galveston County, said in a closing statement Friday that Gist was a willing participant in the exchange of inappropriate jokes at the constable’s office.

Willey said Gist was upset when another deputy constable received a promotion he desired, and that Gist should have voiced any complaints to the county’s human resources department.

Willey argued that Gist purchased the recording device, which Gist said was confiscated before it captured any inappropriate behavior, was part of the former deputy constable’s plan to eventually sue the county.

“He didn’t want to try to stop the behavior,” Willey said. “He wanted to try to record the behavior and hit it big.”

Griffin said Matranga, in what may have been an effort to act as one “one of the boys,” crossed the line and began targeting Gist. 

Matranga’s “outrageous conduct,” which included telling Gist she wanted to perform at a “chunky chicks night” at a local gentleman’s club and gyrating near the former deputy constable and asking Gist’s wife if she could give Gist oral sex, clearly would be considered sexual harassment if a man had behaved that way toward a woman, Griffin said.

“If the woman is the harasser, is it more permissible?” he asked the jury.

Griffin acknowledged the trial could be considered unusual – witness testimony included repeated references to euphemisms the former constable and her deputies used to refer to genitalia, among them “duck taco” and “duck sausage” – and said that women as well as men can be guilty of boorish, outrageous behavior. 

“I guarantee you, you have never seen a case like this in your entire life,” Griffin told the jury.

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

(22) comments

Chris Gimenez

"I think the trial is over and not in Gist's favor. If so, the daily news needs to do as prominent a story as today's , otherwise they may leave some undeserved lasting damage on Ms Matranga. In terms of doing the job of a constable, she was one of the better ones ever to have come along." (Ron Shelby)

It appears courtroom analysis is not Mr. Shelby's strong suit. Those who excuse the kind of behavior exhibited by Ms. Matranga are the reason why this stuff continues in the workplace. Regardless of what they-or anyone else-deals with during their daily work, sexual harassment is not a valid excuse for relieving stress.

Congratulations to Mr. Gist for having the fortitude to go through with the suit.

Brian Cann

$550K can buy a lot of "duck taco", if ya know what I mean. Wink, wink, nudge,nudge.[wink]

Robert Buckner

[beam]

Jeff Smith

I find it more amazing that Anthony Griffin won a case!

Chris Gimenez

$97K in legal fees here and there, pretty soon you're talking about some real money.

Robert Young

550 know will buy Gist a lot of dresses too. Nice pretty ones..

Chris Gimenez

That's funny. I can hear Gist laughing all the way to the bank.

Miss Priss

I guess Matranga will now be able to go after Gist since he now has a little money for recording her urinating in a bush while he was making derogatory comments about her and then posting it all over the Internet.

Chris Gimenez

Well let's just take a quick tally of the score as of now.

Mr. Gist: still working in law enforcement & just proved his case before his peers resulting in significant award.
Ms. Matranga: nada & nada

It looks like the score is 2-zip in favor of Mr. Gist.

Hey BTW, is Ron doing okay? He hasn't shown his face since his shellacking this week.

JBG JBG

I have not commented on this case up to now, and one reason why is I did not like some of the words used in describing what happened. However, there is right and wrong in everything, and right was not hard to see,...nor demonstrate in all this.
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One of the things I live by is right reasoning, such as the ninth law of JBGism:
9) You don't kill grass by mowing it,.....you kill grass by poisoning the roots! The reasoning is,... in any problem you go to the root of it to kill/solve what sustains the action! What sustained the unacceptable behavior claimed in this lawsuit? Who could have stopped it? So, who got sued?
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That ninth law works for any problem, common or sophisticated. It would have worked in this case, if those who were ultimately responsible had taken the appropriate steps to shutdown the behavior in question. So the grass kept growing higher and higher.
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"Workplace Harassment" is such a dirty phrase, and if you add sexual in front,...it then blows the scales of depravity in my opinion. I was not there, and so I don't know the particulars, but I do know this, the voice of the jury concerning this case spoke LOUD and CLEAR concerning behavior which should be allowed in and around the workplace. So, "somebody ought to be listening up."
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I would also like to say this and then I will quit. Years ago, and even now the world is crying out for ground-breakers, pioneers who could and would bridged the valley of discrimination and opportunity between the few and the masses!
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The world continues to cry out for an Arthur Ash,....Billie Jean King, Joe Louis, Rosa Parks, Amelia Earhart, Cynthia Lusignolo ( Superintendent Of TCISD ) Susanna Martinez.. ( Governor Of New Mexico ), and when such people seizes the opportunity to rise up from obscurity to build a bridge which alleviates or destroys the gaps of discrimination or inequality,..their deeds or accomplishments should not be undermined or diminished by scandal or incompetency. Either will have great consequences and repercussions on the chances others, like themselves, might obtain in the future to do the same things.
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Lastly I must say again, what a great opportunity, which existed in all this, an opportunity to blaze a trail for others who feels undermined or deprived in America... to follow! Opportunities never knock,...they just appear,..for a certain period of time and wait to be recognized or taken advantage of before they move on! Many times........to never return again.

Robert Young

Seriously, Mr Gist won't receive any money for a long time. The county will appeal this verdict. All he has is temporary bragging rights.

Chris Gimenez

Seriously, I think you're way wrong but we'll see. They can appeal it till Hades freezes over but they'll also be on the hook for interest accrual resulting in a bigger pot of money for Gist later. Kind of like a retirement plan being funded by the taxpayers as a result of the incompetence of County officials. Of course, no one is going to ever accuse County leaders of being uber intelligent. Otherwise they'd have corrected Ms. Matranga's conduct way back when. On a positive note, this should just about ensure the end of her law enforcement career in this county.

Robert Young

BV, Respectfully, We will know in a few days. You might be right and the county could accept the loss. Do you think it would come out of PCT 7 budget?

Chris Gimenez

Well, you could be correct also but I think it's too small for them to take any more chances with by putting Ms. Matranga back on the stand. If it was in the seven figure range then maybe they go for an appeal. I wouldn't think they would take it out of someone's budget who had no responsibility for what the previous office-holder did.

And it's not really the county's loss-it's the taxpayer's loss because some county officials neglected their duty to remedy the complaints about Ms. Matranga. I guess if it's not their money it's not a big deal.

JBG JBG

Taxpayers who pays! You knocked that one out the park!

Chris Gimenez

It's being reported in the Chronicle that the jury awarded Mr. Gist. $200,000 MORE than what he was asking for. If true, it means the jury wanted to send the County a message about both Ms. Matranga's and the County official's conduct. A pretty strong message indeed.

Miceal O'Laochdha

Very expensive Taco Del Pato if all of us are going to be paying for it. And, I guess we are...

Chris Gimenez

If there were some genuine journalistic curiosity at the GCDN they would find out who is responsible within the County offices for ignoring the complaints about Ms. Matranga so they could be held accountable if elected or terminated otherwise. Won't be holding my breath on that one. I guess it might cause some severe angst at the GCDN if they were to find out that responsibility for investigating her bad behavior actually landed at the door of the DA's Office.

JBG JBG

Bvresident, you are right again. The jury spoke LOUD and CLEAR concerning this case. I think those who were responsible to stop adverse,negative behaviors in the workplace, and who knew about them, but did nothing about them, are just as guilty or more so than the perpetrators of the bad,adverse,and negative behaviors!
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So, yes, steps should be taken to find out or to determine who knew what and when! Lets get to the root of the problem in order to ascertain some measure of assurance that what happened requiring the taxpayers to shell out over half a million dollars, WILL NOT LIKELY HAPPEN AGAIN for the same reason!
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Who knew what, .....and when did they know it? Nobody enjoys shelling out taxes, but when those tax dollars are being flushed down the drain because of incompetence,.. or because jobs were not being done correctly,....then the public, or constituents of those involved should demand a formal investigation for accountability! A half-million dollars is a lot of money.
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Chris Gimenez

I've been squawking for a while that DA Jack Roady has two different sets of laws-one for you and me and one for elected officials and law enforcement. I think this case is another example of his bizarre idea of "doing what is right". She should have been investigated and charged back in 2011 and the taxpayers wouldn't have spent anywhere near $647,000. Thanks Jack, as usual you're doing a bang-up job of screwing the public.
ChrisGimenez

Katrina Evenhouse

Some people need to get a life.

Chris Gimenez

Is this you telling someone else to get a life?

"Trina Evenhouse
Aug 2, 2011
UN agenda 21 coming to a city new you.. Alway implemented through Historical, Planning and Development, EPA, Green, Sustainable, Preservation. After implemented they will use your money paid to trustees to take your property....Democratic and UN control...Pay attention....(Houston Press)

I suppose we all have something that gets under our skin. The beautiful thing about these forums Ms. Evenhouse is that reading them is entirely voluntary.

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