SANTA FE — Constable Jimmy Fullen, whose chief deputy was accused by a campaign opponent of working a private job while he is supposed to be working for the county, blasted those pushing the accusations.
On Tuesday, county commissioners met in a closed-door session to discuss the accusations against Joe Giusti, who is also a candidate for county commissioner. The claims are that Giusti was working for Landry’s properties in Galveston when he was supposed to be on the job at the Precinct 4 constable’s office.
Giusti faces incumbent Precinct 2 County Commissioner Kevin O’Brien in the Republican Party primary runoff May 27.
O’Brien featured the accusations in a political mailer delivered to homes Monday, the first day of early voting. The controversy was also a part of a KPRC-TV report.
In a letter to and an interview with The Daily News, Fullen defended Giusti.
Fullen said the photos on O’Brien’s mailer with date and time stamps showing Giusti in uniform at the San Luis Resort and other Landry’s properties are “not in dispute.”
However, the photos “misrepresent the facts and intentionally deceived the citizens of this county,” he said.
That’s because the photos show Giusti making checks at those properties before 10 a.m.
Fullen said Giusti does not report to work until 10 a.m. and works Monday through Thursday. That has been the schedule since 2011, Fullen said.
O’Brien isn’t letting up and followed the first mailer with a new one that arrived in mailboxes on Wednesday.
The commissioner, through campaign spokeswoman Amy Goldstein, said the new, “clearly shows Deputy Giusti at home in the afternoon on the same days that he’s shown as not at work at or around 9 a.m.,” O’Brien said in the statement. “So, if he starts work at 10 a.m., how long is his shift supposed to be?”
O’Brien, who said he is at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center tending to his ill wife, asked for the paper to “respect my privacy” and to contact Goldstein.
The new round of images claim to be of Giusti taken at different times of the day on days that supposedly he was working for the constable’s office.
The Daily News was unable to confirm the accuracy of the time stamps on the new images.
O’Brien’s campaign also used an online version of the KPRC-TV report as part of a “sponsored” campaign advertisement on Facebook.
The TV report also alleges that Giusti was at a campaign event when he claimed to be at work.
“All of this together — the two mailings, his statements, Channel 2’s reports and his political fundraising events during county time, lay out a troubling pattern that seems to show that something’s not right,” O’Brien said in a statement provided by Goldstein.
As to the new allegations and TV report, Fullen said that doesn’t accurately reflect Giusti’s work schedule.
Much of a deputy constable’s workload involves delivering paperwork on behalf of the justice of the peace courts. Sometimes that involves a summons, an eviction notice or a hot check warrant.
“All my deputies work on flex time,” Fullen said. “Not everyone we are trying to reach — especially if they are trying to avoid you — is at home or the office 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.”
So deputies, including Giusti, work at night or on weekends and take time off on other days to avoid overtime.
“I don’t have any room in my budget for overtime,” Fullen said.
The constable said that deputies also work community events on weekends, including festivals or socials as part of “community service and goodwill” on behalf of his office.
Even so, Fullen admits there is not a log of work hours. Because all of the deputies are salaried employees, no time sheets are kept.
Fullen said when a deputy uses flextime, he or she checks with him, and he approves the adjusted work schedules.
After an hourlong executive session Tuesday, commissioners adopted a “wait-and-see” approach to the allegations. O’Brien did not attend the meeting.
County Judge Mark Henry said he wanted to get more details from the news report before determining whether any action was warranted.
He did call for an investigation into the allegations. He also said the county could seek a lawsuit against Giusti should it be determined Giusti was paid by the county for work he did not perform.
Henry denied there was a political motivation behind the commissioners court’s meeting.
Giusti, who sent a statement to campaign supporters on Wednesday, claimed the allegations were part of a political stunt.