A Galveston County investigation into the behavior of congressional candidate Bill Sargent concluded that he did not sexually harass his co-workers at the Galveston County District Clerk’s office.
County officials Wednesday released a redacted version of a report about the investigation, a week after Sargent issued a news release revealing the investigation and denying any claims made against him.
Sargent, who ran the county elections division until earlier this year, is running in the Republican primary for Texas Congressional District 14 against three-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Randy Weber.
Sargent said last week he was acting pre-emptively against rumors about his conduct and against political threats from Weber. Both urged The Daily News to seek out the county’s documents.
The county’s legal department in January hired Galveston attorney Carla Cotropia, of the firm Mills Shirley, to investigate claims about Sargent.
The county paid $5,048 for the investigation, according to documents.
The report says the investigation began after County Judge Mark Henry received a text message from a county employee about Sargent’s behavior. No sexual harassment complaints were ever officially made, the report states, but the county took the allegations seriously and hired Cotropia.
Cotropia interviewed several people in the county clerk’s office and in the Galveston County District Clerk’s office, which occupies space in the same office.
Employees described Sargent as “abrupt,” “arrogant” and “abrasive,” but all denied they considered him a sexual harasser or that they witnessed him sexually harassing anyone.
Cotropia concluded that the complaints were made because of working conditions and personal animosity in the office. Sargent was never interviewed about the incident.
“The real issue is that the district clerk employees do not like sharing their space with the Election Division because they personally do not like Sargent,” Cotropia wrote.
There was no sexual harassment, she wrote.
The report does reveal, however, that Sargent once apologized for a comment made to a co-worker on an unspecified date.
The co-worker, the report says, “was under her desk trying to plug in an extension cord and Sargent said he had been waiting for years to get her on her knees.” Sargent apologized the next day, the report says.
Sargent said Wednesday he was vindicated by the report.
“It says to me that there was no sexual harassment and, rightfully so, that I need to improve my social skills,” Sargent said.
Sargent said he remembered the “on your knees” comment, and reported himself to the county’s HR director when it happened.
He said he remembered one other complaint about his own behavior, which came after he squeezed the shoulders of a poll worker during a 2014 election. Sargent said the person complained to his supervisor, County Clerk Dwight Sullivan, and that he had apologized via an email.
“I don’t sweep things under the rug,” Sargent said Wednesday. “I hit them head on. I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong. I know that sometimes I say things that are taken differently than what I meant. But I’m not an abuser.”
A copy of Cotropia’s report can be found online at galvnews.com/politics.
Galveston County Republican Party Chairman Carl Gustafson last week challenged critics in his own party to step up in an election if they want him removed from power.
This week, it appears Gustafson will have a challenger for party control. Texas Secretary of State records indicate that Yolanda Waters, an Omega Bay resident and former party vice chairman, is running against him.
Waters said she is unhappy with Gustafson’s leadership and is siding with a group of precinct chairs that claims it has taken control of the party’s management.
“It just felt that we need new leadership,” Waters said Wednesday. “Someone who instead of dividing the party further can unite the party.”
Waters chastised Gustafson for his efforts to recruit opposing candidates for some precinct chair seats.
Of the 44 Republican precinct chairs up for a vote in March, 13 have challengers, according to the Texas Secretary of State’s website.
I wrote Tuesday about several races that will appear on primary ballots during the March 6 elections. But lacking space, I didn’t name every race or candidate. Here’s a quick rundown of who else is on the ballots. ... County Probate Court-at-Law Judge Kim Sullivan is running for re-election unopposed. ... Alison Cox and Greg Rikard are running for Justice of the Peace in Precinct 1. ... Jim Schweitzer and Mike Nelson are running for Justice of Peace in Precinct 2. ... Judge John Grady is unopposed for Galveston County Court at Law No. 1. ... Kerri Foley and Donnie Quintanilla are running for the Republican nomination for Galveston County Court at Law No. 2. Kerry Pettijohn and Ben Roeder are running for the Democratic nomination. ... Jack Ewing is running unopposed for re-election in Court at Law No. 3.
NO RELIEF IN SIGHT
Congressman John Culberson, a Houston Republican, tweeted Tuesday that the Texas and Florida delegations had met to put “the final touches” on a new Hurricane Harvey relief bill. There’s no word, however, about when a vote on that bill might happen.
On Wednesday, U.S. Rep Gene Green, a Houston Democrat, urged Congress to pass an additional disaster supplemental bill before leaving Washington next week for a Christmas break.
“Many Harvey victims, especially our seniors and low-income families, continue to be in great need and must rely on others for help,” Green said. So far, the federal government has provided just $10 billion directly to Texas, Green said.
“Much more federal aid is needed to rebuild Houston, Harris County and the Texas Gulf Coast,” Green said.
Green said Congressional leaders were planning to delay a vote on supplemental aid for another month after Christmas. Congress appears focused on passing a tax overhaul, which President Donald Trump has demanded be on his desk before the holidays.
The New York Times and others reported Wednesday that Republicans had reached an agreement on the two different versions of the tax bill. A final vote could come next week.