Precinct 6 breaking state law ethics?
HOUSTON -- The constable on Houston's east end has a problem. County computers show his office may have broken state ethics laws. What did our 13 Undercover unit find that's so much trouble for the constable?
When our investigation began, one of our first steps was to make sure the constable's office could not delete their emails. You'll find out why.
They're rolling the dice, putting their money on another Victor Trevino victory. It's been a safe bet. He's been the powerful constable on Houston's east end for two decades.
"I couldn't end the night without coming by and thanking Constable Victor Trevino for being one of the best public servants that this nation has ever known," Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee said.
To get into this party you need one of these, a ticket. Precinct 6 employees were pressured to sell them or buy them themselves.
"To me it was kind of like they were extorted; it was extortion to me," Anna Nunez said.
Former clerk Anna Nunez should know. She helped handle the money and kept really good records.
"What made me upset was seeing officers having to come in on their own time, pulling out cash, their own personal checks," Nunez said.
Precinct 6 emails show us how it worked. The lieutenant got the tickets at the supervisors meeting held on duty.
"I will in turn forward these tickets to each housing corporal for each deputy under their command," the email read.
"Each deputy requested to selling 5 tickets at a cost of $30.00 each," the email read.
That's $150 for lawmen who barely make that in an entire day's work.
"I'm not of what happened. If it was something that was in appropriate, I'm not proud of that," Trevino said.
The captain sends out this email on county time about an assignment -- not to keep the peace, to keep the boss in office.
Corporals are reminded that the money is due by county email and it's not just money.
An email states, "Our division has been asked to commit to" a large auction item, like a TV.
Would you tell your boss no if he had total control of when you work or even if you work?
"It's a shakedown to keep your job," KTRK Legal Analyst Joel Androphy said.
"Wayne, you're right. The buck stops with me. And if I've become lax, I don't blame my employees, I blame myself," Trevino said.
"Anybody that does it today that claims, 'I made a mistake' or 'I didn't understand it' has no business in public office," Androphy said.
"No one has been terminated because they said, 'I don't want to participate in this,'" Trevino said.
"Well, you think they're stupid?" we asked. "You're going to be the deputy that says to your supervisor, 'I'm not going to give him any money.'"
"No, we've had that," Trevino responded.
"Really?" we said.
The constable has been a cop for decades. He knows the law.
"It would be illegal for anyone in here, on government equipment, on taxpayers time, to work on your campaign," we told Trevino.
"Correct," he replied.
Wonder if the constable gambled on us finding this...
"Why do I find the contract for your casino night in the county computer?" we asked Trevino.
"It shouldn't be in there," he said.
"That's against the law, right? You'd agree?" we noted.
"It's something we need to review, definitely," he said.
And when Trevino's office was asked to provide weekend security for someone's country club event, look at what the captain says, "You should have him to underwrite the refreshments at the casino night event."
"Have you seen that email?" we asked Trevino.
"No, I haven't seen it," he said.
"Is that what we do here -- trade security for donations?" we asked Trevino.
"By no means," he responded.
"We're looking at it. That's all I can tell you -- that we are looking at it," Harris County Assistant County Attorney Terry O'Rourke said.
Since January, Trevino has spent more than $16,000 in campaign funds. But look who's getting a lot of the checks: places called Handi Plus, Sunrise -- the same stores Trevino used to cash large checks for the charity he operated out of the county building.
"Convenience stores have really provided a different service when it comes to cashing checks," Trevino said.
But we're not questioning the convenience of convenience stores. Where did all the cash go constable?
Here's one campaign check for $1,600 for unnamed expenses. Maybe this cashed check did go to little leagues, but which ones? And why won't the constable let you see the receipts?
"That's something else I have to review, as far as the campaign expense report," Trevino said.
"We asked a month ago," we replied.
Now it's your chance to play detective. Follow the investigative trail from start to finish. See the anonymous letters that tipped us off review the documents that kept the investigation going. You'll find video, maps, links and graphics. It's a complete interactive experience that puts you in the Undercover office with us.
13 undercover, wayne dolcefino
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