Constable campaign probe expands to Pct. 7
HOUSTON (KTRK) -- A second Harris County constable is under a criminal investigation. This time it's Constable May Walker. The probe was triggered by what we found in her headquarters.
The last constable in Precinct 7 went to jail and Constable May Walker made every deputy there reapply for their job when she took over six years ago. But now she's hired a criminal defense lawyer -- the same one Harris County Pct. 6 Constable Victor Trevino has already hired.
May Walker's story is one for the history books -- the first very woman to become a Harris County constable.
"She's got a resume that would make you say ...." we said to former employee Lillian McNeill.
"Wow!" McNeill said, finishing our statement.
"All the people at Precinct 7 have worked hard to have some credibility and accountability and integrity at Precinct 7," Walker said.
"I thought Precinct 7 would be something that would be positive for the people in the neighborhood because I am a good officer," McNeill said.
A family nightmare put McNeill's law enforcement career on hold. A real tragedy -- her four-year-old daughter gone.
"It seems that she was able to get a hold of her mother's pistol and somehow it discharged and struck her in the face and she died at LBJ hospital," a sergeant said.
A horrible accident, Years later, Walker gave McNeill another chance to wear the badge.
"The respect that I had for her was very high," McNeill said.
McNeill was fired this year for leaving her post without permission, but is now speaking out about the way Constable Walker allegedly used her deputies to get campaign cash.
"I felt real pressure. I felt like to stay in her good grace, you would have to sell these tickets," McNeill said.
Twenty-five dollar tickets for the constable's annual campaign fundraiser at Gabby's Barbecue.
You don't have to believe McNeill. We've found a stack of records inside the offices of Precinct 7 detailing an organized plan that hit up every single Precinct 7 employee for money.
"To me, it looked exactly like an old-fashioned Chicago shake down," said Trent Seibert with the group Texas Watchdog.
Look at this document we found at Precinct 7 headquarters. It shows you how the plan worked. There were envelopes for each and every employee, and the higher your rank, the more you were asked to sell.
Dispatchers were given $100 worth of tickets, patrol officers $150, sergeants $200 each. Even reserves were given two tickets to sell -- $50 for people who don't even get paid, but they do rely on Walker for their law enforcement commission.
"I'm a single parent so it was very hard for me to actually come up with the money for those tickets," McNeill said.
Last year, records showed 700 tickets were given out to Precinct 7 employees to sell.
"They can purchase the tickets. They can sell them to friends and families, or whatever they want to do, because they wanted to support me," Walker said.
"In my opinion, that's part of her God complex, like I own so you do what I ask and that's it. I don't think that's very fair at all," McNeill said.
"No one has forced anybody to contribute anything here," Walker said.
"To the guy whose sitting there getting the request is, if you don't give me the money then you know what, you may not have a job. That is real clear so you have to be extraordinarily careful," Harris County Assistant County Attorney Terry O'Rourke said.
"They should not be coerced, forced into giving any money to anybody to keep their job. That is not right," KTRK legal analyst Joel Androphy said. In Precinct 7 computers, we found even more evidence of campaign work on county time and on your county equipment.
"Planning events, or those kinds of things, on county equipment is clearly illegal, no reason for that," former Harris County Judge Robert Echols said.
"I'm not aware that anyone sent out any emails about the barbecue," Walker said.
There are invoices for campaign fundraising, reminders from a commander to deputies about turning in the money, black and white evidence of Walker's red carpet affair.
"I try to be legal and I try to be moral and I'm going to try to continue to do those things that I know is best for me and for this department," Walker said.
"I would like to see it stop, period. I think if she's going to run, she needs to get out and work and make her own money to run. I don't think she should feed off of the deputies that we barely get paid as it is," McNeill said.
And you can continue to follow the investigative trail with the 13 Undercover interactive. There's a new badge unlocked so it's your chance to come to your own conclusions. Hear exclusive interviews with former deputies, watch Walker's press conference in its entirety and look over the documents we found in her office -- documents the county attorney has now turned over to the DA.
And by the way, we're just getting started in Precinct 7.
The following is the latest comments from Pct. 7 Constable May Walker on this story. They were received in a letter to KTRK management dated November 16, 2011:
- "The first news report of the 13 Undercover series that aired Thursday, November 10, 2011, featuring my department, detailed information regarding a barbeque fundraiser that I host each year. Mr. Dolcefino and former Precinct 7 employee, Lillian McNeil alleged that individuals who work for me are given tickets and are expected to sell or purchase them. Yes, I gave tickets to my staff members. I want to make it clear, no one has ever been informed or instructed that it is mandatory for them to sell or purchase these tickets. Some employees choose to support the bar-b-que by selling or purchasing tickets and some do not. No crime has been committed and no ethical laws broken."
13 undercover, wayne dolcefino
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