In Focus

Leaked audio tape raises questions about Trevino's community outreach policy

Thursday, May 23, 2013

We're hearing first hand how indicted Harris County Pct. 6 Constable Victor Trevino deploys his uniformed deputies. The details are from recordings taken inside a meeting of Trevino's inner circle.

Investigators from the DA's office raided Trevino's office looking for a copy of the same tape last week. Now, we're investigating the constable's Mother's Day flower operation.

You decide if it crosses the line between good intentions and a waste of the things you pay for.

The Friday before Mother's Day was, well, awful. There were flooded streets, traffic slowdowns, even sideways rain at some point. And Constable Trevino, he was out with his county-paid staffers to deliver Mother's Day flowers.

We saw him under the plastic bag with an on-the-clock deputy along for the ride and to snap some photos. You are paying them both. And other deputies, too. It is part of a plan Trevino himself laid out for his command staff the week before.

"I want officers to go out there and deliver these flowers to the seniors," Trevino says on the leaked audio recording.

Sources tell us that's Trevino's voice speaking to his command staff on a tape we obtained.

"I am using, you know, the campaign money. I'm not using county money. But I am using county resources because I believe this is a public service," Trevino said.

It's apparently quite a production to deliver Mother's Day flowers in Pct. 6.

We were watching undercover at the east end's Immaculate Conception Church. Two deputies arrived an hour before the constable apparently to just sit and wait.

Meanwhile, our news crews were out on the east side just a mile away, where a tree fell on the train tracks. Half a mile from there, cars and trucks were flooding.

We didn't see deputy constables when we were at either of those locations.

But is it wrong?

"What he's doing can be considered part of a community policing program, but it needs to be balanced, of course, with the rest of the mission," said Larry Karson, a criminal justice professor at the University of Houston-Downtown and former federal agent.

And while Karson says the on the clock floral delivery duty may be justifiable, he still has questions, especially for a constable already facing a felony charge of misusing county resources.

"The danger is just that. You can spend too much time where you start ignoring other issues that should be a higher priority," Karson said.

Deputies told us they had stops scheduled all week. And we were given photos showing stacks of flowers being wrapped for delivery by on-duty Pct. 6 staffers -- more than 500 flowers. All that work seems to be a concern shared by Trevino's senior staff on that secret tape.

"When I say prep, I am talking about putting everything together, it just shuts down the whole office," Capt. Tyrone Berry said.

The work is a concern he's voiced two years ago when he didn't know we were listening.

"Don't get me wrong, I think it's good. I think he should be do what he's doing with Little League baseball and seniors. But don't make it 80 to 95 percent of the operation," Berry said.

Maybe it's community service and a better Mother's Day, but you decide if it's the right way to spend your money.

"I know there is a lot of work involved, but this is a duty-related assignment that I expect to be taken care of. So you assign people and you take care of it," Trevino says on the recording.

Trevino's defense attorney told us, "This would not be a story but for the current legal landscape. Constable Trevino is cooperating with the District Attorney and we are confident the District Attorney will conclude that his proactive efforts to incorporate the citizens of Pct. 6 into 'community policing' was proper."

Trevino is expected in court Thursday morning on his four felony charges unrelated to the flower incident. He denies any wrongdoing.

Find Ted on Facebook at ABC13TedOberg or on Twitter at @tedoberg

(Copyright ©2014 KTRK-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

Get more In Focus »


Tags:
in focus, ted oberg
blog comments powered by Disqus
Advertisement