A Victoria County resident accused constable Jesse Garza of “official misconduct” Monday, and asked county commissioners about the process for removing Garza from office.
Gary Smejkal said Garza wasn’t doing his job amid an investigation into a sexual assault complaint against Garza.
A Victoria woman said Garza sexually assaulted her during a ride-along in his patrol vehicle last year, according to affidavits. The woman’s allegations were detailed in a letter sent to the Victoria County district attorney, after which the Texas Rangers began investigating Garza. Since the investigation began last year, local residents say, Garza has simply stopped doing his job.
“With Jesse being under investigation and not fulfilling the duties that he was elected to do, I ... feel that that’s official misconduct in itself because he’s not doing his duties,” Smejkal said.
Garza did not respond Monday to a request for comment about the investigation or calls for his removal.
Smejkal, who said he previously worked as a law enforcement officer, asked for advice from the commissioners about how to proceed with a petition to remove Garza from office. Under Chapter 87 of the Texas Local Government Code, a resident may submit a petition outlining grounds for a county officer’s removal. After reviewing the petition, a district judge may decide whether to serve the order to the officer in question and could suspend the officer pending a trial, according to the code.
“I wish that we had control over this situation,” County Judge Ben Zeller said in response to Smejkal’s comments. “If we did, I think the situation would have been handled already. But as far as what you should do, that process is a citizen-led process.”
The Texas Rangers have been investigating Garza since last year, after a letter to the Victoria County district attorney included allegations of sexual coercion against Garza. The woman told the Rangers that she accompanied Garza during ride-alongs to learn more about becoming a law enforcement officer. The woman told investigators that Garza stopped the car during one of the rides and brushed his hands against her breasts before ordering her out of the car and telling her to have sex with him, according to an affidavit.
The investigation remains open, said a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety.
The woman told the Rangers she felt as if she had no choice but to acquiesce to Garza’s demands.
Since the investigation began last year, Garza has not been fulfilling his duties as constable, which include serving citations, lawsuits and eviction orders, according to Smejkal. Garza said in March he was unable to work because his vehicle had been impounded by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Zeller said Monday that Garza’s vehicle had been returned to him.
Victoria County Clerk Cathy Stewart said a resident who wants to remove a county officer from office would begin by filing a petition before a district judge.
Stewart said no one has yet filed a petition regarding Garza.
Garza was elected constable of Precinct 1, which includes Bloomington and Placedo, in 2016.