By Anita Miller
County Judge Ruben Becerra is trying again.
Becerra has called a special meeting for 1 p.m. Friday concerning the vacancy created when Pct. 3 Constable Ray Helm on July 31 surrendered his peace officer certification for life in order to avoid prosecution for falsifying records and other offenses, some felonies.
A special called meeting of the Hays County Commissioners Court to discuss the vacancy created by the Helm’s resignation was called off on Monday 30 minutes after it was to begin.
The meeting was called off due to a lack of a quorum. Only Becerra, a Democrat, and Pct. 3 Commissioner Lon Shell, Republican, showed up for the meeting. Absent were Pct. 1 Commissioner Debbie Gonzales Ingalsbe, Democrat, and Pct. 2 Commissioner Mark Jones and Pct. 4 Commissioner Walt Smith, both Republicans.
Ray Helm turned in his gun and badge July 31 under threat of prosecution. He resigned his position as Pct. 3 Constable as part of a deal with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE): Either surrender his license for life, or face prosecution of wrongdoing including felony offenses.
While there is no constable in the Pct. 3 position, deputy constables and other personnel at the constable’s office can remain there until Dec. 31, as that is when Helm’s term would have expired.
Helm had held his position since 2016 and won handily over challenger Jessica Deatherage in the March GOP primary. He had no Democratic opponent and would have, on Nov. 3, secured his second four-year term.
He had also overcome an investigation into the legality of his being issued peace officer certification despite a prior criminal conviction for criminal mischief.
The constable was accused of putting on a so-called “training exercise” in April 2018 that his employees later told investigators was instead a television commercial for a drone company.
Helm and four deputies reported for the “training” to find a production crew had already set up cameras and for the rest of the day they all acted only on direction from the production company. There was no handout, no exam and notably, no instruction in flying drones. The “instructor” was the owner of the drone company and was not certified by TCOLE.
Helm, however, submitted paperwork to TCOLE indicating the day was spent in training and all were given credit for undergoing the training.
When he became aware he was under TCOLE investigation in February of this year, Helm falsified evaluation forms and a memorandum “to memorialize a training class that was nothing more than a commercial for a drone company,” the TCOLE report reads.
Helm apparently also attempted to retaliate against one of his deputies, Gary Griffin, who he accused of misuse of official information and other wrongdoing. Helm got warrants signed by 453rd State District Court Judge David Junkin, who is up for election in November but currently holds the post as an appointee of Gov. Greg Abbott since November 2018. Griffin turned himself in at Hays County Jail in January, but the district attorneys in both Hays and Caldwell counties refused to prosecute.
Shell, who said he didn’t know why the other commissioners didn’t show for the first meeting, wants to see the position of constable filled.
“I do not believe it is an ideal situation to go very long without a Constable,” he told the Hays Free Press. News-Dispatch.