Hays County Commissioners ignore meeting to decide leadership of constable’s office

Investigations

HAYS COUNTY, TX (KXAN) — As soon as the live feed fired up at 3 p.m. Monday, the screen was filled with a lonely view of the Hays County Commissioners Court room. The meeting was posted last Friday and gave the public – and each commissioner – three days notice.

The meeting was to include a closed-door session to allow commissioners to discuss naming an appointee to replace Precinct 3 Constable Ray Helm. By 3:08 p.m., it was clear a decision on that appointment wasn’t going to happen.

“No quorum,” Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra announced from the dais. The only commissioner there to hear it was Precinct 3 Commissioner Lon Shell.

Commissioners Debbie Inglesbe, Mark Jones and Walt Smith never showed up for the meeting and Becerra never announced a reason any of the remaining three might have given him for not showing up to perform their duties.

Commissioner Jones contacted KXAN the day after the meeting to say he didn’t “ignore” the meeting. “I had a commitment I couldn’t get out of,” Jones said. The meeting notice was posted to the county’s website on Friday, which is required by law so the public has proper notice of a public meeting.

Jones said he found out about the meeting Friday “evening” but could not make the scheduled 3 p.m. start. Becerra called the meeting, which he has the authority to do.

Jones said Becerra didn’t “check the other commissioners’ schedules” before scheduling the meeting. Neither Inglesbe nor Smith offered an explanation as to why they didn’t show up.

“This would be a first,” Becerra said as the clock neared the 30-minute mark and Inglesbe, Jones and Smith were nowhere to be found. At 3:30 p.m., Becerra ended the meeting since the failure of the missing three prevented the court from achieving a quorum.

That means Ray Helm, who resigned his office on July 31 is still the man leading the law enforcers working in the third precinct constable’s office. Helm resigned his office amid a criminal investigation performed by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.

TCOLE filed its investigative case file with the Texas Attorney General’s Office sometime between March and July. TCOLE was investigating allegations Helm faked training records for himself and three other deputy constables inside his office. Helm later confessed to TCOLE investigators that he fabricated training records associated with a drone training from April 2018.

The training turned out to be a video shoot for a private drone company that Helm and three of his deputy constables played acting roles in, according to TCOLE.

Helm was accused by two of the deputies involved in the investigation into Helm of threatening to fire one of the deputies if that deputy did not go along with the claim that the drone video shoot was partly a state-commissioned law enforcement training class.

Those deputies hired San Marcos attorney Chevo Pastrano to represent them. Pastrano told KXAN that Helm’s license surrender came as a result of a deal the Texas Attorney General’s Office made Helm to avoid prosecution. If Helm resigned his office and surrendered his license by July 31, the state agreed to not seek felony indictments against Helm, Pastrano said.

Pastrano said he was in a meeting with the AG’s office and TCOLE when the call was made to Helm’s attorney to present the non-prosecution deal.

Helm did not respond to requests for comment for our report.

Becerra ended the meeting and then went live on Facebook to allow people who signed up to make comment at the special-called meeting to speak.

Hays County Commissioners Court’s agenda portal does not show any other meeting scheduled to address the Helm resignation or an appointment to fill the remainder of Helm’s term, which expires Dec. 31. Commissioner Shell told KXAN last week the county was working to figure out the legalities of precinct three constables continuing to police and serve civil process without a duly-elected constable leading the office.

The county has not publicly announced any answers to those questions since they were raised during a July 28 commissioners court meeting. In that meeting the commissioners agreed to discuss the answers to the legal questions surrounding Helm’s departure during the August 11 meeting.

Meanwhile, the Precinct 3 office continues to operate and Helm is still listed as the chief executive on the county’s website. Becerra scheduled another special meeting for August 7 at 1 p.m. for “Discussion and possible action” on accepting Helm’s July 31 resignation and appointing someone to fill the remainder of Helm’s term.

Jones told KXAN he would attend Friday’s public meeting.

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