Is campaign money fueling loyalty?

November 17, 2011 1:32:43 PM PST
Is campaign money fueling loyalty? Tonight new questions about a Harris County constable and a gas station that gets almost all of her precinct's business. 13 Undercover's Wayne Dolcefino gets out the hidden camera to investigate.

There are literally dozens of gas stations in southeast Houston, but a lot of Precinct 7 deputies have been asking us what's so special about one particular gas station on Scott Street. Is the guy paying to keep the cops at his place?

Take a drive down Scott Street. It's hard to miss the big banner outside the gas station on Scott Street -- Re-elect Constable May Walker.

The owner says he has only met the constable twice in his whole life, but she obviously made a big impression.

We asked the owner, "You got anything you want to tell me with your relationship over there?"

Moses Mourad replied, "No, I don't have a relationship. I hardly go there."

As we leave, a Precinct 7 patrol car has finished gassing up and it was no coincidence.

"What makes your gas station so popular," we asked the owner.

"I don't see any reason; just possibly the gas prices," Moses Mourad said.

No, that's not it. The prices at Texaco are about the same as other neighborhood gas stations we checked. And besides, the county doesn't even pay the price listed at the pump.

Maybe the station is just convenient to Precinct 7 headquarters. No, that's not it either.

The gas station across the street from Precinct 7 headquarters is only one-tenth of a mile away. The Texaco on Scott and Corder is nearly three miles away.

"It doesn't make sense that we have to go all the way there to fill up when we can right here," said former Precinct 7 deputy Lillian McNeill.

County fuel records don't lie. The Texaco at Scott and Corder has a virtual lock on Precinct 7 business in southeast Houston.

Now the constable has filed a lawsuit against another former Precinct 7 deputy, claiming he told me the constable was getting bribes for the gas deal.

"No one has ever given me cash money from that Texaco service station," Walker said.

Walker claims there was never "any agreement that all fuel for Precinct 7 vehicles be purchased from that Texaco station."

We asked Mourad, "So no one from precinct 7 has ever asked for money in exchange for them coming here?"

He replied, "No, sir. Definitely one hundred percent. I didn't pay for one single penny to come over here."

Now look at this Precinct 7 order, approved by the constable herself: "Effective March 10, 2010 when fueling your assigned county vehicle you shall use the Texaco at 7140 Scott and Corder."

Maybe the constable just likes the gas at Texaco better.

No, that's not it, because the rest of the order says, "you are not authorized to use the Texaco service station located at 288 and O.S.T."

"Just ask her. Ask her why they come over here," Mourad told us.

We tried, but the constable refused to sit down for an on camera interview. But Wednesday at a press conference where she wouldn't take our questions, the constable maintained she was saving you money by limiting gas stations, cracking down on possible fraud.

"I have to keep up whose filling up their cars with county gas," Walker said.

But tonight the county tells us gas station selection isn't a factor in uncovering fraud.

We have documented one financial connection between the constable and the Texaco station owner.

"That guy at the service station has given me donations because I have sent him letters and received checks from him," said Walker.

So we paid Moses a second visit a few days later, this time with a hidden camera rolling.

"May Walker never approached me asking for a donation personally, always through one of the deputies," said Mourad.

A deputy in a patrol car picking up campaign checks from a store Precinct 7 is paid to protect. And Moses has given generously. His $3,000 in donations in 2008; one of the biggest Mae Walker got that year.

The latest contribution -- $500 in July.

"I do it because I live in the community. We are facing danger every day," Mourad said.

He's a businessman, and Scott and Corder is a tough neighborhood. It never hurts to have lots of patrol cars around.

"All these allegations came up from deputies that used to work or me because they are upset that they were terminated," Walker said.

You can check out the latest 13 Undercover interactive here. Just click on the latest badge for a world of details you can't see on the news.

And next week, we'll be back -- Is the constable trading campaign cash for police IDs? The constable scandal is widening.

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 second investigative report featuring my office which aired Friday, November 11, 2011, centered on the use of a particular service station. Yes, my deputies who work from the Precinct 7 main office, located at 5290 Griggs Road, have been instructed to fill up their patrol cars at the Texaco Service Station owned by Mr. Moses Mourad. This station was chosen for several reasons.
    • First, the Texaco Station that Precinct 7 deputies currently use located on the corner of Scott St. and Corder was originally located at the corner of Griggs Road and MLK BLvd., directly across the street from the Harris County Precinct 7 main office, until the owner was forced to relocate when construction of the rail began.
    • Second, the station owned by Mr. Moses Mourad was the only county contracted gas station in close proximity to Precinct 7 when I became Constable. Please keep in mind, this gas station has been used by the three Constables that preceded me.
    • Under the previous administration deputies had been allowed to utilize various county contracted gas stations situated throughout Harris County. Well, soon after being elected to office we discovered that some of our deputies were filling up county vehicles close to work and then using their county gas cards to fill up their personal vehicles at other county authorized stations in other parts of town. For which they were terminated. Because of this, I decided to limit the number of stations that Precinct 7 employees used to ensure that they only use county gas cards to fuel county vehicles. Deputies utilize several other service stations located within Precinct 7 boundaries. There is a station used near the Toll Road for our Toll Road Division and a station in the Fondren area for deputies who work from our Fondren substation."


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