An investigative report released Tuesday concludes that gay Dallas County District 5 Constable Mike Dupree has sexually harassed several employees and created a hostile work environment in his office.
The report, completed for the county by outside investigator Maryellen W. Hicks of Fort Worth, was made public Tuesday morning by Commissioner John Wiley Price.
According to testimony in the report, Dupree has made a habit of inviting young Hispanic employees on dates, trips and cruises; taking them to the basement and making advances; touching them inappropriately; making sexually explicit comments; and demoting or reassigning them when they rebuffed his requests.
In addition to the alleged victims, the evidence is corroborated by affidavits from dozens of other employees.
“I have concluded that Constable Dupree’s conduct toward various employees was unwelcome and that it was regarded by them as being both offensive and abusive,” Hicks wrote.
Dupree did not return a phone call, but his attorney John Weddle said the allegations are fueled by misperceptions among employees and a lack of communication within the constable’s office.
“The things that they’re complaining about were happening, they just were not sexually motivated,” Weddle said. “I think he [Dupree] believed that this was like one big happy family, and very obviously that was not the case. I don’t think Mike realized the things he was saying and doing were being so graphically misinterpreted.”
Weddle also said he believes homophobia is a major factor, both among Dupree’s employees and county officials who brought on the investigation.
“If Mike were straight and these were women I don’t think anybody ever would have said a word,” Weddle said. “I really do think that the fact that he’s openly gay is the major problem with all of this. I don’t think a tenth of it would be going on if he weren’t.”
The commission did not vote as scheduled Tuesday whether to increase Dupree’s surety bond of $1,500 on the premise that he is a liability to the county. Surety bonds are posted by elected officials in connection with holding office.
Commissioner John Wiley Price said the commissioners court had to cancel its regularly scheduled meeting because only two of five members Price and Mike Cantrell were present, which does not constitute a quorum.
While two commissioners were on vacation, Price blamed County Judge Jim Foster, chairman of the commission, for failing to attend. Price suggested that Foster, who is also openly gay and has worked for Dupree as an unpaid reserve deputy, wanted to avoid a vote on the matter.
“The issue is, why the hell was he not here?” Price said. “The fact of the matter is, he’s lethargic in his duties. Give me a break. You’ve been on the court five months. Just show up.”
On Wednesday, Foster told the Voice he did not attend because he had a severe migraine headache.
“The truth of the matter is that I think he should have had some knowledge about what he was talking about before he started talking,” Foster said of Price. “He didn’t know if I was sick or not. He didn’t talk to me. The truth of the matter is, I was sick.”
Foster also rejected claims that he had requested that the Dupree item be pulled from Tuesday’s agenda. Rather, he said he merely requested that a vote on Dupree’s bond be delayed until commissioners had a chance to review Hicks report, which was to be distributed shortly before the scheduled vote.
“How you going to vote on something when you don’t know the details?” Foster said.
The meeting was rescheduled for Friday, June 29, but commissioners won’t be able to vote on the surety bond until Tuesday, July 3, to allow six days notice. In addition to the increased bond, commissioners want to assign a monitor to Dupree’s office and require that he have all personnel actions approved by the county’s District Attorney’s Office and Human Resources Department.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, June 29, 2007.