Here’s the article, Williamson constable race pits lottery winner against longtime incumbent.
Gary Griffin, the 51-year-old Precinct 1 constable, faces an unlikely challenger in the March 4 Republican primary elections. (There is currently no Democratic challenger.) Robert Chody is a veteran of the Austin Police Department who’s better known as an $85 million lottery winner.
Chody, 37, said he is bidding for the job because he loves police work and wants to restore the constable’s office, which he said has been hurt because of ongoing mudslinging from Griffin toward county officials.
In 2005, Griffin sued county commissioners after they transferred the county’s mental health unit, along with seven of his 11 deputies, to the sheriff’s office. County Attorney Jana Duty says the transfer was done because of a “middle-of-the-night” refusal by Griffin to handle mental health calls.
Griffin disputes that, saying he took the calls on a case-by-case basis so he could tend to other constable duties. Constables are licensed peace officers who write tickets, serve warrants and make arrests. They also handle truancy and child support cases and serve as bailiffs in court.
Griffin’s lawsuit alleges that commissioners overstepped their authority and jeopardized his ability to serve the roughly 60,000 to 80,000 people in his precinct, which mostly includes Round Rock. A district judge sided with the county, but Griffin appealed the ruling, and the suit is now in the 3rd Court of Appeals. Griffin acknowledges that his legal brawl with the county hasn’t been popular.
“I have faced some serious character assassinations over the years for doing what’s right,” he said.
Griffin also faced a sexual harassment allegation by a former employee, but a judge dismissed the case because the complainant and her lawyers failed to “diligently” prosecute it, according to the federal lawsuit. Griffin denies that the incident happened.
His opponent, Chody, is a newcomer to politics who has baggage of his own. In August 1998, a call to a fight in East Austin ended with charges of police brutality against Chody.
According to court records, Chody put a 15-year-old in a full nelson wrestling hold because he thought the boy had been involved in the fight. The boy then had a seizure, which his mother told Chody and another officer he was prone to do in stressful situations. The boy’s family sued Chody and another officer, and the suit was settled in 2001.
On the advice of his attorneys, Chody would not speak about the incident in detail, but he said it was a mistake that he regrets.
“I wish it’d have never happened,” he said.
Baggage means little to Republicans as long as the eventual nominee will do what they’re told, and toe the party line. That’s what matters most. Millions of dollars doesn’t hurt either.