Grand jury clears Texas EMS director in record tampering case

Jurors considered allegations that John Creech had tampered with a government record employee time sheets

By Jon Wilcox
Victoria Advocate

GOLIAD COUNTY, Texas — A Goliad County grand jury vindicated two county officials Friday after months of investigation by the district attorney and Texas Rangers.

"Common sense has finally prevailed," said Goliad County Judge Pat Calhoun.

A special grand jury returned no charges for Calhoun and the county's emergency medical services director, John Creech, after hearing testimony and evidence brought by District Attorney Rob Lassmann and Texas Ranger Drew Pilkington.

Creech could not be reached for comment.

Unlike a trial jury, which decides guilt or innocence, a grand jury is tasked with determining whether sufficient evidence exists to take someone to trial. And Friday's grand jury in Goliad County determined there was not.

For Creech, jurors considered allegations that he had tampered with a government record -- employee time sheets.

In 2016, County Treasurer Daphne Buelter reported discrepancies in the time sheets totaling about $25,000, prompting the investigation.

For Calhoun, they looked at a variety of crimes, including making terroristic threats, retaliation and violating the Texas Open Meetings Act.

Calhoun was alleged to have threatened two people when he made comments about "getting human hunting tags from the governor" for them, Lassmann said. He also was alleged to have broken meetings laws by not declaring two meals with commissioners as public meetings.

Lassmann said his office investigated complaints against Calhoun while the Texas Rangers looked into Creech.

"I wanted an impartial investigator that had no ties to local government," he said.

Pilkington began his investigation in May after Lassmann requested the ranger's assistance in January just after taking office, said Sgt. Ruben San Miguel, Department of Public Safety spokesman.

Jurors heard from numerous witnesses, including Buelter, former EMS director Peggy Fonseca and County Commissioner Mickey White. They also reviewed numerous text messages, documents and photographs.

Because a grand jury's deliberations are confidential, Lassmann instead commented on Pilkington's investigation. He said the ranger found the time sheet discrepancies began before Creech's tenure. He also said Pilkington determined the overtime was documented and attributable to actual EMS activity.

Finally, Creech's position as a department director meant those discrepancies were not criminal and oversight of his actions fell to the commissioner's court -- not the criminal justice system.

"Creech is a department head and has a lot of discretion. Goliad County's policies do not prevent him from doing what he did," Lassmann said.

As for Calhoun, Lassmann said he found the alleged threat was little more than a joke and the meals with commissioners were simply that.

"Sharing a meal does not constitute a meeting, especially with a group of men who grew up together, hunt together and socialize together," Lassmann said.

But Buelter rejected those findings, arguing Calhoun's alleged bullying influenced the pursuit of justice. She also decried the lack of charges for Creech, lamenting the loss of taxpayer dollars through his alleged misconduct.

Although the investigations have concluded, Buelter argued misconduct and illegal activity have not.

"The issues are still going on," she said.

Copyright 2017 Victoria Advocate

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