Man involved in public restroom dispute in downtown Houston

HOUSTON--- Joe Ballard has never been homeless a day in his life, but at the Harris County tax office, he says a Precinct 1 deputy constable made him feel that way.

"He was wrong," said Ballard. "He was just flat out wrong."

Ballard said the deputy denied him a very simple request of using the public restroom while he was downtown bidding on properties at the county auction.

"He told me I can't use the restroom. I said why not," said Ballard. "He said we've been having problems with the homeless people using the restroom, and I said I don't have anything to do with that. He said well you look like you're homeless."

Ballard claims he presented the deputy with paperwork proving that he was conducting business at the county auction, and even offered to show his ID.

"He said don't make no scene," said Ballard. "Just leave the building or I'm going to take you to jail."

Ballard admitted he was dressed casually that day but believes he shouldn't have been mistaken for being homeless. So he left the building and lodged a formal complaint at Precinct 1. Officials there said they are treating the allegations seriously.

"Anytime we get a complaint on an officer, you've got to look at it," said Precinct 1 Constable Spokesman J.C. Mosier. "We're not always right. We know that. Everybody makes mistakes. We all make mistakes."

Ballard believes the treatment he was subjected to was one of those mistakes.

"Everybody downtown is not homeless," said Ballard. "Everybody black downtown is not homeless."

Mosier said deputies have recently been asked to be more vigilant in county buildings because of criminal activity in public restrooms but added there's a fine line between vigilance and going too far.

Ballard's complaint remains under investigation.


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