Precinct 5 Constable Controversy Rages On

By Ken Kalthoff
|  Tuesday, Jul 13, 2010  |  Updated 10:26 PM CDT
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Dallas County Gets New Precinct 5 Constable

NBCDFW.com

Precinct 5 Constable Beth Villarreal was sworn in on Tuesday.

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Dallas County Gets New Precinct 5 Constable

Dallas County has a new Precinct 5 constable, but commissioners are still wrangling over an investigation of her predecessor.
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Dallas County has a new Precinct 5 constable, but commissioners are still wrangling over an investigation of her predecessor.

County commissioners voted Tuesday to spend more legal money on the investigation, sparking an angry debate.

In a divided vote last year, the commissioners launched and funded an investigation into alleged misconduct by former Constable Jaime Cortes. Supporters of the investigation said they felt District Attorney Craig Watkins was not doing the job.

"We did what we had the authority to do, which was more than anybody else was going to do," Commissioner Kenneth Mayfield said.

Democrat John Wiley Price and Republican Mike Cantrell opposed the investigation, saying the budget strapped county should not spend additional money this way.

"We have law enforcement agencies and the District Attorney's office, whose job that is," Cantrell said.

Republican Mayfield supported the probe, along with Democratic County Judge Jim Foster and Republican Commissioner Maurine Dickey.

On Tuesday, Dickey said Cantrell lied in his public remarks opposing the spending. Price and Mayfield each called for the electoral defeat of the other.

In the March primary, little-known Beth Villarreal, a former Italy, Texas, police officer, defeated Cortes. Cortes recently resigned rather than complete his current term.

Villarreal was appointed to complete Cortes' term by county commissioners at Tuesday's meeting.

Reporters had been invited to attend a Villarreal press conference after her swearing in ceremony.

She read a prepared statement thanking voters and asking for public patience as she begins her new position.

But then she left the county building, refusing to answer reporters' questions.

"She is not used to this particular political world and all the excitement and all the attention," said Villarreal supporter Gil Cerda, a former Dallas police spokesman.

A special prosecutor has been appointed to continue the constable investigation.

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