Dallas Commissioners Threaten Constable Funding - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

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Dallas Commissioners Threaten Constable Funding



    Dallas County commissioners are threatening to dismantle the county's constable offices in the wake of the latest scandal.

    About two weeks ago, the county auditor revealed evidence of widespread lying by constable deputies about court papers that were never properly served.

    The allegations concerned deputies from all five of Dallas County's constable precincts.

    "I am just sick about it," Commissioner Maurine Dickey said. "Since I have been here for seven years, there has been some kind of problem or upheaval with the constables every single year. We've just got to get rid of some bad actors."

    Scandal Leads to Dallas Constable Investigation

    [DFW] Scandal Leads to Dallas Constable Investigation
    Dallas County Commissioners are threatening to dismantle constable's offices in the wake of the latest constable scandal.
    (Published Tuesday, May 24, 2011)

    "I hope we're all unified in this county -- that [if]a person who carries a badge and a gun violates the law, they loose their opportunity to work for Dallas County," County Judge Clay Jenkins said.

    As of Tuesday, 35 deputies from four precincts have been placed on administrative leave. No deputies from Precinct 5 Constable Beth Villarreal's office are on leave.

    Villarreal was out of the office Tuesday. But Mike Ramirez, her chief deputy, said she wants to conduct her own investigation. Villarreal took office in July, long after some of the improper conduct allegedly took place.

    "She's not just turning a blind eye on it like it's being portrayed," he said.

    Two Precinct 5 deputies were included in the auditor's findings. Ramirez said the investigation of one is ongoing.

    The other was cleared of any wrongdoing with concurrence from the auditor, and it would not have been fair to suspend that deputy based only on the auditor's evidence, Ramirez said.

    "It wouldn’t have been fair at all," he said. "That's why we wanted to do our own investigation, to either prove or dispute what’s been put out here."

    Constables are independent elected officials with authority to hire and fire their own people.

    But commissioners recently required that constables hire people under the same rules and standards that apply to the Dallas County Sheriff's Department.

    County commissioners do not have the power to abolish a constable's office, but they can use their budgetary power to dismantle offices.

    Commissioners eliminated constable traffic patrols last year in a budget-cutting move.

    "We have to look at how people use resources in the past in determining what is the best resource allocation for the future and who is a good steward of the taxpayers money and who is not," Jenkins said.

    Commissioner John Wiley Price agreed.

    "We'll use our financial management to be able to take and manage that liability," Price said.

    Ramirez said slashing constables' budgets over the accusations would be unfair.

    “I think it’s very unfair to use that type of tactic towards the constable or any of the constables without affording us the opportunity to look into these allegations,” he said.

    Ramirez said Villarreal will hold a press conference Thursday to discuss the results of her investigation.