DALLAS – The Dallas County Democratic Party removed Jose Barrientos as a precinct chair in west Dallas this week after a WFAA investigation into statements he made on secret audio recordings.
Barrientos served as a chair for precinct 4027 until Tuesday, said Carol Donovan, chairwoman for the Dallas County Democratic Party.
"We don't have individual control over individuals should they choose to do the wrong thing,” she said.
In new audio recordings licensed by WFAA, Barrientos admits he does not live in the district he represents.
“Look for an open precinct and then go find you an abandoned f*****g house and use that f*****g address. Just go by the house every now and then and get your mail. At least once a week. I've got a warehouse that I use. I use the Flores Ballroom as my physical address,” said Barrientos to Sidney Williams who secretly recorded the conversation.
The manager of the Flores Ballroom on Singleton Boulevard told WFAA that Barrientos has never lived here.
Barrientos originally told WFAA that he lived in southern Dallas which is another precinct.
“Well, I have a house that I'm trying to move over there,” said Barrientos in an interview with WFAA.
A precinct chair is a ground level, grass roots position in both major political parties. It carries some influence but the chair’s main responsibility is to get voters out to the polls. Precinct chairs are required to live in the district which he or she represents.
But do political parties not check to see if addresses are legitimate?
“Well, you know, it makes you wonder if we need to start,” said Donovan.
She said Dallas County Democrats have more than 400 precinct chairs. Staff verify addresses exist but no one physically inspects each location to see if it’s a residence or business.
Democrats removed Barrientos as a precinct chair for not only using a false address but also for missing mandatory meetings, continued Donovan.
She was asked whether Barrientos would be allowed back in if he lived in a district he represented.
“Well, let's put it this way. A precinct chair has to be elected. So, it's certainly doubtful that the county executive committee would vote to bring somebody back who had defrauded the party,” said Donovan.
In a secret recording WFAA obtained and broadcast earlier this week, Barrientos claims he pays off an employee at the elections office to leak inside information about mail-in ballots. In another clip, Barrientos discusses plotting to use absentee ballots to defeat the mayor of Grand Prairie.
Barrientos denied he has done anything wrong and called the recordings “guy talk.”
But the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office is using the audio recordings as evidence in an on-going criminal investigation that began in March.