Audit reveals serious issues in Dallas constable's office

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by CRAIG CIVALE

WFAA

Posted on July 28, 2010 at 1:12 AM

Updated Wednesday, Jul 28 at 1:14 AM

NEWS 8 EXCLUSIVE

DALLAS — Would it worry you to know that the Dallas County Constable's office didn't know where a dozen of its shotguns were?

And then there are the missing records and missing criminal background checks for its officers.

These are all problems left behind by outgoing Dallas County Constable Jaime Cortes and are documented in a recent audit of the agency uncovered by News 8.

Cortes stepped down this month amid allegations of wrongdoing, but state officials say Cortes also left behind a number of serious violations.

According to a recent audit, required records in employees' files were either missing or in disarray.

"I couldn't tell you how it got like that," said Lt. Martha Rand, who has been spending the last few weeks trying to rectify the problems.

Of the 30 deputies in the precinct, some had no record of being a licensed peace officer. Others were missing fingerprints in their files.

And most alarming: One-third of the deputies in Precinct 5 had no record of ever receiving a criminal background check.

County Judge Jim Foster called the findings of the audit outrageous. "That law enforcement agency is required by law to conduct those background checks, and they should have done it... but they didn't do it," he said.

The audit also showed two Precinct 5 deputies had pending criminal charges against them — one for forgery, and another for DWI — that had never been disposed of.

"Of all the departments, law enforcement should not be in the business of hiring criminals, and we're doing that," Foster said.

Adding to the problems, the Constable's office lacked records to help find 12 shotguns assigned to the precinct. Administrators had to go person-to-person to track down where those weapons were.

"I wouldn't think that I would go to another law enforcement agency — or I would hope never to go to another agency — and not know where the shotguns are," Lt. Rand said.

County officials say new background checks have been completed, and the shotguns are all now accounted for.

They hope simple and required record keeping won't be a problem in the future.

"It's a shame that it had to come to this," Foster said. "It should have been done years ago, but it wasn't. It was neglect; willful neglect, that's all it was."

E-mail ccivale@wfaa.com

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