Flyers raise more ethical questions about Dallas constable

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by By BRETT SHIPP / WFAA-TV

wfaa.com

Posted on September 9, 2009 at 2:30 AM

Updated Monday, Oct 19 at 5:49 PM

NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES

Brett Shipp reports

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DALLAS - Already the subject of a Dallas County Commissioners' investigation, Precinct Five Constable Jaime Cortes is once again under scrutiny after a uniformed officer was seen passing out promotional flyers at a Labor Day picnic.

News 8 video taken Monday captured images of a constable officer placing flyers promoting Cortes on cars.

According to the Texas Penal Code, "a public servant commits an offense if with intent to obtain a benefit he knowingly ... misuses government personnel."

That raises questions since the officer appeared to be on duty and the flyers she was passing out were promoting Cortes, who is running for re-election.

"Of course, you guys know I have no comment for the media," said the officer when asked what she was doing.

The officer, however, did say she has volunteered to distribute the literature supporting Cortes.

"I'm doing this on my own," she said.

The officer said if News 8 wanted more details, News 8 could talk with her boss who was nearby.

Inside at a political gathering, another of Cortes' officers was volunteering by manning the door. Cortes, who was at the gathering, said his officers were breaking no laws.

"I am running for election, but [the flyers] are also informing the public what services we provide," Cortes said.

News 8 showed the video to Dallas County Commissioner Kenneth Mayfield, who recently called for an independent investigation into allegations that Cortes has forced employees to work for free and may be involved with improper towing.

"Absolutely, it needs to be part of the investigation and I'm assuming that it will be," he said while viewing the footage.

Mayfield said he believes the flyers and business cards distributed by Cortes' officers are blatantly political.

"This is obviously a campaign piece," he said.

If the workers are volunteering, he said, they should be in plain clothes. The uniforms indicate they are working in an official capacity.

"Her work is to promote Constable Cortes by handing out these brochures and cards, and that is a violation of the law," Mayfield said.

If the government workers were being used improperly then prosecutors must determine what the value of their service would equal in pay. A couple of officers working for a few hours would likely amount to only a Class B misdemeanor.

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