DALLAS - A federal judge says the Dallas County Commissioners Court cannot eliminate positions at the Dallas County Constable's Offices until he hears testimony on whether their decision was based on retaliation.
U.S. District Judge Royal Ferguson issued a temporary restraining Tuesday, preventing commissioners from taking action.
Attorneys representing four Dallas County constables - Beth Villarreal, Ben Adamcik, Roy Williams Jr. and Jim Gilliand - and dozens of deputy constables claim the proposed job cuts are the result of retaliation, not financial budgeting. The judge wants to hear from witnesses.
Lawyers argued the proposed job cuts came after 30 deputy constables voiced concerns about illegal towing and policing of private charitable events. Those deputies were told they would receive whistle-blower protection. But, according to their attorneys, their jobs were targeted for elimination.
"There's enough of an argument about irreparable harm as a result of retaliation," Ferguson said when issuing the temporary restraint.
The constables would not talk about the case, but applauded the judge's ruling.
"The people are finally hearing us out and doing what's right," Villarreal said.
In his argument to the judge, attorney Forest Nelson quoted a court document in which former county judge Jim Foster claimed Commissioner John Wiley Price told him, "First I'm going to get you, and then I'm going to get the constables."
The judge's ruling could pose problems for commissioners, who were supposed to finalize their budget on September 18. The judge will hold a hearing on a preliminary injunctions 11 days later on September 29.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins would not comment on pending litigation, but said the commissioner's court would honor the judge's order.
Among the witnesses expected to testify at the September 29 hearing are Jenkins, Foster, Price and the deputy constables who became whistle blowers.