Interim report blasts Dallas constables

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by GARY REAVES / WFAA-TV

wfaa.com

Posted on December 23, 2009 at 2:24 AM

DALLAS — Dallas County Commissioners hired former FBI agent Danny Defenbaugh to look into allegations that two constables were running roughshod over their employees -- and the law.

On Tuesday, County Judge Jim Foster released the investigation's preliminary findings.

While Defenbaugh has yet to interview the constables who have been implicated, he has already concluded that some of the most damaging allegations are true.

When News 8 videotaped uniformed deputies who work for Precinct 5 Constable Jaime Cortes distributing what looked like campaign literature, one said she was "volunteering."

But Defenbaugh's new report says 11 employees of Constable Cortes signed sworn statements claiming they were forced to campaign on county time. Several are now suing the county as a result.

Foster, who released the investigator's preliminary report, is outraged. "What you've got is a situation where you have a whole large group of employees are living and working in fear," he said.

Defenbaugh's report looks at allegations against both Cortes and District 1 Constable Derick Evans,  and found several to be true -- including claims that employees of both men were "subjected to threats and intimidation" for "not writing enough tickets"  or "towing enough cars."

The report says employees were "coerced" to do political "fund raising" and to work for free at events like Kwanzaafest.

"Atrocious," said Foster after the report was released. "It's so extensive and egregious, it just is shocking."

Larry Friedman, an attorney for Cortes, calls the Defenbaugh report  "a joke"  that simply repeats allegations in the lawsuits -- charges he says won't stand up in court.

State Sen. Royce West, who represents Evans, agrees. "I can't say the people didn't say it. What I'm saying is, at the appropriate time we'll get a chance to see whether those people are credible or not," West said.

Attorneys for both constables say their clients are innocent, and the claims against them are politically motivated.

Defenbaugh, meanwhile, has sent complaints to the Justice Department alleging that the constables violated a federal law that bars government employees from campaigning.

He has also provided information to the Internal Revenue Service,  claiming Kwanzaafest failed to open its books as required by law.

E-mail greaves@wfaa.com

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