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May Walker

Dave Wilson is up to his usual tricks

Yolanda Navarro Flores

As you know, Dave Wilson is running against incumbent HCC Trustee Bruce Austin in HCC District 2. I wasn’t sure at first if it was that Dave Wilson or not, but it unquestionably is. The fact that he’s running in HCC 2 isn’t stopping him from meddling in his usual slimy way in the HCC 1 race, where Zeph Capo and Kevin Hoffman are challenging scandal-prone incumbent Yolanda Navarro Flores. Here are front and back scans of a mailer Wilson has sent to voters in HCC 1:

Wilson mailer 1

Wilson mailer 2

Like fleas on a rat, Dave Wilson continues to cling to the body politic. Yolanda Navarro Flores then followed the path Wilson blazed:

Flores mailer 1

Flores mailer 2

She has also sent out a mailer touting the endorsement of some current and former elected officials:

Flored endorsement mailer

I wonder if these folks have any idea what else is being said on behalf of Yolanda Navarro Flores. Since she herself has (as far as I know) not asked Dave Wilson to stop saying hateful things about her opponents, perhaps her supporters might. So let me ask the following people:

HCC Trustees Carroll Robinson and Eva Loredo, whom I might add is my Trustee
Constables May Walker and Ruben Davis
CM Andrew Burks
Harris County District Clerk Chris Daniel
Harris County Treasurer Orlando Sanchez

Do you have anything to say about what Dave Wilson is doing in support of Yolanda Navarro Flores? Leave a comment, send me an email, post it on Facebook, just let me know one way or another and I’ll be happy to echo your sentiments. To be clear, I’m not calling on anyone to rescind their endorsement of Navarro Flores. I have no problem with anyone supporting her for whatever the reason. I am saying that I hope these folks would want to distance themselves from the Dave Wilson campaign playbook from which Navarro Flores is drawing. I don’t think it’s too much to ask to say that this kind of campaign rhetoric, like what HISD Trustee Manuel Rodriguez employed two years ago against Ramiro Fonseca, has no place in decent society. I especially don’t think it’s too much for Navarro Flores’ Democratic supporters, most especially those that will be on my ballot at some point in the future, to denounce such tactics. (Democratic voters in HCC 2 that have not cast their ballots yet might also note Navarro Flores’ support from the Texas Conservative Review. I’m just saying.) I look forward to hearing from you.

County Attorney report on Constables

County Attorney Vince Ryan has completed a report his office began in December to examine some of the practices in the Constables’ offices. At that time, the FBI was investigating and was on the verge of arresting now-former Constable Jack Abercia, while Constables Victor Trevino and May Walker were being investigated by the District Attorney over allegations that they had county employees perform political fundraising on county time; Walker has since been no-billed by a grand jury. County Judge Ed Emmett is not satisfied with Ryan’s report.

The five-page report, released to the Houston Chronicle through an open records request, does not mention a constable by name and does not refer to a single example of practices or activities, good or bad, by any of the constables.

Much of the report was a recitation of state laws that apply to the constables’ offices, along with suggestions on how to comply with those laws.

Emmett said he is hoping to see more of the substance of the report, noting there has been “a lot going on” with the constables’ offices.

“That’s not casting aspersions on any particular constable or anything of the sort, but just to come out with a simple five-page report that says ‘If you have any questions call me’ … I’d like to see more,” Emmett said. “What I see is just a reluctance to make a firm judgment about almost anything. There have been so many examples of them not being able to come to judgments based on whether or not an activity is ethical.”

[…]

Ryan defended the report, saying providing specific details would cause more confusion than clarification. He also acknowledged the report had been edited five or six times “to make it educational without being accusatorial.”

I don’t know. On the one hand, I agree with Judge Emmett that given all that has been going on with the Constables lately – and it must be noted, this is not a new phenomenon – we could use some specifics about what they can and cannot do and what they should and should not do. Common sense apparently isn’t enough, and state law is vague in places. On the other hand, I’m sure Ryan didn’t want to do anything that might interfere or affect the ongoing criminal cases. As Steve Radack points out, an opinion by a County Attorney carries some legal weight and possibly could be used in someone’s criminal defense. (And yeah, that’s now twice in the last couple of weeks I’ve agreed with Steve Radack. Once more and I may turn into a toad or something.)

Houston Politics has a copy of the report, which it notes “doesn’t mention the events that led to Precinct 6 Constable Victor Trevino being under criminal investigation by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, nor the actions of former Precinct 1 Constable Jack Abercia, who resigned in January under federal indictment”. Despite what I said above, it sure seems like these topics could have been addressed in a way that wouldn’t cause any heartburn to prosecutors – much of it is part of the public record now. I suppose the ideal situation would be that we’d have Constables who exercised good judgment, erred on the side of caution, and sought out legal guidance if a point of law were unclear to them. If that were the case, we wouldn’t need reports like this.

Investigations all around

There’s a second grand jury looking into Harris County DA Pat Lykos.

Sources close to the investigation said a special prosecutor was appointed last week to look into claims by Shirley Cornelius, a 27-year-veteran of the office, that she was asked to change her time cards to delete accrued compensatory time.

Cornelius would not comment Wednesday on the new development.

In her August 2010 resignation letter, she alleged that a supervisor, acting on orders from the administration, asked her to change a time sheet. Harris County employees do not get overtime. Rather, any overtime they work is added to a pool of time they can take off later.

Cornelius, who became a licensed attorney in 1983, wrote in her resignation letter that she refused to change the official record because it would have been a criminal offense.

Instead, she said, supervisors in the office should be prosecuted for coercion.

Murray Newman wrote about that at the time. Meanwhile, the first grand jury ran into some resistance from other members of Lykos’ office.

Rachel Palmer, a high-ranking assistant Harris County district attorney who oversees the prosecution of hundreds of cases, stunned Houston’s criminal courthouse Thursday by pleading the Fifth Amendment instead of answering questions about evidence gathered by HPD’s beleaguered breath alcohol testing vehicles.

For months, a grand jury has been investigating issues surrounding the Houston Police Department’s BAT vans and possibly the DA’s office’s involvement.

On Thursday, Palmer was told she is not the target of that investigation when she was subpoenaed by the grand jury, according to court records.

She refused to answer questions, citing her constitutional rights, according to court records. It is unusual for a witness who is not being targeted to say that her answers could incriminate her.

Palmer’s actions prompted the grand jury’s special prosecutors to haul her before state District Judge Susan Brown and file a motion to compel her to testify.

Brown said she would hear arguments from both sides in a full hearing Monday. She could compel Palmer to answer specific questions the special prosecutors gave the judge.

Feels like a plot from a David Kelly show, doesn’t it? As far as we know, Lykos has not professed a desire to kiss one of her employees behind the right ear, so she has that going for her. Mark Bennett has more.

Elsewhere in county government, as I noted yesterday, the FBI is taking a look at some personnel files belonging to Constable Jack Abercia. Not clear what that’s about, but any time the words “FBI investigatin” are used in proximity to your name, it’s never a good thing. The Harris County Attorney’s office is also looking at some things Constables do.

First Assistant County Attorney Terry O’Rourke said his office is examining all the nonprofit charitable organizations being run by constables to ensure their activities meet the law. The county attorney is also reviewing a widely used program that allows neighborhood groups and homeowners associations to hire constables for security services. Officials want to check if the time the deputies spend on patrol are consistent with the terms of their security contract.

“This is the backbone of security in much of the city, and in a lot of the unincorporated area,” O’Rourke said. “This is serious stuff, and we are looking into it.”

The third area of the county’s inquiry is the lawful practice of constables pocketing fees for serving notices to vacate, the first step in a eviction ordered by a Justice of the Peace, O’Rourke said.

According to state law, eviction notices may only be delivered when not in conflict with the constable’s official duties, and the deputies cannot be wearing a uniform or driving a county vehicle or county equipment while delivering them.

O’Rourke said each of the eight constables handles serving eviction notices differently. He added that one allegation his office is examining is whether the notices are being served by county employees while on duty.

He said his office will complete a comprehensive report on constable operations by late January.

On top of all that, Constables May Walker and Victor Trevino are being investigated separately over allegations that they had county employees perform political fundraising on county time. Walker’s predecessor had his own troubles as well. Grits has often written that the office of Constable is a political anachronism that ought to be eliminated. Without commenting on the merits of any of these investigations, as I know precious little about them, it’s not hard to see where he’s coming from.