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Victor Trevino

Endorsement watch: First, reform the office

The Chron has almost as much to say about the office of Constable as it does about the candidates for Constable that they prefer.

Harris County needs to bring these law enforcement fiefdoms in line: Update precincts to equalize populations, reduce the competing bureaucracies, centralize the evidence room and put county law enforcement responsibility in the hands of the Sheriff’s Office. Harris County also needs to encourage unincorporated regions to directly fund their own law enforcement, whether through independent taxing districts or incorporation into formal cities.

It is time to return constables to their core duties. It will save taxpayer dollars, streamline government and knock out some of Harris County’s most problem-prone institutions.

Until that day, the Houston Chronicle editorial board makes the following endorsements in the contested races for Harris County constables.

Alan Rosen

Alan Rosen

Constable, Precinct 1: Alan Rosen

Since his election in 2012, Constable Alan Rosen has set the standard across the county for professionalism. While his precinct covers the western half of the Inner Loop and inside Beltway 8 from US 290 to Interstate 69, Rosen, 48, also has the countywide responsibility of serving juvenile and mental health warrants and of overseeing environmental investigations and animal cruelty cases. The Democratic incumbent has put a strong emphasis on training and community relationships. For example, when Houstonians marched downtown to protest police brutality and in support of racial equality, Rosen spoke to the crowd about the shared pain felt by communities and law enforcement officers.

Constable, Precinct 2: Christopher (Chris) Diaz

Our choice is the incumbent Christopher (Chris) Diaz, a former mayor and councilman in Jacinto City.

Constable, Precinct 3: Dan Webb

Incumbent Preinct 3 Constable Ken Jones is retiring and residents of Harris County would do well to cast their ballots for Republican Dan Webb, who currently holds a Department of Public Safety Commission as a Special Ranger and has 33 active-duty years of law enforcement service. Webb promises to fix the “good ol boy” promotion system at this precinct, which encompasses Channelview, Huffman, Crosby and Highlands and part of the Northshore communities.

Constable, Precinct 4: Jeff McGowen

If Precinct 4 Constable Mark Herman, a Republican, worked in the private sector, he would have been fired for the evidence room scandal that occurred on his watch. This race should be viewed as an opportunity to remove a politician who has failed at a job and elect a replacement.

Voters in this massive precinct, which stretches across north Harris County from US 290 to Lake Houston, luckily have a qualified candidate in Jeff McGowen. The Democratic challenger is a 23-year veteran of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and is a strong advocate for community policing. In a meeting with the editorial board, McGowen, 46, offered proposals on improved training and greater coordination between precincts.

Constable, Precinct 6: Richard “Rick” Gonzales

Silvia Treviño isn’t asking anyone to call her madre, but students of Texas history should see reflections of Pa and Ma Ferguson – the unfortunate tag-team husband and wife Texas governors – in this race for Precinct 6 Constable.

Silvia’s husband, former Precinct 6 Constable Victor Treviño, is currently on probation for spending charity dollars at a Louisiana casino and faces newfound scrutiny for running an evidence room that had not been cleaned out or organized during his 26 years. Now Silvia is running to take her husband’s former position and defeated incumbent Precinct 6 Constable Heliodoro Martinez in the Democratic primary.

It is time to make a full break and elect someone new.

Constable, Precinct 8: Phil Sandlin

Incumbent Phil Sandlin is the right man to be constable of this southeast precinct that borders the Houston Ship Channel and includes NASA and many large chemical complexes.

I’m not going to argue with any of the Chron’s endorsement choices. There are a lot of less-than-inspiring candidates on the ballot, though thankfully my own Precinct 1 is in a much better place than it was four years ago. I think the Chron’s litany of complaints about the function and role of the Constable in Harris County deserves attention. We are going to be electing a new County Judge in 2018, and I hope we will also have a spirited race for County Commissioner Precinct 2. Both of these present an opportunity to have a discussion about the role of the Constables, among other things. If we want things to be different we can make it so, but it’s not going to happen without an active effort.

It’s not just Precinct 4

There are problems with evidence rooms in other Constable precincts as well.

Constable Mark Herman

Constable Mark Herman

With Harris County’s Precinct 4 Constable’s Office mired in scandal over the improper destruction of 21,000 pieces of evidence, serious evidence cataloging and control problems also have been uncovered in the constables’ offices in Precincts 3,6 and 7, according to interviews and audits obtained by the Houston Chronicle.

While there is no proof yet that evidence has been unlawfully destroyed in those other three offices, 2,000 items were initially reported missing in Precinct 3; guns, jewelry, electronics and cash were misplaced in Precinct 6; and Precinct 7’s evidence room has been described as “a shambles.”

In Precinct 4, where the evidence destruction scandal is still unfolding, prosecutors so far have dismissed 100 criminal cases and are still determining how many convictions could be affected by years of careless work blamed on a corporal fired for illegally disposing of drugs, guns and evidence. The episode remains the subject of a criminal probe.

Only time will tell whether chaotic evidence handling practices reported in Precincts 3,6 and 7 will result in case dismissals, appeals or further investigations.

Harris County auditors in May 2015 uncovered evidence problems – never made public – in a review of the overstuffed property room inside the Precinct  6 Constable’s Office in the East End. There, auditors reported finding 28 percent of the evidence missing along with $54,000 in cash in a review of a sample of 799 items, the audit shows. Their visit to the office came only months after the previous constable, Victor Treviño, resigned after pleading guilty to misappropriating money from a charity he ran out of his office.

Constable Heliodoro Martinez, who replaced Treviño, said in an interview Friday that he immediately contacted the Harris County district attorney after receiving those results. It took five months for a team of two Harris County sheriff’s deputies and two of his own officers to locate the missing cash and other items. Martinez said he is still trying to impose order in an evidence room that hadn’t been cleaned out or organized in 26 years.

Unlike the Precinct 4 scandal, neither defense attorneys nor front-line prosecutors have been notified to review cases. So far, county lawyers have not deemed that any notifications or criminal investigations are necessary.

“To this point, we haven’t been made aware of any pending cases that have been affected in any way, shape or form,” Martinez said.

JoAnne Musick, a defense attorney who is past president of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association, said she is skeptical that no cases have been adversely affected.

“Every property custodian comes in and testifies how great their system is – but in these audits that’s not what they’re finding,” she said. “They’re having to dig stuff up. … How do you know it’s not been tampered with, it’s not altered, it’s not decayed?”

See here, here, and here for the background. None of the other precincts have had anywhere near the problems that Precinct 4 have had, but it’s too early to say that no cases have been affected. There are also some questions about the way the audits were conducted and the results communicated. The current auditor for the county is retiring, so perhaps there should be a high priority on re-reviewing all eight Constable precincts and ensuring we know what issues there are. And then maybe, as suggested by some people in the story and by commenter Steven Houston in an earlier post, it’s time to take these evidence rooms away from the constables and put sole authority for them in the Sheriff’s office.

Henry Martinez named as interim Constable

Congratulations.

Victor Trevino

A 23-year veteran of the Houston Community College police department will succeed the disgraced Victor Trevino as constable in Precinct Six, county officials announced Monday, elevating a Latino officer who promises to have no aspirations to become a Latino politician.

Harris County Commissioners Court formally appointed Henry Martinez Jr., who currently leads police operations on HCC’s Northeast campuses, as the constable serving the East End precinct. Commissioner Jack Morman, whose area includes most of Trevino’s old precinct, recommended Martinez to the court at a special meeting on Monday morning.

Dozens of candidates applied to Morman’s office for a job that many constables hold for decades, but many applicants were ruled out almost immediately. Morman had insisted that the winning candidate live in the precinct and promise not to run for the job in 2016. He also was sensitive to the desires of the heavily-Latino district.

Morman seems to have met all three of his preconditions with the selection of Martinez.

“As you can tell, I’m not a political type of person,” Martinez, 52, told reporters, saying there are no circumstances under which he would run in two years. “I’ll do the job and do it well – to the best of my ability – but as far as getting out there and running for a position, I’m not interested.”

[…]

Greg Cunningham, the chief of HCC’s police, said the new constable can be a demanding boss.

“He has high expectations of his people and he’s disappointed if they don’t deliver,” said Cunningham, who praised the selection. “He can be a tough guy to work for, but at the end of the day, he’s fair.”

Colleagues of Martinez similarly described him as a hardworking cop who rarely makes errors.

“He’s been one of those quiet leaders, so I think today’s a well-earned opportunity for him,” Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia said.

See here for the background. I wish new Constable Martinez all the success in the world as he embarks on this new journey. I’m just wondering how long it will be before someone else announces his or her candidacy for the 2016 primary. Campos has more.

Trevino gets probation

Such a shame.

Victor Trevino

Former Harris County Precinct 6 constable Victor Trevino, who pleaded guilty in a public corruption case this month, was sentenced on Monday to 10 years of probation – avoiding incarceration for his criminal activity and capping a 40-year law enforcement career by becoming a felon.

He faced a maximum of 10 years in prison.

Trevino, 62, also was fined $1,000 and ordered to perform 150 hours of community service. Prosecutors and the former constable’s defense team were working to determine a restitution figure.

Before 185th District Criminal Court Judge Susan Brown handed down the sentence, Trevino testified: “I pleaded guilty because I am guilty.”

He said that his admission to a single count of misapplication of fiduciary property, a third-degree felony, was associated with his lack of oversight as the president of CARE, a charity he founded a few years after he was elected constable in 1988.

When asked by prosecutor Bill Moore if he used his position of trust as a public servant and his leadership of the nonprofit for personal gain, Trevino said no, but expressed regret that his actions had caused “suspicion” and “confusion.”

[…]

The three-hour sentencing hearing on Monday included testimony from Harris County District Attorney’s Office fraud examiner George Jordan. He detailed Trevino’s wrongdoing by connecting cashed CARE checks to deposits in Trevino’s personal bank accounts that were closely timed to the constable’s trips to casinos and lottery ticket purchases. The fraud examiner’s testimony also noted the lack of additions to the nonprofit’s account in the weeks before and after certain fundraising events. The analysis showed at least $124,000 in cash deposits to Trevino or his wife’s personal accounts from 2008 to 2011.

The investigation led the fraud examiner to a surprising conclusion about a veteran lawman whose annual household income exceeded $200,000: “He appeared to not be as financially stable as I expected.”

See here, here, and here for the background. As noted, Trevino avoids jail time but did not get deferred adjudication as he sought, and thus will have a felony conviction on his record. Commissioners Court will appoint an interim Constable on Tuesday – or possibly sooner – after they finish canvassing the election results. Several former employees of Precinct 6 who were terminated for various reasons are talking about bringing legal action over their terminations now, so the effect of this case could linger for awhile. All in all, a disgraceful ending to what had once been a distinguished career. Hair Balls has more.

Searching for a successor to Victor Trevino

Commissioners Court is on it.

Victor Trevino

Harris County commissioners are preparing to accept the resignation of convicted Constable Victor Trevino and to start looking for his replacement.

Trevino, who pleaded guilty last week to a felony charge as a jury was hearing evidence in his public corruption trial, resigned his office. Once commissioners accept his resignation Tuesday, they must select a replacement to serve out the remainder of Trevino’s four-year term.

[…]

“It’s important to find someone who is qualified, and has a history of living and working in the precinct and is community-minded,” said state Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, adding she has told commissioners she favors a Hispanic who is a Democrat.

[…]

“This is the preliminary step to get someone appointed to that position,” said David Ellison, a spokesman for Commissioner El Franco Lee, who moved to place the Trevino-related matters on Tuesday’s agenda. “The commissioner was concerned it didn’t stay vacant for too long and wanted to get someone in there to take over the reins.”

Most of Trevino’s precinct is located within the boundaries of Commissioner Jack Mormon’s district; about one-quarter is in Lee’s. Mormon’s staff confirmed the screening process is underway with 12 to 15 applicants under review.

David Walden, Mormon’s chief of staff, said all candidates are under consideration regardless of race or ethnicity, but added, “It’s obviously a Hispanic district, with an overwhelming majority, so you want someone there who has community support.”

I went back to the 2012 precinct data that I have for Harris County, and it showed that Constable Precinct 6 voted 79.4% for President Obama. Commissioners Court can play games if they want, but I can pretty much guarantee the next elected Constable will be a Democrat. Commissioners Court officially accepted Trevino’s resignation, yesterday, and I’m glad to see that Commissioner Morman said it would be “almost an automatic disqualifier” for someone to express longer-term interest in the job. That’s as I would have it – let the voters make the choice without being influenced by external factors. We’ll know who the Court picks next week.

Trevino takes a plea

Disgraceful.

Victor Trevino

Harris County Precinct 6 constable Victor Trevino pleaded guilty Monday to misapplication of fiduciary property, a day after beginning trial on allegations that he diverted money from his charity for personal use.

He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for the felony, and has asked the judge to decide punishment after a sentencing hearing on Nov. 17.

The Precinct 6 constable was indicted almost two years ago on several charges accusing him of financial misconduct. He was first elected to office 26 years ago. He will resign from office on Tuesday. He also will have to surrender his state license that allows him to carry a weapon.

[…]

Prosecutors earlier this year offered Trevino a plea deal that would have allowed the 62-year-old constable to plead guilty to a class C misdemeanor, the lowest form of criminal infraction, and retire, his attorney, Chip Lewis said last week. In exchange, prosecutors would have dropped four felony indictments on charges that include misapplication of fiduciary property and tampering with a public document.

See here for the background. Clearly, Trevino should have taken the original plea deal. I can’t say I feel sorry for him, however. As was the case with disgraced former Constable Jack Abercia, who resigned before he copped a plea, Commissioners Court will name a replacement. With this post being up for election in 2016, which really means March since this will be settled in the Democratic primary, I’d suggest they take the same path as last time and appoint someone who doesn’t want to run for the post. We’ll see what they do. In the meantime, good riddance.

Constable Victor Trevino goes to trial

In case you want to follow a story that isn’t related to the election.

Victor Trevino

The money was supposed to go to a charity that would pay for neighborhood events, but instead, prosecutors said, the longtime East End law enforcement official who created the nonprofit group more than 20 years ago gambled it away.

Harris County Precinct 6 constable Victor Trevino was indicted almost two years ago on several charges accusing him of financial misconduct, but details of the accusations finally were revealed Friday in a Harris County courtroom where the constable is on trial. The details portray a lawman well-known in his community and a regular fixture at outreach events – including National Night Out and a pre-Halloween Fall festival – to be the same man who became a criminal, taking money from an organization he said was designed to help the people he served. Trevino was first elected to office 26 years ago.

Among the accusations outlined by Assistant Harris County District Attorney Bill Moore was that Trevino diverted thousands of dollars from his charity for his own personal use, including cashing checks for cash to play slot machines with his wife at a Louisiana casino and to buy Lotto tickets.

During opening statements at Trevino’s trial, Moore said the constable directed his bookkeeper to forge the signature of someone from the charity who is authorized to sign them. Then either the constable cashed the checks or sent deputies to do it at local convenience stores, the prosecutor said.

“You are going to hear evidence that checks were cashed for large amounts of money,” Moore said. “And you are going to hear that within days, sometimes the next day, Constable Trevino and his wife would go to a casino in Louisiana and put large amounts of cash into slot machines.”

[…]

Defense lawyers for Trevino told jurors that the bookkeeper, not the constable, is the person who should be on trial.

“Carolyn Lopez was not trustworthy,” attorney Chip Lewis told jurors. “She was not a good bookkeeper.”

Lewis said that before 2008, Trevino’s record keeping was impeccable, because of longtime bookkeeper Mary Alice Williams. Williams became ill in 2008 and has since died. Lewis said that after Williams stopped doing the books, Lopez volunteered to take over.

That was when the financial improprieties began, Lewis said.

“I don’t believe in coincidences,” he told jurors. “The evidence will show that you should not believe in coincidences either.”

Lewis said Lopez lied to grand jurors who indicted Trevino in November 2012 and has since been given immunity for the 136 checks she admitted she forged.

See here and here for the background. There’s nothing more tawdry than an embezzlement trial, is there? Trevino was offered a fairly generous plea deal but rejected it while maintaining his innocence. Whether that is justifiable confidence or extreme hubris remains to be seen, but we should know soon. The trial is expected to wrap up this week, so the verdict will give us something to talk about if we don’t want to talk about the election results. Trevino is up for election next in 2016, in case you’re wondering.

Constable Trevino’s day in court

It went about as you’d expect.

Constable Victor Trevino

Precinct 6 Constable Victor Trevino and his attorney said Tuesday they expect the longtime law enforcement officer to be cleared of any wrongdoing in connection with allegations he abused his official role and used charity donations for personal use.

“On behalf of my family and myself, I just want to thank the community for their overwhelming support and their prayers,” Trevino said after a brief court appearance Tuesday morning. “We’ve cooperated, and we’re going to continue to cooperate and see this through all the way.”

[…]

“We’re very eager for our day in court,” said attorney Chip Lewis. “It’s a sad day in the community when Constable Trevino’s good name has been sullied because of these charges, and we are very eager for the opportunity to vindicate him and return his good name.”

Trevino and Lewis did not answer questions as they left court, but reiterated that Trevino will not step down despite being indicted.

Well, Jerry Eversole expressed confidence that he would be cleared of all charges, too, so take all that for what it’s worth. I know nothing about this case beyond what has been reported, and I firmly believe in the presumption of innocence, I’m just saying that such pronouncements really don’t have much predictive value. It should also be noted that Eversole did not resign until after his original trial, which ended in a hung jury, a few weeks before he finally took a plea. I still think Constable Trevino should formally hand off the day to day operations of Precinct 6 to someone else in his office until this is resolved one way or another, but staying in office until then is not unusual. The story does not say, but the caption under the photo that goes with the story says that the case has been reset for January, so barring any surprises we’ll have to wait till then for the next update.

Constable Trevino indicted

Lovely.

Constable Victor Trevino

Longtime Precinct 6 Constable Victor Trevino was indicted Friday, accused of failing to report cash campaign contributions, diverting money from his youth charity for personal use and using deputies to serve eviction notices and then keeping the delivery fees.

Trevino was charged in four felony indictments alleging abuse of official capacity, misapplication of fiduciary property and tampering with a government document. He faces 10 years in prison if convicted, said Harris County District Attorney’s Office prosecutors who investigated the constable for more than a year and interviewed 165 witnesses.

Defense attorney Chip Lewis said Trevino will not step down as he fights charges he described as a hodgepodge of technical violations.

“What you see today is a product of what I call old-school law enforcement meets modern-day regulations,” Lewis said. “All of the allegations involve either inadequate bookkeeping, (or) failure to technically satisfy very technical laws.”

[…]

[County Attorney Vince] Ryan declined to address whether his office would seek to remove Trevino. The county attorney represents the state in a removal trial, which can be brought against any county officer on allegations of official misconduct, incompetency or intoxication.

[County Judge Ed] Emmett said Trevino should step aside until the case is done, though he did not call for the constable’s resignation.

“Being a law enforcement officer, him being under a cloud really complicates his ability to serve, I think,” Emmett said. “The best thing for him to do at this point would be to step aside and turn over operations of the precinct to somebody else until it gets resolved.”

Not been a good year for Constables, has it? We had now-former Constable Jack Abercia’s resignation and arrest to kick the year off, and this is like a bookend to that. Ryan released a report on the Constables’ offices in May that didn’t go into much detail but which was apparently used as part of the investigation of Trevino. I agree with Judge Emmett, it would be best if Trevino took a leave of absence or something, and let someone else handle the daily operations until this matter is resolved.

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.

Endorsement watch: We take it back

Here’s something you don’t see every election. The Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association, which had previously endorsed City Council Member Jolanda Jones for re-election to her At Large #5 seat, has now rescinded that endorsement. You can read their letter to CM Jones here (PDF), which is signed by union President Jeff Caynon, who are you know has been sparring with Jones lately. I think this is Round Three, but I could be miscounting that. The HPFFA has not endorsed anyone else in this race, at least as yet.

I couldn’t find a list of other HPFFA endorsements, but I do know that they endorsed Gene Locke for Mayor last week. Locke has racked up a fair number of endorsements lately, mostly from the builders and real estate communities. Today he got the nod from several Latino elected officials, including State Sen. Mario Gallegos, State Rep. Carol Alvarado, Constable Victor Trevino, and HISD Trustee Diana Davila.

Meanwhile, the Houston Stonewall Young Democrats had their endorsement meeting last night, and recommended the following slate:

City of Houston Controller
Ronald Green

City Council At-large 1
Karen Derr

City Council At-large 2
Sue Lovell

City Council At-large 3
Melissa Noriega

City Council At-large 4
Noel Freeman

City Council At-large 5
Jolanda Jones

City Council District A
Lane Lewis

City Council District D
Wanda Adams

Like the HGLBT Political Caucus, the HSYDs had previously endorsed Annise Parker for Mayor. A lot of organizations are doing their screenings and making their choices around now, so look for plenty more of these notices.

Finally, according to a press release I received this afternoon, the Greater Houston Builders Association, which is one of those organizations that has backed Locke, gave its endorsement in At Large #4 to C.O. Bradford. The GHBA’s political advocacy page has not been updated yet to reflect any endorsements. For that matter, neither the HPFFA nor the HSYD pages had current endorsement information up yet. May I suggest y’all get on that, like soon? Thanks.

Hey, at least it’s not an L

The best bit in this story about Gene Locke‘s campaign kickoff rally at Minute Maid Park yesterday is at the end, and doesn’t really have anything to do with Locke’s party.

Locke’s multi-ethnic audience and endorsers were a refutation of an ethnic appeal made this week by campaign opponent Roy Morales, the county education board trustee who has lost two council races.

Pointing out that the Houston mayor’s race is non-partisan, Morales, a Hispanic Republican, said on Apostle Claver T. Kamau-Imani’s radio show,

I don’t have an R next to my name, I don’t have a D next to name. I have an H next to my name.

To which [Gracie] Saenz, [Victor] Trevino and others might say, “So what?”

Actually, I think the best response comes from Festus in the comments:

I assume the ‘H’ next to Roy Morales’ name stands for “Hopeless.”

I don’t think I can add anything to that. But Greg did, so go check his post out.