SAN ANTONIO – UPDATE: Bexar County officials announced Wednesday afternoon that they would appoint a replacement for Precinct 2 Constable Michelle Barrientes Vela after she automatically resigned her position when she violated the state’s resign-to-run law.
County Judge Nelson Wolff said an opinion by Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales found that statements Barrientes Vela made on Monday regarding her intent to run for sheriff triggers an automatic resignation under state law because she has more than 13 months until her constable term is complete.
The county will accept applications from Wednesday until Monday at noon and staff will subsequently review and hire a replacement to take over Barrientes Vela's term, which ends Dec. 2020.
Officials said they are looking for someone with law enforcement experience and trying to move quickly to appoint her replacement. County staff plan to conduct interviews and select a final candidate at Commissioner's Court on Oct. 2.
Barrientes Vela, who was in attendance at commissioner's court for the statement from Wolff, will remain in office as a holdover until her replacement is announced.
"All I'm going to say is the constituents voted for me and I'm going to continue to serve them," said Barrientes Vela after Wolff's statements.
"After a review of relevant authorities and application of law to the facts, it is the opinion of the Bexar County Criminal District Attorney's Office that the statements made by the constable in this instance constitute an announcement of candidacy which triggers the resign-to-run provision of Article XVI, Section 65 of Texas Constitution," the DA's office opinion reads.
ORIGINAL: Bexar County Precinct 2 Constable Michelle Barrientes Vela will be forced out of office after violating the state's resign-to-run law, a source familiar with the county's discussion the past two days told KSAT 12.
County officials plan to hold a 2 p.m. news conference Wednesday to make the announcement. KSAT.com will livestream the news conference.
The source said the Bexar County Commissioners Court plans to move quickly to replace Barrientes Vela. It's unclear whether it will be through an appointment or special election, or both.
The removal comes in response to Barrientes Vela announcing her plans to run for Bexar County sheriff in 2020 on Monday in an exclusive interview with KSAT.
She made the remarks as the FBI and Texas Rangers were raiding her county office and seizing items from her home on Monday.
"We're going to go ahead and formally announce today that I will be seeking the chair and the seat of the Sheriff's Office in Bexar County," Barrientes Vela said, adding that she has no plans to vacate her current seat.
According to Article 16, Section 65 of the Texas Constitution, an elected county official who announces an intent to run for another office when there is more than 13 months left in their current term automatically resigns that position.
Barrientes Vela has approximately 15 months left in her term.
When a KSAT reporter asked Barrientes Vela about the resign-to-run law hours after she made the announcement, she responded by saying, "Oh, I haven't announced anything as far as campaigning, I've never been campaigning."
Federal authorities did not say what prompted the raid.
Barrientes Vela and several Pct. 2 deputies have been the subject of several scandals this year, including a proposed cavity search and warrantless blood draw on a teen, and the delayed booking of her political opponent.
Barrientes Vela is also the target of two lawsuits by her deputies regarding sex discrimination that the lawsuits allege took place after a subordinate refused her sexual advances in a hot tub at a hotel during a work trip late last year.
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said on Monday that the raid of Barrientes Vela's office was the "first time anything like this has happened since I've been in office."
"She needs to carefully review what she's done in the last year or two, look a little bit at herself rather than try to blame everybody else for her problems," Wolff said.
Barrientes Vela blamed the "good old boy system" for the raid and said public officials, including Wolff, are out to get her.