Lawsuit accuses Precinct 2 constable of trying to caress deputy in hot tub during work trip

Deputy claims he was retaliated against after refusing boss’s sexual advances

SAN ANTONIO – A lawsuit filed in district court Tuesday accuses Bexar County Precinct 2 Constable Michelle Barrientes-Vela of attempting to touch and caress a deputy during a work trip last year and then retaliating against him after he refused her advances.

Deputy Leonicio Moreno said he was unfairly targeted by the constable and eventually demoted months after the incident, which the lawsuit states happened in a hotel hot tub in Galveston in late July 2017.

In addition to the constable repeatedly trying to touch and caress Moreno, she also referred to him as her husband, according to the suit.

A third Precinct 2 employee, Deputy Chris De La Cerda, is named in the lawsuit as a witness to the hot tub incident.

Barrientes-Vela issued the following statement Wednesday night in regard to the lawsuit:

"Deputy Moreno and Deputy De La Cerda have made several allegations in an accusatory manner towards me as well as my current Deputies.  The current accusations Deputy Moreno are making against me are the same ones he has made on numerous occasions, all of which have been disproven in every prior proceeding .  Deputy Moreno has made it known that he has a witness, Deputy De La Cerda, to collaborate his version of the incident in question; I too have "witnesses" to disprove any and all allegations made by these individuals.  My witnesses, who were not named in the lawsuit, were also present during the incident in question. "To be non-bias, I contacted TCOLE to open an investigation on Deputy Moreno and Deputy De La Cerda for falsifying  training records which I believed were submitted under false pretense.  The outcome of a TCOLE investigation resulted in both Deputy Moreno and Deputy De La Cerda receiving letters of reprimand for their actions.  I subsequently terminated both individuals since they were no longer trustworthy and I expect and hold every member of my Office to the highest standards to include honesty, integrity and truthfulness.  These standards are not only part of my Office's policies and procedures but also that of the Bexar County Civil Service Commision.  The Bexar County Civil Service Commission's decision however was to reinstate both Deputy Moreno and Deputy De La Cerda back into positions as Deputy Constables within my Office.  Part of the agreement was that both individuals were not to receive any back pay nor were they to be reinstated to the rank that they had previously held.  I however was in disagreement with the outcome of their decision to place these two individuals into my Office.   "Based on a review of the "facts" listed in this new lawsuit I have proof that they are all baseless in nature.  I will be more than happy to share this information during the legal proceedings involving this matter and once concluded I can then provide more detailed facts.  As an elected official, I will continue to be strong for both my constituents and for my family during this process."

Lawsuit accuses Precinct 2 constable of trying to caress deputy in hot tub during work trip

The suit states that Moreno has continued to be retaliated against by Barrientes Vela after returning to work in late June.

Tuesday's lawsuit, which seeks up to $1 million in damages, is the latest legal action involving the first-term constable.

Earlier this year, two other Precinct 2 deputies sued Barrientes Vela, alleging defamation.

Court records show both cases were dismissed in late September.

In June, the Defenders reported that Moreno and De La Cerda were terminated after a state investigation determined that they falsified the training records of themselves and other members of the agency.

Both deputies later won back their jobs after the county’s Civil Service Commission voted to overturn their terminations.

About the Author:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.