After FBI raid of Pct. 2 office, Wolff urges constable to look 'at herself' rather than others
Sheriff Salazar says allegations against Michelle Barrientes Vela 'troubling'
SAN ANTONIO – Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said Monday's raid by the FBI and the Texas Rangers at the office of controversial Precinct 2 Constable Michelle Barrientes Vela "is the first time anything like this has happened since I've been in office."
The raid comes after Barrientes Vela and several Precinct 2 deputies were the subject of several scandals this year, including a proposed cavity search and warrantless blood draw on a teen, as well as the delayed booking of Barrientes Vela's 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.
Barrientes Vela blamed the "good old boy system" for the raid and said public officials, including Wolff, are out to get her.
"First of all, the county has no control over any amount of persuasion that the FBI would do, the Texas Rangers would do. These investigations have been ongoing and they are certainly not directed from anybody on the Commissioner's Court," Wolff said. "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 he will be closely monitor the case but said because Barrientes Vela is an elected official, the Bexar County Commissioner's Court has no constitutional right to remove her from office.
"It's important to remember this: The voters of Precinct 2 elected the constable, so she's an elected official. At this point, no one has been arrested, no one has been indicted and no one has been convicted. So, she has a constitutional right to continue in office until one of these things were to happen, if they do happen," Wolff said.
When asked by a reporter if the Commissioner's Court could sanction Barrientes Vela, Wolff said, "As this case moves along, we'll see if it reaches that."
Wolff added that if it was up to him, he would eliminate all of the constable offices.
"It's a duplication of what the Sheriff's Office does," he said.
Wolff was joined by Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar and Precinct 2 Commissioner Justin Rodriguez at a news conference a few hours after the raid.
Salazar said a member of his command staff is at the raid, providing whatever assistance the FBI may need, and that deputies are at the Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Office ready to provide security.
"We're working together to make sure the processes of the court, whether in the courtroom or out serving civil process, none of that will be adversely affected," he said. "If you have business down there, come on down and conduct it. We're here to make sure public safety is not affected in any way. The constituents of Precinct 2 can be assured that the Sheriff's Office is ready to step in and handle whatever may come up from a county perspective."
When Salazar was asked if Barrientes Vela's actions affect the perception of public safety, he said, "Some of the allegations that have come up ... are troubling, there's no other way to say it. Any allegation that arises, true or not, perception is reality a lot of the time. And yes, that sort of stuff does bother us and does hurt."
Rodriguez echoed what Salazar said, stating that despite the raid, "There will be a continuity of service" for public safety in Precinct 2.
He said county park staff will handle park reservations as they have for the past few months.
KSAT COVERAGE OF PCT. 2:
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