Constable’s sheriff campaign talk equals automatic resignation, state law says

Michelle Barrientes Vela announced Monday she would run for sheriff in 2020

As state and federal investigators process evidence confiscated during a raid at her office Monday, the future of Michelle Barrientes Vela's position as Precinct 2 constable may be in jeopardy for...

SAN ANTONIO – As state and federal investigators process evidence confiscated during a raid at her office yesterday, Michelle Barrientes Vela’s term as Bexar County Precinct 2 constable may be in jeopardy for other reasons.

During an exclusive interview Monday with KSAT 12 News, Barrientes Vela formally announced she is running for Bexar County sheriff in 2020, but plans to finish her term as constable.

Related: Troubled constable announces run for sheriff; unclear if she's aware of resign-to-run laws

"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.

KSAT 12 News reporter Deven Clarke, who interviewed Barrientes Vela, then asked her, "I guess the cat's out of the bag. You are officially going to run for the office of Bexar County sheriff in the next election?

Barrientes Vela responded by saying, "Yes. I'm very confident. I know I can do the job. I've been doing my job for my constituents."

Related: FBI, Texas Rangers raid Precinct 2 constable's office, seize county vehicle

The announcement underscored a list of damning accusations she made against top Bexar County officials, who she claims conspired to have her ousted from office for not conforming to what she calls a "good ol boy favor-for-favor system."

"I'm going to ask the community to stand with me as we go ahead and fight corruption together here in Bexar county, so I look forward to 2020," Barrientes Vela said.

Related: Former Precinct 2 deputy constable 'not surprised' by raid of Barrientes Vela's office

Barrientes Vela added that has no plans to vacate her current seat.

But along with possible criminal charges stemming from a state and federal investigation into her conduct as an elected official, St. Mary's University adjunct law professor, Frank Garza, said Barrientes Vela's announcement compromises her current position as constable. Garza referenced Article 16, Section 65 of the Texas Constitution.

"If they announce for candidacy with more than one year left in their term, they have automatically resigned their position," Garza said.

Related: After FBI raid of Pct. 2 office, Wolff urges constable to look 'at herself' rather than others

After Monday's raid at her office and just hours after her original announcement, Barrientes Vela invited us in to her office. When Clarke asked the constable if she understood the law, she backtracked.

"Oh, I haven't announced anything as far as campaigning, I've never been campaigning," said Barrientes Vela, who added that she was not in uniform when she made that announcement. Garza said her wardrobe doesn't matter in this case.

"Whether in uniform, out of uniform, whether in person, whether in writing, whether in social media, if you unequivocally announce you are running for another office and you have more than one year left in your term, under the categories listed in this constitution, you have automatically resigned and you are only in your position because of the holdover capacity," Garza said.

Garza said by law, Barrientes Vela can hold her position until another constable is appointed.

On Tuesday, members of the Bexar County Commissioner's Court said they plan on ensuring the automatic resignation. The commissioners are consulting with the Bexar County District Attorney's Office about the law and said they should know more by tomorrow.

Barrientes Vela did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.


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About the Authors:

William Caldera has been at KSAT since 2003. He covers a wide range of stories including breaking news, weather, general assignments and sports.