SAN ANTONIO - As Bexar County officials move forward on replacing embattled Precinct 2 Constable Michelle Barrientes Vela, we're taking a look back at her biggest controversies since being elected in 2016.
The constable is being replaced because she triggered a state law that forces elected officials to resign from their current office upon announcing a campaign for another office if they have more than 13 months left in their current term.
Barrientes Vela said on Monday that she would seek election as Bexar County sheriff in an exclusive interview with KSAT 12. The interview happened as the FBI and Texas Rangers raided her county office and seized a county vehicle from her home on Monday.
Federal authorities haven't yet said why they conducted the raid, but a look back at her time in office provides some clues.
From lawsuits over alleged sex discrimination stemming from an incident in a hot tub to her a proposed cavity search and warrantless blood draw on a teen, KSAT's Defenders have published about three dozen stories detailing incidents and subsequent fallout.
Here are some of the biggest scandals:
- September 2017: Constable Michelle Barrientes Vela and other high-ranking deputies from her office stayed in high-dollar hotels, had meals on the taxpayer’s dime but skipped the main training session during a work trip to Austin.
- March 2018: Video provided to the Defenders challenges the constable’s sworn testimony that a deputy came at her while receiving a verbal reprimand. Her testimony was repeatedly cited by the administrative hearing officer who sided with the county in denying the deputy disability payments.
- June 2018: The terminations of Deputies Leonicio Moreno and Christopher De La Cerda are overturned by the Bexar County Civil Service Commission, months after they were fired amid accusations they falsified training records. Moreno testified he was set up to fail as training coordinator because Barrientes Vela forbade him from talking to the agency’s previous coordinator.
- September 2018: The Bexar County Auditor pulls a request from Barrientes Vela to have the county pay for new uniform patches for her deputies after a Defenders' investigation reveals that the phrase on the patch is historically inaccurate. Barrientes Vela claimed to be the first female to hold office. Mrs. S.M. “Indana” Meeks was the first female constable in Bexar County history.
- December 2018: Deputy Constable Leonicio Moreno files a lawsuit in Bexar County District Court accusing constable Barrientes Vela of attempting to touch and caress him in a hotel hot tub in Galveston during a July 2017 work conference. Barrientes Vela denies the allegations.
- February 2019: Sworn records show a 19-year-old car crash victim had her blood drawn without a warrant and was nearly subjected to a cavity search in the back of an ambulance at the request of Precinct 2 deputies.
- April 2019: Barrientes Vela is accused of squeezing money from a family at Rodriguez Park in exchange for providing security Easter Sunday.
- April 2019: Deputy Constable Leonicio Moreno, Barrientes Vela’s opponent in the 2020 election, is arrested for felony perjury. Prosecutors quickly dismissed the case. Jail footage shows deputies delayed booking Moreno nearly a half-hour, until the media arrived.
- September 2019: The FBI and Texas Rangers raid the constable’s offices on Guilbeau Road and seize her county vehicle from her home off of Eckhert Road. The office raid lasts over 10 hours.
- September 2019: Barrientes Vela is removed from office after triggering an automatic resignation under state law that prevents elected officials from announcing a run for a different office when they have at least 13 months left in their term.
KSAT COVERAGE OF PCT. 2:
WATCH A VIDEO TIMELINE OF SOME OF THE INCIDENTS:
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