SAN ANTONIO – More than three months after Bexar County Justice of the Peace Ciro Rodriguez requested a forensic audit of court cases heard in his precinct, county officials say they have no anticipated completion date for the examination.
Records provided by the Bexar County Auditor’s Office this week show that more than $28,000 has been spent on staff and management compensation so far to carry out the audit, which will attempt to determine which of two judges actually heard cases assigned to Precinct 1.
The county has assigned up to four auditors at a time to work on the project, a spokeswoman said via text message late last month.
The auditor, when releasing the raw data to the KSAT 12 Defenders earlier this week, noted that no expenses have been paid to external audit services.
Rodriguez, justice of the peace for Bexar County Precinct 1, Place 2, publicly questioned county records in early April that showed he had handled less than a quarter of cases from October through the end of February.
The court’s administrative judge, Precinct 1 Place 1 Justice of the Peace Robert Tejeda, disposed of 20,494 cases during that time period, while Rodriguez disposed of 6,074 cases, according to records released by Tejeda’s staff earlier this year.
The figures were provided to the county as well as the state Office of Court Administration (OCA), a state agency that provides resources and information for the efficient administration of the Judicial Branch of Texas.
OCA figures for the same time period show that Tejeda heard 20,503 cases, while Ciro Rodriguez heard 6,085 cases.
Rodriguez, when requesting a forensic audit on Precinct 1 caseload in early April, released a written statement to the Defenders that read in part:
“I do not understand why Judge Tejeda would knowingly downplay my work in Precinct One while embellishing his own performance as a Judge. The information you were provided by Judge Tejeda is simply not true and does not reflect the actual work done by me as a part-time judge doing full-time work to allow Judge Tejeda to recover from his incapacitating illness.”
Tejeda, however, had long since returned to work by October 2019 after fighting off a life-threatening bacterial infection.
A Bexar County Justice of the Peace quarterly report submitted earlier this year referred to Rodriguez as a part-time justice of the peace.
County officials contend that designation was written in error and have moved in recent months to defend Rodriguez receiving full-time compensation of well over six figures.
Commissioner Rodriguez’s role in brother’s salary increase
Bexar County Commissioners Court records show Ciro Rodriguez was given a short-term salary adjustment on June 5, 2018, as part of a consent agenda.
As part of the same item, Judge Jack Price was temporarily appointed to fill Tejeda’s seat while he recovered from his illness.
The records list Commissioner Sergio “Chico” Rodriguez as seconding the motion, along with the late-Commissioner Paul Elizondo, to approve the salary increase for Chico Rodriguez’s brother and also as voting in favor of it.
The increase boosted Ciro Rodriguez’s salary from $88,040 a year to more than $117,000 a year, according to figures provided by the auditor’s office.
Nearly two years later, with Tejeda back on the job, the short-term increase remains in place.
Additionally, Ciro Rodriguez has been given two yearly salary increases during that time and now takes home $125,792 a year, records show.
Reached by the Defenders via email earlier this year, Chico Rodriguez said it was an oversight on his part to not verbally abstain from the vote but disputed county records that show he seconded the motion.
Video of the meeting shows Elizondo clearly seconding the motion, but Chico Rodriguez does not appear to say “second” out loud.
Rodriguez also disputed records that show he voted in favor of the salary increase for his brother.
Typically, an elected official must verbally say they are not going to vote on an item in order to not be counted as an “aye” for consent agenda items.
Rodriguez did not verbally abstain from the vote, according to archive footage of the meeting, and was counted as an “aye” vote along with Elizondo, Kevin Wolff and Commissioner Tommy Calvert.
Commissioner Rodriguez was easily defeated Tuesday in the Democratic primary runoff for Precinct 1 by political newcomer Rebeca “Becky” Clay-Flores.
Clay-Flores will face Republican Gabriel Lara in November’s general election.
A county spokeswoman said via text message late last month that the audit is examining which judge ultimately heard 92,000 different cases in Precinct 1.
Contacted by the Defenders Wednesday, the spokeswoman said she was attempting to determine if the audit has expanded beyond the October 2019 through February 2020 time period disputed by Ciro Rodriguez this spring.