Embattled Precinct 2 constable announces future political plans

Constable to seek second term in Precinct 2

By Dillon Collier - Investigative Reporter, Josh Saunders - Photojournalist

SAN ANTONIO - Bexar County Precinct 2 Constable Michelle Barrientes Vela announced Friday that she will seek a second term in office.

Flanked by her husband and members of her agency outside the Bexar County Courthouse, Barrientes Vela ended the speculation that she would run for Bexar County Sheriff in 2020, saying that she has unfinished business in her current precinct.

"I will be seeking the seat of the sheriff's office in four years," said Barrientes Vela.

The political announcement, which came while Barrientes Vela and more than a dozen deputy constables were in full uniform, violated the county's rule on engaging in political activities.

Bexar County Political Activity

When asked by the KSAT 12 Defenders if she knew she was in violation of the rule, Barrientes Vela said, "Yes I do. But I also have a right to speak on behalf of my constituents."

"...the rights of women rights."

Prior to announcing her run for reelection, Barrientes Vela called out several county officials, including District Attorney Joe Gonzales and County Judge Nelson Wolff.

"Today is the day the constituents will know the elected Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, if he chooses to select, to participate against ethical and upholding the law. He also will be held accountable," said Barrientes Vela.

She accused Gonzales, who took office in January, of making threats toward her and bullying her staff, before conceding later that she currently has no communication with him.

"I'm still waiting for Joe Gonzales to come out. I don't see him," said Barrientes Vela, looking back at the courthouse.

Gonzales' offices are actually adjacent to the courthouse, in the Bexar County Justice Center.

"Today is the day that I will continue as I always have to stand up for the rights of women rights," said Barrientes Vela.

Scandal filled 2019

Sworn records indicate that in February, Precinct 2 deputies had a crash victim's blood drawn without first obtaining a warrant and proposed having a cavity search done on the teen after they suspected her of being under the influence of marijuana following a wreck in Leon Valley.

CLICK HERE: Pct. 2 deputies proposed cavity search on teen, ordered warrantless blood draw

Court records show the teen was never criminally charged in the crash.

In April, a Pct. 2 deputy who filed to run for the constable's position was arrested on suspicion of aggravated perjury.

The deputy, Leonicio Moreno, was cleared of criminal wrongdoing hours later after prosecutors dropped the charge. 

In June, surveillance video obtained by the Defenders showed deputies delayed booking Moreno for nearly a half-hour and parked on the opposite side of the jail until the media arrived.

CLICK HERE: Precinct 2 deputies delayed booking of constable's political opponent

The delayed booking is at the center of a federal lawsuit filed against Barrientes Vela and her captain by Moreno and another deputy last month.

Earlier this month, a Defenders investigation showed that Barrientes Vela and two other top officials from her office charged the county for an out of town training trip in Austin, but skipped the training itself.

The charges from the September 2017 trip included expensive hotel rooms, meals and payments for a state-certified open records training course.

State records show the trio did not show up for the second day of classes, when a bulk of the training took place.

Resign-to-run

County officials were checking Friday whether Barrientes Vela's public declaration to run for sheriff in 2024 had triggered the "resign-to-run" statute in the Texas Constitution.

The statute states that an elected county official who announces his or her candidacy for another political office with at least one year and 30 days remaining in his or her current term, automatically resigns the office currently held.

 

 

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