Booze-filled gift baskets, lottery tickets auctioned off by District Clerk’s office in county building

DA Gonzales: “Nobody contacted us” for ethical and legal opinion on fundraiser

SAN ANTONIO – For one week this month, anyone walking through the basement between the Paul Elizondo Tower and the Bexar County Justice Center passed by large gift baskets on display as part of a silent auction.

The baskets were made up of items donated by employees from the various departments within the Bexar County District Clerk’s Office, staff told KSAT.

Some of the baskets, which included the names “Liquor Basket” and “Lotto Basket,” contained bottles of hard alcohol, beer, wine, premade mixed cocktails and lottery scratch-off tickets.

Lottery scratch-off tickets in one of the gift baskets. (KSAT)

Some items had bids over $200, according to sign-up sheets placed in front of the baskets.

The auction’s proceeds would have gone toward an off-site “Christmas Party” for the office run by first-year District Clerk Gloria Martinez, a banner advertising the event shows.

The week-long auction, which had been scheduled to run between August 8-15, was abruptly canceled after KSAT Investigates began asking questions about it.

District clerk employees confirmed to KSAT that they were tasked with monitoring the auction while on the clock. Others told KSAT they were uncomfortable hosting an auction with these sorts of items.

The baskets were in a public thoroughfare that leads to a courthouse that hears thousands of gambling and alcohol-related criminal cases each year.

A bottle of Don Julio tequila. (KSAT)

And while a county spokeswoman confirmed the district clerk’s office got permission to use the space following a request to the county’s facilities department, the event did not go to the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office for an ethical and legal review.

“Nobody contacted us about that.”

Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales declined to tell KSAT whether he was on board with the auction, since he is the attorney for the county’s elected officials and did not want to say “anything that might compromise that relationship.”

“Nobody contacted us about that,” said Gonzales, who confirmed his office would have offered an ethical and legal opinion on the event had his office been asked.

Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales. (KSAT)

A district clerk employee who identified herself as the head of the fundraising committee defended the auctioning of alcohol, telling KSAT the items were closed and not being consumed on county property.

Bexar County’s policy on gambling, betting and lotteries prohibits selling or purchasing a numbers slip or ticket while on county-owned or leased property.

A Bexar County District Clerk employee taps on a can of Miller Lite in the basement of the Paul Elizondo Tower. (KSAT)

Martinez, who took office on Jan. 1, did not respond to a phone call or emails seeking comment for this story.

Three district clerk employees who told KSAT they were monitoring the event, confirmed being on the clock while doing so.

A staff member identified as Martinez’s chief deputy told KSAT this month employees were supposed to be watching over the event only while on their breaks.

Both times KSAT recorded footage of the event multiple district clerk employees asked what we were doing and if we wanted to bid on the items.

About the Authors:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.

Joshua Saunders is an Emmy award-winning photographer/editor who has worked in the San Antonio market for the past 20 years. Joshua works in the Defenders unit, covering crime and corruption throughout the city.