SAN ANTONIO - Bexar County Commissioners on Wednesday named the successor for embattled Precinct 2 Constable Michelle Barrientes Vela.
Commissioners selected Leticia Vasquez, a 25-year veteran of the Bexar County Sheriff's Office among five candidates. Vasquez won't be sworn in officially until at least next Friday.
"At the end of the day, it is law. I do know the law. I'm just going to try and figure out what the constable's office is all about," Vasquez said.
Barrientes Vela declined to comment on the appointment, according to her attorney Les Sachanowicz.
"She has chosen not to do any interviews," Sachanowicz said. "She has thought it over and there is not anything that she could add at this time."
The five finalists, winnowed down on Tuesday from 29 people who applied, were: Donald Falcon, Javier Flores, Mary Ruiz, Vasquez and Debra L. Zerda.
Commissioners raved about Vasquez's work in community policing and when they asked her about the duties of a constable's office, she was able to answer confidently.
"You know what, I just did it. If I wouldn't have tried, I wouldn't have succeeded," Vasquez said minutes after she was appointed on her decision to apply for the opening. "The people that do know me will know that I do have integrity, that I am trustworthy and that I can make a difference."
Commissioner Kevin Wolff, who called it a good process to have the interviews and deliberations held in public, said Vasquez will have commissioners' full support if and when she officially takes office.
"It's not just the constable under investigation, so Leticia going into this seat is going to have some house cleaning to do," said Wolff.
A Defenders investigation on Tuesday revealed that Barrientes Vela used county funds to pay for law enforcement training last October in Corpus Christi that she and other top officials from her agency never took part in.
A Defenders investigation in August showed that the same trio: Barrientes Vela, Chief Deputy Anthony Castillo and Captain Marc Garcia traveled to Austin in September 2017 but skipped the main training day they signed up for.
Despite not showing up for the eight-hour training session on open records, the trio stayed in a high-priced hotel downtown and charged the county for meals.
A Bexar County visiting judge on Monday denied Barrientes Vela's request to stop commissioners from interviewing and naming her successor. However, the troubled constable will remain in office until at least Oct. 11, when a hearing will take place to determine when and if the appointment of her replacement becomes effective.
Barrientes Vela triggered automatic resignation under the state law last week when she first announced to KSAT and later other media outlets that she planned to run for sheriff in 2020. The law stipulates that elected officials who announce plans for another office with more than 13 months left in their current term forfeit their seat.
Her public declaration to run for sheriff came as the FBI and Texas Rangers were carrying out a 10-hour raid inside her Northwest Side offices September 23.
In a statement released over the weekend, an attorney representing Barrientes Vela called the comment "an excited utterance rather than a formal political declaration to seek the sheriff's seat in 2020."
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