By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Ironically, Foster could have just as easily left the investigation to Watkins. Although Watkins has refused to confirm or deny whether such an investigation exists, both Foster and Defenbaugh testified in front of a Dallas County grand jury in October 2009.
And if that wasn't enough to satisfy skeptics that Watkins was doing his job, an investigation of the constables by the District Attorney's Office was confirmed on January 27 when Lieutenant Howard Watson, one of Cortes' senior officers, was arrested and charged with bribery, sexual assault, official oppression, tampering with government records and the unauthorized use of two motor vehicles. However, Dallas lawyer Bill Wirskye says the investigation by Watkins has taken an inordinate amount of time, and he credits Foster with making the issue public. Wirskye, a former chief felony prosecutor with the DA's office, also praises Foster for providing Watkins with information and forcing his hand with such an "unprecedented" move.
"Whether [Watkins] wanted to or not, or whether he was already doing it or not, he in a sense was left with no options other than to investigate it," Wirskye says.
Like seemingly everyone else, Sharon Boyd didn't give Foster much of a chance when he took office. In fact, she didn't give him a single day on the job before making up her mind.
"Our new County Judge Jim Foster is as hapless in his new position as a goldfish without water," she wrote January 1, 2007, on her blog, DallasArena.com. "Judge Foster might be a nice guy, but he's not qualified to serve as County Judge."
Boyd, a staunch Republican and community activist, admits that she bought the anti-Foster PR because she didn't know much about him, but once the two met, she found him to be a Southern gentleman. And throughout the inland port and constable matters, she says, he's been fearless without being confrontational.
"What we need from elected officials are more people like Jim Foster," she says. "We don't need a rocket scientist. We need somebody with courage. We need somebody with integrity. Somebody who's going to help the little guy."
Foster has been instrumental in issues in Boyd's West Dallas neighborhood, she says, including assisting in the removal of rogue bars through his position as the county hearings officer for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. But she's most appreciative of his efforts to hold Constable Cortes accountable.
"What does it say about all of the other elected Democrats in this county when only Jim Foster has the courage to stand up and say, 'This guy is a dirty crook'?" she says.
While Republicans like Mayfield, Dickey and Boyd make strange bedfellows with Foster, it's someone like Bruce Jones (one of the few attendees at the Belmont Hotel on March 2) that casts the most doubt on Foster's public persona.
One week after Foster's defeat, Jones, a board member of the Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce and U.S.-China Chamber of Commerce who speaks nine languages, invited Foster over to his house for dinner to cheer him up. Jones says the two listened to Johann Sebastian Bach and discussed the different museums and artists of Europe. They also discussed some of Dallas County's history. After all, Foster wrote five books on the subject.
Jones claims Foster is misunderstood because he's an old-fashioned Southern gentleman who speaks slowly and carefully. That, perhaps, dismisses far too many of Foster's blatant gaffes, but in any event, Foster's success will likely be tied to the fates of Cortes and Evans. "When there's a fight against corruption, somebody has to take the first bullet, and it was him, and he's taking it with dignity," Jones says.
Although the Defenbaugh investigation is complete, Foster pledges to continue his crusade against corruption as he serves the final nine months of his four-year ride as county judge. And when it's all over, he plans on spending more time with his partner of four years (whose name he wishes to keep private), taking photographs and traveling.
"My legacy, when it's over and done with, will be that I stepped to the plate and said, 'We're going to clean up Dallas County government,'" Foster says. "And I'm the first person that has ever dared to tackle it."