Had a brief but interesting talk a little while ago with Precinct 5 Constable Jaime Cortes, during which we touched on a couple of things, among them a counterclaim filed in a Dallas County court on Wednesday in which Cortes is suing the three deputies who filed court papers last month calling for his removal from office. The counter suit -- filed by his attorney, Domingo Garcia -- alleges that deputies Guadalupe Frias, Lois Martin and Les Willie "have conspired to defame, embarrass, and thereby damage" Cortes, who's spent the better part of the year fending off allegations that, among many other things, he's in bed with a tow company.
The deputies' demand for Cortes's ouster echoes former FBI Special Agent Danny Defenbaugh's report to Dallas County Judge Jim Foster, which Foster ordered and made public on February 15. In the 92-page report, deputies in Precinct 5 accuse Cortes of everything from taking bribes (at the rate of $25 per car towed) from the owner of Dowdy Ferry Auto Services to official oppression. But in Defenbaugh's report, the deputies' identities are hidden (they're identified by numbers), and many of the allegations leveled at Cortes were based on second-hand information.
Cortes's counterclaim says the deputies' suit, filed a week after Foster released the Defenbaugh report, is based on "little more than hearsay, unsubstantiated conclusions and opinions, admissions, rumors, assumptions, presumptions, and innuendo." He also alleges that the three "conspired with Dallas County Judge Jim Foster, Dallas County Commissioner Kenneth Mayfield, and Defendant's Democratic Primary opponent(s) to file" the complaint.
In the suit, Cortes is asking for "total damages in the sum of $100 million."
"I'm not a perfect man, but I've done my best over 40 years, and in the last six, seven months, Foster's gone haywire to make me look bad," Cortes tells Unfair Park. "Mike Dupree [Cortes's predecessor] did the same thing, and he could never find anything. He ran my credit, he would follow me. Foster's the same way, but because he's the county judge he can do no wrong."
Cortes says he asked for that "hellacious amount" because it's intended to serve as "an eye-opener to say, if you're going to slander and disparage me, you have to be prepared to be sued back ... They're alleging retaliation? The only retaliation will be in the court of law."
Cortes, of course, has also filed papers with the court calling for Foster's ouster.
The lawsuit follows, as do Cortes's comments concerning his announcement yesterday that he's cutting back on writing traffic tickets and concentrating instead on serving warrants.
As I said to Cortes, the timing for the cutback certainly seems odd: After all, he's facing a runoff with Beth Villareal in next month's Democratic primary, and most folks will look at that story and say, "Sure, fine, but it's all political."
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To which he responds: "I started doing this about six, seven months ago, when The Dallas Morning News started attacking me at the behest of Judge Foster. I've asked [reporter Kevin Krause] before: Why don't you write my side? ... You want facts from me, but hearsay and innuendo from them. I was in the midst of doing this anyway, but he forced my hand."
I called Krause this evening, and he said, yes, he spoke with Cortes for an election preview piece yesterday, and he volunteered the news about fewer traffic tickets.
As Krause wrote yesterday, Cortes is one of two constables scaling back traffic operations; the other is Precinct 2 Constable Michael Gothard, who, Cortes said, made his decision to do so independently. (Krause confirms that the men did seem unaware of the other's intentions.) Truth is, Cortes insists, he decided to go back to serving warrants and civil papers because he'd heard so many complaints about it while out on the campaign trail. Simple as that.
"It really is," he says. "When I'm on the campaign trail, people say, 'You're giving a lot of tickets and making a lot of money for the county,'" Cortes says. "I hear it time and time again. I tell them, yes, but 70 percent of the tickets we write are in school zones, and they nod, but you can see in the back of their mind they thinking, 'You're just a revenue-generator.' So I started weening out a few traffic depitues and hitting the warrants even more. And the bottom line is, that's what we're elected to do. That's what I said I would do. Before I got here, our office was in last place in terms of warrant service, but, yes, the answer is yes. Part of it was public outcry."Jaime Cortes v. Frias Et Al