As he prepared to board an airplane bound for Austin at approximately 6 p.m. on Wednesday night, Dallas County Judge Jim Foster received a flurry of phone calls related to the now-infamous meeting that Dallas County Constable Jaime Cortes had with approximately 30 of his deputies. With Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez (who suffered minor injuries in a taxi cab accident shortly after her arrival) and other county employees already in Austin for a Texas Commission on Jail Standards meeting held on Thursday, Foster decided his best course of action was to stay in Dallas.
As Foster explained to Unfair Park this morning in his office on the second floor of the former Texas School Book Depository, he has firsthand knowledge of many of the complaints in the investigation of the constables, including those against Lt. Howard Watson, one of Cortes's deputy constables that was recently charged with bribery and sexual assault.
"I'm the person that they were going to, and they're still coming to me," he says. "I wish I weren't in the middle of it, but I am because they don't know where else to go."
After hearing the scratchy recording, Foster says it was clear to him that Cortes's remarks amounted to more than just a general staff meeting. "This was threats and intimidation." And he's concerned that everyone receiving disciplinary action out of that department are those who have come forward and spoken to investigators.
"I assure you that we are seeing retaliation, retaliation and more retaliation," he says. "It's not right. It's not acceptable. And it shouldn't be tolerated."
Foster adds that protection should be offered to these employees. "They're not concerned about their job anymore," he says. "They're concerned about their personal well-being and the well-being of their family. And I believe that they have a legitimate concern. I think, at this point, the district attorney is the one who needs to step up to the plate and move this forward."