While District Attorney Craig Watkins has rejected two offers by the Office of the Attorney General to assist in a criminal investigation of the constables, the OAG is conducting an ongoing civil investigation of Dowdy Ferry Auto Services, according to an open records request filed by Unfair Park. Dowdy Ferry -- the towing company exposed in July 2009 by The Dallas Morning News as having a close relationship with Constables Jaime Cortes and Derick Evans -- was asked to provide the OAG with all communication between the company and Cortes, Evans and Watkins.
The OAG first notified Dowdy Ferry and owner Chris Nasrallah of its confidential investigation in August 2009 -- the same time it first asked Watkins to help with a criminal investigation of the constables -- using a Civil Investigative Demand. The Texas Business and Commerce Code grants the OAG authority to issue CIDs in order to investigate allegations of unlawful restraints of trade and violations of the Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act. Possible violations of the DTPA, Texas Debt Collection Act and Texas Finance Code were cited in the letter to Dowdy Ferry from the OAG's Consumer Protection & Public Health Division, which can be found after the jump.
Because the information provided to the OAG by Dowdy Ferry is part of an ongoing inquiry, OAG spokesperson Jerry Strickland says he cannot comment on the matter or divulge the documents.
The OAG followed its August 2009 request for documents with a supplemental CID on September 1 -- the same day former FBI Agent Danny Defenbaugh was hired by the commissioners court to conduct a civil investigation of the constables -- asking for "all documents reflecting, showing, evidencing, or relating to any communication (whether written, oral, electronic, telephonic, or otherwise)" between Dowdy Ferry and Evans's office, Evans, Cortes's office, Cortes, Watkins's office and Watkins.
Another supplemental CID was sent to Dowdy Ferry on October 20 requesting documents related to 128 vehicles that were reported abandoned in Evans's precinct, a $90 check paid to Cortes's precinct and Dowdy Ferry's employment records for Margarita Trevino.
We contacted Watkins's PR man, Kurt Watkins, for comment, and, after reminding us that Cortes lost last night, he said he'll forward our questions to his cousin. We also got a hold of Judge Jim Foster, who was just about to sit down to an Oak Cliff Lions Club meeting and said he'd call us back. We'll update accordingly.
Update: Foster and Commissioner Maurine Dickey both expressed surprise regarding the OAG's investigation.
Foster says he's "very disappointed" that the OAG failed to contact him. "If they would have, we could have assisted them -- and still will if they're interested -- with information that's very, very specific and will help their investigation tremendously."
He says his office has reams of information that he knows the OAG doesn't have because nearly all of the county employees interviewed by Danny Defenbaugh hadn't spoken to any other agency.
As for the OAG's request of communication involving Dowdy Ferry and Watkins, Foster says, "I'm not surprised at all."
Dickey says the investigation is more proof that Watkins isn't doing his job. "It seems to me that the attorney general is so suspicious that he decided to do it himself."
She adds that had the commissioners known about the OAG's investigation, they wouldn't have hired Defenbaugh.
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Kurt Watkins e-mailed us and said he'll get back to us regarding our questions for the DA.
Update 2: District Attorney Watkins provided a statement in response to our questions, which included asking for a reaction to the OAG's request for communication between him and Dowdy Ferry.
"It is our policy to neither confirm nor deny any investigations, even if it is from another jurisdiction."