When Republican Ken Mayfield admitted to us that he's been recruiting volunteers to help Democrat Beth Villarreal defeat Precinct 5 Constable Jaime Cortes in Tuesday's upcoming Democratic primary runoff, Cortes was one of the first people we called for reaction. Especially after Mayfield said he doesn't know Villarreal, whose best attribute appears to be that she's "not Cortes."
Cortes, labeled by Mayfield as "a corrupt politician," got back to us late Tuesday night after a busy day and laughed when we told him about Mayfield's involvement and the subsequent denial and then shaky confirmation from Villarreal's camp. He says it ties right into a campaign e-mail he's been circulating that depicts Villarreal and Michael Orozco, who finished third in the March 2 primary, as puppets for the Republican Party.
"Mayfield finally showed his hand," Cortes tells Unfair Park. "The whole time he's been trying to push his agenda through [Judge Jim] Foster, and now that it's not going the way that he wanted, he has to step forward and say, 'Yeah, it was me. I'm helping her.'"
Cortes views himself as "a soldier" who does "the dirty work" for stars of the county Democratic Party like District Attorney Craig Watkins and Sheriff Lupe Valdez, likening it to his prowess in high school as a blocker in football and rebounder in basketball. He says Mayfield is "hanging on for his political life" and knows Cortes will campaign on behalf of Democrat and former Mayor Pro Tem Dr. Elba Garcia in her effort to unseat Mayfield on the commissioners court in November.
"I am a true company man, and the Democrats are my company," he says.
The media attention regarding Watkins's two denials of assistance from the Office of the Attorney General to assist in an investigation of the constables is a political ploy, Cortes says, and he believes Watkins "may be looking into different things that we're doing." He adds that he's "sure" Watkins is conducting an investigation, but he's not obligated to tell the OAG or anyone else.
Cortes maintains, as he's done in legal documents, that Judge Foster's close friendship with former Constable Mike Dupree, who resigned in June 2007 amidst allegations of corruption and sexual misconduct, is the motivation behind the investigation of Cortes and Precinct 1 Constable Derick Evans by former FBI Agent Danny Defenbaugh. Although Foster served as a reserve deputy constable under Dupree, he refuted that the two were friends when we asked him about it in the reporting that didn't make the cut for our cover story about Foster.
Foster claimed the rumor of his friendship with Dupree originated from one of Cortes's attorneys, former Democratic state Rep. Domingo Garcia, who Foster said lived in the same apartment complex as him and Dupree years ago on Winding Brook Circle. Republican Commissioner Maurine Dickey told us that Foster and Dupree weren't "from the same planet" and the accusation that they were friends comes solely from the two being gay.
"That's using the fact that someone is gay to smear them in a bad way, and if there's anything that's defaming character and a lie, it's that," she said.
Dallas County Democratic Party chair Darlene Ewing went so far as to speculate that Foster's motives were to replace Cortes should he be removed from office.
"I have no desire, period, to have any constable's job," Foster said. "There's no validity to that whatsoever."
So our question to Cortes was this: If this is all a conspiracy based on payback stemming from Cortes replacing Foster's supposed friend as constable (which was actually approved by Foster), then what's Evans's role in the conspiracy?
"It was a smokescreen to come after me," Cortes says, pointing out that the Defenbaugh report on him was 92 pages compared to the 16-page report on Evans.
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And why would all these county employees, including 23 who signed sworn affidavits, come forward with allegations of bribery and corruption against Cortes if they weren't true?
Cortes maintains that the majority of them are disgruntled terminated employees from Dupree's tenure. And he says a proper investigation would have included interviewing all his current 55 employees and approximately 30 former employees, which wasn't done. Not to mention that Cortes claims he wasn't interviewed by Defenbaugh.
Finally, we probed Cortes about his relationship with Dowdy Ferry Auto Services, as uncovered by The Dallas Morning News. He chalks up failing to realize that Dowdy Ferry had not been keeping proper records to "a learning curve" and stresses that his department had done its part in keeping paperwork of which cars were towed.
"As far as I knew, when the cars were given to the towing company, they signed off on possession, and they were responsible for it," he says. "But I can acknowledge and admit any errors that I do and move forward."