If you've been evicted without a heads-up in the last two years or so, Dallas County would like to apologize.
This morning, County Judge Clay Jenkins and commissioners John Wiley Price and Maureen Dickey did so in person at the County Administration Building, where they announced the findings of a five-month internal audit. It appears as through at least 25 deputy constables have been finessing records of civil service papers -- specifically by skipping the part where they actually try to serve the papers.
Commissioners didn't offer too many details -- they'll discuss this further in closed session on Tuesday -- but did say the biggest effect this likely had was on eviction notices. Instead of making three attempts to serve an advance warning to folks about to be evicted, the investigation suggests some deputy constables simply signed an affidavit saying they gave it their best shot, which resulted in people being tossed from their homes without time to rustle up some money or make other plans.
The county was able to investigate the deliveries thanks to GPS units in the deputies' cars, which, Price said, were installed "almost two years ago -- to the chagrin of a lot of the constables." Jenkins said they'd be turning over their report to the Dallas County District Attorney's office, but they won't be able to double-check any service records before those GPS units were installed.
Commissioners offered somber apologies; Dickey and Jenkins especially looked as though they might have just run over your puppy. The county sent out four media releases prior to this morning's event, including one close to midnight, offering no details but making it clear this was a big deal. Today, Jenkins said they wanted to be as upfront with the public as possible, especially after the events of last year.
"This is doubly disappointing," Dickey said, "kind of like another black eye."
Jenkins also stressed that there's no evidence that any elected officials -- constables or others -- knew deputies had been falsifying the records. "We're not complicit," Price insisted.
"What this is going to reveal is that this is throughout the system," he said. "The public is going to be extremely surprised at where the lion's share of this occurred."
Jenkins said the 25 deputies spotted in the audit so far will be placed on immediate administrative leave with pay. If the D.A.'s office prosecutes them, Jenkins said, the most serious offense they'd face would likely be aggravated perjury. Sheriff Lupe Valdez, who rushed back from Austin to be there, said she'd help make sure her deputies help share the burden.
Price said Constable Derick Evans helped kick off the investigation last December after hundreds of constables were let go. Price said Evans "brought this to your attention," while the court administrator and the auditor's office investigated as well. "To his credit," Price said, Evans "had some concerns about the rest of his workforce that was left. He began to look in and made some discoveries that were unsettling to him."
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