Judge Jim Foster conducted a news conference late this afternoon to tell anxious reporters that, well, he hadn't yet read former FBI agent Danny Defenbaugh's 92-page report about Constable Jaime Cortes, which Foster said his office had received just minutes prior to the 4 p.m. gathering inside the chambers of the commissioners court. But he knew enough to be concerned about the following allegations made within: official oppression, tampering with a witness, retaliation and deprivation of an employee's rights under the cover of law.
"I just know that on the front page it highlighted the concerns this investigation revealed pertaining to these issues," Foster said.
All Foster really did was offer up a summary of the three prongs to the investigation -- employment practices in Constable Precinct 1, ditto in Precinct 5 and employment issues pertaining to Kwanzaa Fest (more info to come on this Friday, Foster said). Afterward, we asked Foster about the potential involvement of Commissioner John Wiley Price, Kwanzaa Fest's founder and promoter.
"I'm understanding that [Price] was asking [constables Cortes and Derick Evans] to provide security, and they were complying with his request," he says, adding that approximately $15,000 in taxpayers' dough has been spent in the last few years on paying deputy constables to work at Kwanzaa Fest.
Foster also gave a brief history of why the commissioners hired Defenbaugh in the first place. The short answer? Both Foster and Commissioner Maurine Dickey (Ken Mayfield was tied up in another meeting off site) tossed District Attorney Craig Watkins firmly under the bus.
Dickey, a Republican who has endorsed Wade Emmert to replace Foster, was quick to compliment Foster, a Democrat fighting a tough primary battle against Clay Jenkins and Larry Duncan.
"All of us who stand on the side of transparency in government and want to see that corruption is disclosed and goes away owe you a debt of thanks," Dickey said to Foster. "He was definitely the right person at the right time for this situation."
With early voting starting tomorrow, that sure sounded like an unofficial primary endorsement from Dickey, and the timing of the report's release sure couldn't have come at a better time. Larry Friedman, Jaime Cortes's attorney, says that's exactly what happened today: election fodder.
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"There's no coincidence in politics," he tells Unfair Park.
Friedman stresses that today's event was "totally absurd," and his client denies all allegations. "There's only been accusations," he says. "There's been no proof thus far."
He says it's telling that Watkins, the Texas Rangers and Attorney General Greg Abbott didn't want to investigate the case, and he claims that many of the nearly 60 employees interviewed had been terminated.
"They picked employees who had already identified themselves as gripers," he says. "So, what are you gonna get?"