Precinct 2 Constable Michelle Barrientes Vela was in the news again. (See KSAT 12 article). No surprise that a federal lawsuit has been filed against her and one of her staff. And as expected, Bexar County is listed as a defendant. People like Barrientes Vela and Sheriff Salazar, represent Bexar County. When they act in a manner that is in violation with policy, Civil Service or the law, the resulting lawsuits are paid off with taxpayer funds. In other words, we all have to pay for their bad behavior.
With the amount of proof against Constable Barrientes Vela, you can bet that Bexar County taxpayers will be dishing out more money to settle this lawsuit. The picture shown is from the Commissioners Court agenda from July 9th. At least one of those lawsuits was settled for over $100,000. How much are the rest going to cost us? And those are only the ones we know about. How many other lawsuits are either done or in the works but not to this level of completion yet?
I don’t blame the people filing the lawsuits. They have every right to if they are being treated in a manner that is in violation of the various standards. I do blame the office-holders who should know better but don’t seem to care. Since the full amount is not coming directly out of their pocket they really don’t care. In fact, being office-holders in Bexar County, they will be represented by the District Attorney’s Office. They don’t even have to pay, out of their own pockets, for their legal representation. We pay for that too and as everyone knows, legal representation is expensive.
Sure, those elected officials pay taxes but if I ran my car into something that was County property, I would have to pay for the repairs. I couldn’t say, I’m a taxpayer, use tax dollars to fix it. Yet these office-holders can basically do that. They can brazenly violate someone else’s rights, for no valid reason at all, and when that person sues, the resulting judgment comes out of all of our tax dollars.
There are no real repercussions against these officials so there is no incentive to change their bad behavior. There will always be people who will sue the County but we can cut down on those actions and save money, by electing people with integrity.