Federal lawsuit filed against Precinct 2 Constable over campaign practices

Hoo boy.

Chris Diaz

Nearly a dozen former employees and high-ranking officials are suing Precinct 2 Constable Chris Diaz, alleging that the elected Harris County lawman required deputies and command staff to help with his reelection campaign and retaliated against them with demotions and terminations if they refused.

The wide-ranging accusations in the 33-page federal suit paint a picture of a troubled office, where campaign donors were allegedly given preference in promotions, and anyone who cooperated with state investigators could expect to be punished.

“He’s just running Precinct 2 like it was his own campaign,” said attorney Scott Poerschke, who is representing the former employees. “He’s conditioning employment upon service of his campaign and any time that is challenged in any way, then those employees are retaliated against.”

Poerschke said the plaintiffs fall into two main categories: people who supported election challenger Jerry Garcia and people who helped out with a Texas Rangers probe into overtime claims and the possible misappropriation of Hurricane Harvey donations.

Neither Diaz nor his wife – Jacinto City Mayor Ana Diaz, who the plaintiffs accused of helping with her husband’s retaliation efforts – responded Tuesday to the Chronicle’s request for comment. A spokesman for the Harris County Attorney’s Office said the office was aware of and reviewing the litigation, but did not offer comment on it.

Even before the latest lawsuit, the constable was already the target of a whistleblower claim filed earlier this year in state court earlier. But last week, his reelection efforts landed in the news over a different concern, after one challenger accused him of putting up a relative of the same name – another Jerry Garcia – as a ploy to confuse voters.

See here for the “two Jerry Garcias” story, which I would have blogged about separately had it not been subsumed by this story. You can read the Chron article for details; I’m going to wait to see what happens at trial before making any firm conclusions, since I was not aware of any of this before now. On a broader level, is it maybe time to think about getting rid of the elected office of Constable all together? We have a pretty damn spotty record with Constables in Harris County, from Perry Wooten to Jack Abercia to Victor Trevino to Ron Hickman, and maybe allegedly now Chris Diaz. Someone make the case that elected Constables are still a good idea in the 21st century, as opposed to just absorbing the office into the Sheriff’s department. I’m going to need to hear it, because I’m not sure I see it. Campos has more.

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10 Responses to Federal lawsuit filed against Precinct 2 Constable over campaign practices

  1. Burt Levine says:

    Thank you for your point Kuffner. I’ve been adamant about this for decades. The office does not have purpose to exist.

  2. I’ve long argued this. Amend the state constitution to replace constables with an assistant chief deputy sheriff, who reports only to the sheriff, and does all constabular work. This is based not only on general good government, but seeing all the Dallas County constabular shenanigans of the previous decade.

  3. mollusk says:

    Once upon a time constables existed mostly to serve lawsuit papers (which are now primarily the domain of private process servers) and to conduct evictions. This isn’t the only place there’s overlap – how about all the various police departments? Having dozens of different law enforcement entities in the same place really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

  4. Bill Daniels says:

    “On a broader level, is it maybe time to think about getting rid of the elected office of Constable all together?”

    I absolutely agree, Kuff. Burt, Socratic, and Mollusk are all absolutely right here, too.

  5. Alfred L. Taylor says:

    I Absolutely Disagree! A Constable Was The First Peace Officer in Texas as appointed by Stephen F. Austin in 1823. It’s not the Office that is the problem. It’s candidates that are either poorly qualified such as Diaz, or lacking in Integrity. I have been a Deputy Constable continuously from 1975 until retiring a second time in 2018. I worked for some Great Men and a not so great man during that time. I worked for George Larkin Precinct 2as a Reserve Deputy from 1975-1984, then Full Time as a Deputy and Sergeant 1984-1986 when he died in office. I was a Sergeant/Detective Sergeant for Paul McClure Precinct 2 from 1986-1988. Then I worked for Bill Bailey Precinct 8 from 1988 until I Retired as Captain in 2009. I worked as a Deputy for Fred Kanter, Constable Brazoria County Precinct 4 from 2009 until 2012 when I went back to Harris County Constable Precinct 2 under Gary Freeman, Constable and continued with Precinct 2 when Christopher Diaz took over. I retired October 6th, 2012 because I could no longer work for a man who I do not respect, who lacks any resemblance of leadership skills, and whose integrity is nonexistent. I teach civil law and practices throughout the state and can provide a very long list of Elected Constables and their Deputies who provide a service to the citizens of their respective counties that is incompatible to Any Other Law Enforcement Agency. To make a blanket indictment of All Constables just because a few that scammed the citizens and were elected, such as the ones you mentioned, is irresponsible reporting. Get the facts before making such an uniformed statement. Interview Retired Constable’s Gary Freeman, Ken Jones, or current Constable Carlos Lopez, in Austin or his Chief Deputy, a former Elected Constable in Williamson County Bobby Gutieriz. Visit with Harris County Constables Phil Sandlin who also worked for Bill Bailey, Ted Heap Constable HCCO PCT 5, Mark Herman HCCO PCT 4, Galveston County Constables Rick Sharpe or Constable Jerry Fisher, or any of the four elected Constables in Brazoria County. These are but a few I could name that can give you a better perspective of the value of the office of a Texas Constable to the citizens in their Precinct and County. You May also want to read chapters 85 and 86 of the Local Government Code to get a better understanding of the duties, responsibilities, liabilities and obligations of the Texas Sheriff and Constabl. I am available for a visit, but I believe the elected Constables may be a better spokesperson than I. I am a proud Deputy Constable and a six generation TEXAN.

  6. C.L. says:

    Alfred, reading off your resume, while impressive, doesn’t negate the argument that the Constable position should not be an elected office.

  7. Mike Sullivan says:

    Burt Levine, “The office does not have purpose to exist.”. Tell that to the tens of thousands of Harris County residents who pay out of their own pocket to secure extra patrols by the constables. Oh, and on the 5’oclock news every night, which agency is it that is on camera for catching criminals and crooks? It is Constable Pct 4 Mark Herman (admittedly, my friend).

    Who shuts down those that abuse animals and abandoned animals? Constable Alan Rosen. Who serves more mental health warrants than anyone? Constable Alan Rosen. The list goes on. So, “The office does not have purpose to exist.”, doesn’t hold water.

  8. Mike Sullivan says:

    Alfred L. Taylor: Right on, my friend. Finally, someone who understands the service constables provide to the constituents who elect them. No tin foil hats, no black helicopters, no conspiracy theories…in Texas, especially in Harris County where law enforcement is underfunded and good people need to be protected from bad people, the constables absolutely serve a purpose. An important, and much needed purpose. Thanks for your comments, Alfred l. Taylor.

  9. Mainstream says:

    I don’t think the fact that many residents pay extra for additional police protection from constable patrols is any sort of proof that the office itself has a purpose. It is instead an indication of how unsafe we feel, and how poorly our current structure of police and sheriffs and constables and METRO police and HISD police and HCC police and TMC police and private security guards meet the needs of the community.

    The constable districts also vary widely in population, which may have an effect on quality of leadership in some of the smaller districts. I would favor aligning the constable districts with the county commissioner districts.

  10. Alfred Taylor says:

    Thank you Mr. Sullivan for the kind words. There is one aspect of the Constables duty and responsibilities that seems to be forgotten in today’s times. The service of civil process And execution of Writs for the enforcement of prejudgment and postjudgment Court Orders. Private Process servers May serve or deliver citations and other notices, but only Constables or Sheriffs have authority to execute Writs where private property may be seized (Levied upon) to satisfy Court Judgements, or where adults and/or children are ordered to be taken into custody and brought before the Judge, or The Writ of Possession for Eviction of a tenant from a rental property, as well as conducting the monthly Tax Sales. The quantity of Evictions and Real Property Sales alone in our county are staggering and are increasing as our population increases. At this time HCSO does not have a Civil Division, having disbanded theirs in the late 60’s or early 70’s, when all civil process was distributed to the 8 Constable Precincts. Deputy Constables receive continued training in Civil Process and indeed have become Specialists in the field.

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