Saturday, October 15, 2016

EPCSOA Campaign Stunt

Sometimes I watch a story on TV and my eyes just roll in my head, but a recent story about Sheriff Wiles left me scratching my head.

Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT) has sent a letter to commissioner's court to ask them to investigate Sheriff Richard Wiles.

Frankly it sounds more like the union wants the sheriff to do something that is impractical, inappropriate and probably illegal. I'll get to that later. Lets start with some context.

The El Paso County Sheriff's Officer's Association is all-in for Republican candidate for sheriff Tom Buchino. To date they have donated more than $10,000 to Buchino's campaign, which is the majority of the political contributions he has received. Even more if you count the individual members of the union that have also contributed to his campaign.

And that figure is just as of July. When the 30 day report comes out, the EPCSOA will likely make up an even larger portion of his campaign contributions.

Thats important context because now CLEAT is now trying to get El Paso County to participate in what is basically an overtly political act. In a letter dated October 12, 2016 CLEAT is calling upon Commissioner's Court to investigate Sheriff Wiles for violating an employee policy.

The reason you know its a political stunt from the Association is the fact that there exists no authority for the Commissioner's Court to order an investigation of anything. An attorney would know that. The Commissioner's Court has no law enforcement authority in terms of ordering or conducting investigations.


Most especially for an office policy. That Code of Conduct policy manual that they are asking the Court to intervene on also covers stuff like dress code, being tardy, missing JP court without an excuse, cheating on a spouse or person you're in a relationship with, using profanity, chewing gum and being rude.

Seriously, I'm not making that up.

So not only are they asking the court to do something they don't have the authority to do, they are also asking the court to essentially intervene on labor dispute issues, which is a big no-no. That would violate the union contract.

One of the ways that county government is different than city government is law enforcement. At the city, the Chief of Police answers to the City Manager who serves at the pleasure of City Council. At the county, the Sheriff doesn't answer to an administrator or to commissioners court. The sheriff answers to the voters of El Paso County and no one else.

Commissioner's Court has no role in investigations and its pretty scary that the union would be even asking for them to intervene in the first place.

Now if the union believes that a law was broken, they should know they have an avenue for a remedy. They simply need to contact the DA or any range of other law enforcement entities like the FBI or Texas Rangers.

So the question is simple. Why haven't they done so?

Well there are two answers. The first is simple, even they aren't alleging a law was broken. The second answer is that when you make a complaint to law enforcement to conduct an investigation they generally don't make it public.

However, sending a letter a couple of weeks before early voting starts to commissioner's court will get some media to bite and it helps the candidate to whom they have donated large sums of money.


Union Assertions

At issue is Sheriff Wiles' attendance at an event in a home in Tornillo. The home turned out to be that of Ricardo Hernandez, a community leader in Tornillo. Hernandez has a felony drug conviction for weed going back 21 years ago.

 There are some claims made by CLEAT and some union supporters on social media and the blogosphere that are shockingly inaccurate to the degree that you can't help but think they are purposely trying to mislead the public. First, the assertion that event was a fundraiser for Sheriff Wiles. I don't know of a fundraiser ever being held in Tornillo.


Like in the history of Tornillo.

No one has ever uttered the sentence, "You know where would be a good place to raise some campaign cash? Tornillo, amirite?"

The event was a community meeting. The very type of event he was being criticized for not attending on the Make Fabens Better Facebook page for a couple of weeks because the administrator of the page likens the crime rate in Fabens to that of Chicago.

Seriously, I'm not making that up either.

Is it fair to criticize Wiles for attending a community event in Tornillo instead of Fabens? Sure, if you feel Fabnes is more important than Tornillo then absolutely people should question why he went to one and not the other.

The second thing the Union and supporters have been asserting is that Wiles violated a policy that his own deputies have been fired for violating.

If that were true, how come the union can't come up with a single example of that ever happening? If anyone would know, its the union because it would be their job to fight that termination. Can the union produce a single example of that occurrence? Can anyone? Even you anonymous employee commenters. Do you guys have one single example of that ever happening?

Your lawyer alleges people have been terminated for violating this policy in his letter calling for an investigation.



The Policy

Lets take a look at the actual policy that the union is asking for an investigation to be ordered from a body that doesn't have the power to order an investigation in the first place, shall we?

That is the section referred to in the letter from CLEAT. Now the fact that the lawyer from CLEAT specifically mentions Mr. Hernandez's criminal record is an indication that they were specifically referencing 3(b). Other parts of this policy were referenced but are vague and don't mention criminal records, 3(b) is the only part of the policy that actually does.

Sidebar - I'd like to point out that the union's lawyer uses the phrase "widely disseminated over social media" as back-up for his assertions. Other things "widely disseminated over social media" include the fake death of Sylvester Stallone, pictures of a sick child or animal that try to guilt you into typing the word "Amen", and Facebook invites to events you aren't the least bit interested in attending.

Anywho, back to the policy...part "a" is so ridiculously broad that it should be reworked into something tangible. Frankly, I'm more upset at that part of the policy handbook than anything else because it could so easily be massaged into basically anything. You could really railroad an employee with that policy and the union should fight to get rid of that portion or reword it into something less vague.

Part "b" is the operative policy and its important to read the policy, you know, like lawyers are supposed to. I underlined two words that are really important to the policy. First, you have to have knowledge that the person you are associating with is in custody, on probation, on parole, or under indictment or bond for any felony. If you don't know, you aren't violating the policy.

I'll get to why this is so important in a minute.

The other operative word in that policy is the word currently. Mr. Hernandez's crime was more than 20 years ago, which is hardly currently.

Now, back to why the part about having knowledge of the aforementioned circumstances is a critical part of the policy. How would anyone have knowledge of given person's record? Well the only way to know would be to do a background check on the person. Essentially the union is advocating for the sheriff to run a background check on everyone he meets, stands next to at a public event, or is in the same restaurant with.

The Secret Service doesn't do that for the President. If POTUS decides to duck into a 5 Guys, no one knows anything about who is in that restaurant at the time.

Its completely impractical to run around doing background checks on people all day to see if they sheriff or deputy can interact with that person. Its also an improper use of tax payer dollars to waste all those man hours doing background checks on people just so the union doesn't have a reason to gripe. But I'd argue, its also illegal. You generally need to meet some legal threshold to even run someone's background.

We don't want a sheriff who will arbitrarily just look people up for no reason. We have personal liberties in this country and law enforcement doesn't get to invade our privacy without a reason.

The last line I underlined in blue is there because it shows that exceptions to the provision can exist and that the approving authority is...

wait for it...

the sheriff.

So I don't know that this policy would even apply to him in the first place. Especially because he's an elected official and answers only to voters.

By the union's logic, their own members that feed an online publication who's author freely admits to multiple felonies rumors and gossip, would be violating said policy. They wouldn't actually be violating it unless he was currently under indictment for a felony by the way, but you get the point.

The Person

The win-at-all-costs mentality of the union that is ultimately going to do more damage to the credibility of the union than anything Maruffo ever did when he was running the show is becoming embarrassing. Its one thing to blow union dues on candidates that have no business being in office like Dora Oaxaca, but its a whole other thing for the union to be disparaging a resident of El Paso County in the process.

I don't know Mr. Hernandez well enough to speak to his character as a person so I'm not going to defend him other than to comment on what is public record. Not "widely disseminated on social media" but public record. Hernandez has a felony drug conviction. I don't know the amount it was, but I know it was weed and I know he did a year in prison for it. So that means it was likely a very small amount of weed, but enough for it to be a felony.

He served a year in prison and got out and hasn't committed another felony since then, which is now more than 20 years. Hernandez has a home, I assume pays his taxes because I have no reason to believe otherwise, and votes regularly. Your voting record is public - you can't see who you voted for but you can find out when someone did and did not vote. Mr. Hernandez is a regular voter and has been for some time now.

When you have a felony, your right to vote is taken away. Only after you have completed your sentence are you able to go through the process to have that right reinstated. Mr. Hernandez has.

And he serves as a leader in his community. Having done a lot of work in Tornillo I can tell you I have seen Mr. Hernandez take a leadership role in a range of issues from school board to parks.

Essentially, Mr. Hernandez is the ideal ex offender. He stays gainfully employed, contributes more to his community than most people who have never gotten a speeding ticket, and participates in the electoral process and responds to jury duty calls like a good citizen.

Isn't that what we say we want out of people released from prison? I'm still trying to figure out why the union thinks a crime that was paid for by Mr. Hernandez more than a generation ago is more relevant to voters than an alleged assault by their candidate against another citizen after a car accident just a couple years ago.

I mean lets be real, its not like he was running drugs like a Gandara or something. And this is the guy that the union tries to vilify?

And lets talk about why this is even a subject in the first place...because some off-duty union officers got pissed because he took pictures of them and their vehicles in a public place at an event open to the public and confronted him about it. That is by CLEAT's own admission by the way.

Sounds like an intimidation tactic by off-duty guys against an old man because they didn't like him doing what he's allowed to do, take pictures in a public event on public property.

In conclusion, the union really messed up on this one and they are really trying hard to destroy any credibility they had left by this latest stunt. Commissioner's Court doesn't have the authority to order an investigation of an elected official, much less for violation of the employee handbook. The union's lawyer should've told them that they can go to another law enforcement agency if they think wrong-doing has taken place, they could even try an ethics complaint if they felt they had grounds.

But instead, they ask commissioners court to do something they don't even have the power to do and have never done before in order to score political points for their candidate.

This move wasn't just silly, its scary. We should be worried when law enforcement officers want the power to arbitrarily run checks on people.


Anonymous said...

This makes a lot of sense. Voters Do not believe everything the Media says. They.should of done their own investigation before they blasted our SHERIFF. That is what Republicans do when they know they are in trouble. Still voting for Sheriff WILE. I don't care what they say.

Carl M Starr said...

The County Attorney has some limited investigative authority on limited matters.

But i agree the CLEAT letter seems like a political stunt.