The county attorney claims he's your lawyer, but we have been exposing his secrets. Is he really your watchdog?
Jack Abercia was nabbed by the FBI for alleged bribes. He says he didn't do it, but the county attorney's office already knew the veteran lawmen had been pocketing money, about $1,500 a month in cash.
When landlords wanted a tenant served with a notice to get out, Abercia would order a deputy to make it happen. The constable got half the cash. All of this while deputies were being laid off.
Oh, you didn't get a penny of it.
In a January email, the county attorney's office reports a Precinct 1 clerk now admits "more than 50 percent" of her county workday was spent this way. So you were paying her to make cash money for the constable.
It's not like they didn't know there was a problem. Eight months ago, we told them.
Constable Victor Trevino used county employees in patrol cars to serve his vacate notices and he didn't even give them a cut.
Records show $7,000 in cash was collected just last year.
"In vacate money?" Trevino asked us.
"Yes sir. That's twenty bucks a head; you get there pretty quick," we replied.
"I have not seen that," he said.
Trevino claimed some of the cash was donated to the charity he founded.
"Do you have records of donating it to the charity?" we asked Trevino.
"There may be some. There may be some records. I know that we ... there's none?" he said.
This county attorney's office email in February about vacate notices may make you wonder what else the office knows that they are not telling you: "The revelations could be the source of high embarrassment and black eyes for the justice system."
"Is the county attorney the public's lawyer or the constable's lawyer?" we asked Vince Ryan.
"The people of Harris County's attorney," he replied.
It's been nearly 10 months since Ryan's office knew that some constables may be misusing employees' and county equipment. They saw the records before we did.
So why hasn't the office finished their review or let you see what they've found so far?
"I'm sorry, the investigation into Kennedy assassination took place at quicker pace that this is. What's going on?" Texas Watchdog Editor Trent Siebert said.
Sounds hard to believe, but we checked. He's right.
So we wanted to talk to Vince Ryan about the constables.
"We would like you to sit down and talk with us Mr. Ryan," we told Ryan.
"Well, I will consult my staff," he said.
Emails help explain why it's taking so long. Assistant County Attorney Doug Ray is the guy in charge of the constable review. This was his status report as of December, five months after the allegations came to light: He'd only talked to two people at Precinct 6, the constable and his chief deputy.
"Anyone that's watched Colombo knows. I'm sorry, the first person that you interview in your investigation is the guy at the top, the guy accused of wrongdoing? That never happens. That's the wrong way to conduct an investigation," Siebert said.
Ray hadn't even bothered to interview one of the early whistleblowers, former Pct. 6 Media Officer Anna Nunez.
"It makes me sick in the stomach," Nunez said.
And emails suggest Ray doesn't care if you ever see what they did and didn't do: "This is not a reality show," he wrote, "and we are not performing for 13 Undercover. I insist that further review in this case be done confidentially and that no information be released."
It was last year the county attorney's office promised action.
"Where's the, 'Hey you can't do this?'" we asked Terry O'Rourke on September 11, 2011.
"Coming soon on Channel 13 Eyewitness News will be an answer to that question," he replied.
But now the watchdog wants to keep you from seeing what they've found so far. This is an affidavit from Chief of Staff Robert Soard: "It was never intended that any of these documents would be released to the public"
And they say they are your lawyer?
"Everyone is frustrated. There's a lot of fear out there because they feel that Constable Trevino is being protected by other county employees, especially county attorney's office," Nunez said.
"The bottom line is you have an obligation to the citizens of Harris County to do your job properly," KTRK legal analyst Joel Androphy said.
Our investigation of the constables is clearly making us new friends. Check out this email to Terry O'Rourke from former Constable Bill Bailey: "Tell Wayne and Channel 13 to k--- your ---!!!! This guy has really become a cockroach the last couple of years."
On 13 Undercover interactive, you can see the smiling faces, the constables, the county attorney and you could also click and see some of the emails the way they talked to us.
But taxpayers, rest easy because the county attorney says they will let you see the results of their long review on the constables when they decide it's done.
The DA's office, they're investigating, too, but don't expect any action until after the primaries.
And Thursday, why did they change time sheets after we asked to see them.