Thursday, October 06, 2005

Why does Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley want to abolish the constable' office?

John Bradley has a radical idea he wants to do away with the constables office in Williamson County. As far as I can tell he wants to do this to consolidate power in the hands of, as he calls it, a "single leader". That reminds me, aren't Republicans the ones that talk about local control? This goes against that premise. Constables are elected by the voters of the commissioner's district that's their jurisdiction. That makes them accountable to those voters. Or to put it another way, constables provide local control, a check on the sheriff's office and are an historic legacy to freedom in the world. I'm not sure what the DA's problem is with constables but he sure goes after them in the above article. He refers to constables as "dinosaurs". He tries to equate a constitutional amendment passed in 2002 to make dormant vacant constable positions - a constable position has to be empty for at least 7 years to be considered vacant - to the beginnings of public support for abolishing constables altogether. In August, while testifying before the Commissioner's Court he stated, "..constables were not trained to do criminal investigations..", which isn't the case. He demeaned constables on the public forums of the Texas District and County Attorney Association (TDCAA) website. To completely abolish constables in Williamson County would be a radical step.

I really don't know how he plans to do this. I can't find any statements by a Williamson County Commissioner as to where they stand on abolishing constable's in Williamson County. He would definitely need their support. I looked at the large counties around the state - Bexar, Dallas, Harris, Tarrant, Travis - they all have constables. Therefore there is no sensible reason for doing this so it looks to me like someone wants to be a "single leader".

Constables, from what I've been able to discern, work in concert, not competition with, the sheriff's office. They deal mainly with the civil aspect of the law serving warrants and such. They take that burden off the sheriff's office which allows the sheriff's office to concentrate on the criminal aspect. For that reason the DA's idea to abolish the constable's office is more of a control/power issue than anything else. Another problem is the whole premise is inane since it's not possible any time soon. The only way to abolish constables is through a constitutional amendment. The earliest it could get on a ballot, if he can get the bill through the next legislative session, would be November 2007. Also remember, without a constitutional amendment, for constables to be eligible to go dormant they have to first be vacant for 7 years and currently all the constable positions in Williamson County are active.

The other part of his "single leader" theory was DA Bradley's backing of a move by Precinct 1 County Commissioner Lisa Birkman in August to transfer the mental health duties from the office of Constable Gary Griffin, Precinct 1, to the Williamson County Sheriff's Office. The transfer was nothing more than political payback from when Mrs. Birkman, before becoming a county commissioner, was interviewed in the Sheriff John Maspero debacle:
Members of the constable's office are alleging in writing and in interviews that Birkman's actions appear to them to be political retaliation, possibly stemming from Birkman's involvement in an important investigation.

According to Capt. Mike Schnautz, Precinct 1, who interviewed Birkman, she was "reluctant" at first to cooperate in an investigation of the conduct of former sheriff John Maspero, including public intoxication, which led to his departure from office."

"She was reluctant to participate in the investigation because she said she was running for office and she said it could be detrimental to her," Schnautz said. "I told her I didn't care. A lot of what is happening now could be part of what happened in that investigation."

Schnautz noted that Griffin was not part of the investigation of Maspero.
I'm inclined to believe this was done as political payback because this was never a problem before Mrs. Birkman joined the court. Another reason is because of what everyone has to say about Gary Griffin. As I've learned about the issue of transferring mental health duties two things jump out at me over and over. First, Gary Griffin has a passion for working with the mentally ill and has done an outstanding job of handling the mentally ill for Williamson County. Second, the sheriff's office will take over the job if it's taken from Gary Griffin. Knowing that, who would you rather have running the mental health unit in this county? Someone who has a passion for mental health and record of quality work or someone that will take it on if they have to? It's not a knock on the sheriff's office it's just well...if it ain't broke don't fix it.

So Commissioner Birkman and DA Bradley are for transferring the mental health unit, is anyone else? Yes, a PR executive!
Bradley and a public relations executive were the only ones testifying in support of the switch. The public, along with law enforcement from the county and cities within the county, turned out overwhelmingly in favor of Griffin keeping the job. Sheriff James Wilson stated his office didn't ask for the job, and that Griffin had shown a "great passion for it."
OK so we've got the DA and a PR executive in support of the transfer and EVERYONE ELSE AGAINST IT. The reason DA John Bradley cited for supporting the transfer back in August was quickly shot down by Mr. Griffin:
Invited to the podium by Doerfler, District Attorney John Bradley said he appreciated Griffin's work, but he supported moving the duties to the sheriff's department because of the possibility that criminal issues could be involved in the responses made to mental health crises.
Not because it happens all the time or that it's even a problem just because of the possibility. Moving on:
"It's not a matter of an individual or office," Bradley said. "It's a matter of civil issues versus criminal issues."

Griffin said that working with sheriff's deputies or other law enforcement personnel never has been a problem if a criminal issue arises.

"We've never obstructed a criminal investigation," Griffin said, "and we've always cooperated and worked very well in a team approach with other officers."

Griffin said the criminal-versus-civil issue "cuts to the heart of the matter of why people are scared in these situations - it's not a crime to have a mental illness."

Addressing the need for a compassionate but effective response to mental health calls for assistance, Griffin said it has taken a high level of commitment and experience to improve the county's services.
The two commissioner's that voted for the transfer made claims of cost savings and better service, though no numbers were given and nobody has complained about the service:
Birkman and McDaniel said they sought to make the change for reasons of cost and improved service since the unit must respond to mental health issues that are county-wide
Mr. Griffin has taken their best shots and the effort to transfer the mental health unit persists. This week Commissioner Birkman brought before the court her effort to form a subcommittee to study the issue. I hope this is the first item on their agenda, Ailing woman raped after she was set free, detective says . She was set free by the Williamson County Sheriff's Office while she was waiting to be picked up by the constables. Study the issue, that's good but I thought that's what Democrats and liberals always did that made these types of people so mad?

Every other major county in the state has constables. What this DA has against them I'm not for sure. What I can tell from this is that for some reason he doesn't want them around anymore.


At 10/07/2005 7:01 AM, Blogger Jane Leatherman Van Praag said...

Here's what I think: since more and more U.S. citizens (and indeed, decent human beings around the world) are referring to current
Republican administrations at all levels of government as fostering a 'culture of corruption' it is wise to review the definition of 'corrupt'. Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary, Unabridged, shows this adjective as
"1. orginally, changed from a sound condiiton to an unsound one; spoiled, contaminated; rotten.
2. deteriorated from the normal or standard; specifically (a) morally unsound or debased; perverted; eil; depraved; (b) taking bribes; (c) containing alterations, foreign admixtures, or errors: said of languages, texts, etc."

So we see we're using the right terminology. We should expect, then, what we've been getting from these corrupt souls who have in recent decades usurped the Republican Party: if something's working well--satisfactorily
serving the people--these corrupt souls are determined to break it, to destroy it. They are not interested in representing their constituents or promoting the public weal, but rather their purpose is to deny the former and undermine the latter.

We must stand up to them at every turn and hound them out of office. By bringing this matter to our attention you are helping do this. Thank you.

At 10/07/2005 7:05 AM, Blogger Jane Leatherman Van Praag said...

In my previous post, while quoting the definition, I inadvertently left out the 'v' so the word 'eil' should read 'evil' instead. Sorry.

At 10/07/2005 8:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Response to Jane: -- Wholeheartedly agreed!! I have never seen Jane put a situation in other than the strongest possible perspective. I am sure that there are many others in Wms Cty -- and other counties of Texas -- who also feel the same way we do. Thanks Jane for a very "to the point" response!


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