DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A federal judge has blocked Dallas County’s plan to save money by laying off a number of deputy constables.
The constables contend the real reason for the layoffs is retaliation for them helping with probes of County Judge John Wiley Price, along with two other constables who are currently under indictment.
“I think this is just the first step in many,” said Constable Beth Villarreal, who, along with two colleagues and another 30 deputy constables, asked a federal judge to block the layoffs.
“It looks like people are finally hearing us out, just doing what’s right,” she added.
In their complaint, the constables claim “certain members of the Commissioners Court simply want the constables’ staff eradicated.”
Price declined to comment.
The constables say the layoffs are partly because they assisted in investigating an alleged illegal towing scheme, resulting in the indictments of two constables from Dallas County’s southern sector.
They also claim the layoffs are partly because they are whistleblowers: They complained they were forced to work security detail without pay at Kwanzaa Fest, a 20-year event created by Price.
In court, the constables accuse Price of retaliation. They would not, however, comment to reporters outside the courtroom.
“I’m not going to talk to the press until after this is is over,” said plaintiff attorney John Barr. “It’s inappropriate.”
Constable Roy Williams Jr., one of the plaintiffs, took a similar stance, saying, “Because the judge granted the TRO (temporary restraining order), we’ll just have to wait and see.”
Federal Judge Royal Ferguson of the Northern District of Texas granted the temporary restraining order, saying, in part, “the nature of the proposed across-the-board termination appears to be the hallmarks of an arbitrary or capricious decision.”
Commissioners have previously claimed the layoffs are simply a budget issue and deny the retaliation charge.
“It’s not true,” said County Judge Clay Jenkins. “But I’m not going to have any comment on pending litigation. That’s our county policy. So, that’s as far as I’ll go.”
Judge Ferguson hopes to rule on an injunction on September 29.
Meanwhile, Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez said she’ll continue training her staff to take over filing civil paperwork that the deputy constables in question currently perform.