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Leticia Vazquez was sworn in as Precinct 2 interim constable on Wednesday afternoon, two days earlier than anticipated.
Judge Martha Tanner of the 37th District Court vacated on Wednesday the temporary restraining order that former Constable Michelle Barrientes Vela (Pct. 2) secured that prevented Bexar County commissioners from installing her replacement until Oct. 11. Tanner also dismissed all of Vela’s claims that she did not trigger an automatic resignation from her post when she told reporters that she planned to run for Bexar County Sheriff in 2020.
Through her lawyer Les Sachanowicz, Vela agreed to vacate her office by 8 a.m. Thursday.
“We respectfully legally disagree with the judge’s decision,” Sachanowicz said in an email Wednesday. “The Constable and I are convening to discuss legal options, if any.”
Vela formally announced her campaign for sheriff on Wednesday after Vazquez was sworn in, according to media reports.
Vazquez, a deputy sheriff with the Bexar County Sheriff’s office, was one of 29 people who applied for the interim constable position. Bexar County commissioners interviewed five of those applicants, and chose Vazquez as their appointee last Wednesday.
After Vazquez took the oath from Judge Peter Sakai of the 225th District Court, she said she would continue familiarizing herself with her new role.
“I want to do what’s best for Precinct 2 and the community out there,” she said. “I’m going to go into the office and make it a better place. I just need a little bit of time [to] get familiar with the constable operations. I know I can make a difference.”
Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar praised Vazquez’s service in his department and said he felt confident she would excel as a constable.
“She and I have talked about the transition [from working at the sheriff’s office to being constable] and now we’re going to be implementing the transition,” he said. “We will be by her side as an agency to make sure she has everything she needs, that she has a smooth transition into her role, until she’s absolutely comfortable.”
Vela has faced accusations of exploiting her position before. Local resident Jesus Reyes complained in May that Vela forced him to pay $50 an hour for additional security at a Westside park pavilion, though the County had already planned for officers to be at all county parks that day. Another resident said they were not able to access a park pavilion they had rented to set up for an event later that day. Vela denied all wrongdoing in both matters.
Vela’s offices were also raided by the FBI in September. The agency did not say what led to the raid, citing an active investigation.
“Because there is a pending criminal investigation, the Bexar County Criminal District Attorney’s Office can make no further comment on the court ruling,” District Attorney spokeswoman Nicole Perez said in an email.
Commissioner Justin Rodriguez (Pct. 2) said he was surprised by the quick turnaround, but hopes that his constituents can have a sense of peace knowing that they have a new constable in place.
“Today I think we’re just excited to be turning the page and moving forward as a community and making sure our constituents in Precinct 2 have a level of confidence in the constable’s office,” he said.