Turmoil continued last week in Bexar County Precinct 2, even after controversial constable Michelle Barrientes Vela resigned under pressure, KSAT reported.
Barrientes Vela fired her chief deputy, Anthony Castillo, on Wednesday before vacating her position and announcing her intention – again – to run for sheriff. Her replacement, Leticia Vazquez, demoted Captain Mark Garcia to deputy constable on Thursday and placed him on leave, pending an investigation.
Barrientes Vela, Castillo and Garcia have been implicated in possible false billings of travel expenses, and numerous sources told the TV station that Barrientes Vela and Castillo are under criminal investigation.
Barrientes Vela was forced to resign after she told KSAT on Sept. 23 that she would seek the sheriff’s post in 2020. That triggered the state’s resign-to-run law, which requires elected officials with more than 13 months left in their current term to forfeit their seat after they announce plans to run for another office.
KSAT reported in August that Barrientes Vela, Castillo and Garcia skipped a state open-records training course, but billed the county for expensive hotels and meals at the event. The TV station reported last week that Barrientes Vela also used county funds to pay for a law enforcement training session in Corpus Christi in October 2018 for the trio, but none of them showed up for it.
Bexar County Auditor Leo Caldera told the TV station his office is working with the district attorney’s office to determine what action should be taken on the false billing.
The TV station reported Thursday that in November 2018, Barrientes Vela ordered her deputies to search for a luxury SUV stolen from Ruben’s Auto Sales, the San Antonio car lot owned by her husband, Carols Vela.
A source told KSAT that Precinct 2’s traffic unit, which consists of four deputies, was told to search for the SUV for two days, and later tasked with searching the general area the rest of the work week. The vehicle, a 2008 Mercedes-Benz ML 350, was found after a five-day search, outside of Precinct 2.