Commissioners also voted during their Monday meeting to nix the two constables and appoint David Morgan to gather more information about the allegations against DeWitt, who won the Precinct 2 commissioner seat during a runoff primary election in April.
Judge Silva, during the meeting Monday morning, said, “I called this meeting because it was called to our intention that Mr. (Gabriel) Aleman may have a conflict of interest.” Aleman, with Angel Care Ambulance, has a contract to provide emergency services within the county.
Abel Suniga also said he didn’t feel comfortable because “both Mrs. Stasny and Mr. DeWitt are his customers,” Silva said.
Morgan, employed by the county as emergency management coordinator, also worked with the Department of Public Safety.
“If the court chooses to go forward with this, I have no qualms with Mr. Morgan heading up gathering this information. That is all this is — gathering information,” he said.
Silva added that he felt the accusations being made were “political rhetoric.”
“My other feeling on this... is that we have a history with Mr. DeWitt of 30 years in the (Texas) Parks and Wildlife (Department) with no incidents and he has 10 years here in this county with no incidents... He taught cultural diversity courses for the Parks and Wildlife.
“It is political rhetoric,” he said.
Commissioner Susan Stasny added, “Judge, did you mean political rhetoric?”
“It was brought out because of the political race,” Silva responded. “These individuals may or may not have come forward under any other circumstance.
“If this thing was egregious, as they say, I think it would have come out earlier.
“This is not 1930 or 1950 when people were intimidated.
“If somebody was offended or hurt, they would have said so.”
The two statements, stemming from incidents in 2003 and 2009, accuse DeWitt of using derogatorily racial terms.
The first of these was written by a resident claiming that DeWitt referred to her as a “wetback” and a “Mexican.” The woman had gone to his office to get a septic system and electricity approved for her property.
The second accusation, filed by a man DeWitt said was operating an “illegal” landfill, accuses him of also using the term “Mexican” in a derogatory manner.
In both instances, DeWitt said that he didn’t use the racial slurs he is accused of using.
The matter came to light during the Republican primary runoff election that pitted DeWitt against Stasny for the commissioner seat.
DeWitt won the election and does not have a Democratic opponent in November.
Commissioner Carlos Salazar Jr. disagreed with the judge’s opinion.
“This court, with the exception of you I guess, should not and does not take lightly any allegations of any of its employees of a racist nature.
“This is not about politics, nor is it about the past election or the results of that election.
“This court has an obligation to the public to address this personnel matter regardless of when it was reported, regardless of when it allegedly occurred.”
Salazar said that he would have preferred the matter be handled in closed session; however, DeWitt requested that it be done in open session.
“It gives no pleasure to any court members to look into these allegations,” Salazar said. “It is something that must done for one reason only — it is the right thing to do.”
Salazar was at first reluctant to have Morgan look into the statements.
“This is not a case of someone killing someone that we need to investigate,” he said.
Commissioner Ronnie Olivares said that Morgan would be an asset and made the motion that he assist.
“I strongly feel that both constables that we first appointed to do this... did have the knowledge and the capability to do what we are asking Mr. Morgan to do,” Salazar said. “They had some (political) pressure out there also and that is why they withdrew.”
Eventually, however, the court agreed to have Morgan talk to those who made the complaints and also to DeWitt to get his side of the story. Additionally, those making the accusations will have a chance to speak to the court and answer questions from commissioners.
Stasny reminded the court that DeWitt was among others who recommended that Morgan be hired as the county’s emergency management coordinator.
“Mr. DeWitt was on the committee that interviewed the applicants for Mr. Morgan’s position and recommended him for the position.
“Mr. Morgan is a good man.
“I am not questioning his integrity.
“There is really no one in the county government that is not under the court or under some political pressure..”
Silva said that he attempted to get someone from outside the county by approaching officials in San Patricio County for assistance.
“(County Judge Terry A. Simpson) through the D.A.’s office said that this did not rise to a level that they were willing to invest time and an investigator in.”
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.