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Bexar County Commissioners abolish a Justice of the Peace seat, hire 2nd jail consultant

Bexar County Commissioners
Bexar County
Screenshot from commissioners live stream
Bexar County Commissioners during their meeting on Oct. 19, 2021

Bexar County Commissioners Court on Tuesday voted to abolish the office of Justice of the Peace Precinct 1, Place 2. JP Ciro Rodriguez resigned from the seat in September amid ongoing office tension with Justice of the Peace Precinct 1, Place 1 Robert Tejeda.

Rodriguez said much of the trouble was over the distribution of cases in the county's busiest JP Court. No other precincts have two JPs and with the workload diminishing, Assistant County Manager Tina Smith-Dean recommended it be abolished.

"It will result in consistent administration of justice, clarification of reporting structure, which is beneficial to staff and will result in efficiency, and annual savings to taxpayers of just under $250,000 annually," she told commissioners.

Rodriguez did have a year left in his term and commissioners plan to find a temporary replacement until the term expires.

Bexar County Commissioners Court on Tuesday approved the hiring of an independent jail consulting firm American Correctional Consultants for nearly $20,000.

The consultant will examine the Bexar County Adult Detention Center in an effort to reduce the turnover rate among detention deputies and the associated soaring overtime costs that has been running into the tens of millions of dollars in recent years. The commissioners' hire is in addition to Sheriff Javier Salazar's hiring of his own jail consultants. Both consulting groups are expected to make recommendations to reduce those problems.

Also during the meeting when members of the public are invited to speak, a local activist for Indigenous peoples told commissioners he is opposed to plans for a Buffalo Soldiers statute at San Pedro Springs Park.

Activist Antonio Diaz said the park already has a plaque to mark where some of the African American soldiers trained for frontier service.

He said those soldiers played an active role in the war against Indigenous peoples.

"They were tool to remove people from our lands, to exterminate our people, to incarcerate us. That is why I oppose it," Diaz said.

Commissioner Tommy Calvert defended the history of many of the those in the military outfit.

"Many of the Buffalo Soldiers were actually court-martialed because they refused to fight the Native Americans," he told Diaz.

Calvert encouraged Diaz to talk with members of the Buffalo Soldiers Society to see if a compromise on the proposed monument is possible, but Diaz appeared unmoved.

In the final minutes of the meeting, commissioners approved the use of the power of eminent domain if needed to obtain more than an acre of land near St. Hedwig for a low water crossing improvement project on Abbott Road at FM 1518, just north of the location where a woman and 5-year-old girl drowned while trying to cross a flooded low water crossing.

County officials said the entire area is prone to flooding after heavy rains.

The commissioners court also voted to proceed with plans for more than $1 million in improvements for a stretch of Old Fredericksburg Road, north of Ralph Fair Road, that has been the site of many traffic accidents.

They also voted to to open the bidding process for the county jail's phone system after the original bidding process grew accusations of lobbying by the winning firm, Dallas-based Securus, which the company adamantly rejected in a statement to TPR earlier this year.

"ICS has suggested to the Commissioners and in the media that Securus somehow improperly 'lobbied' for the contract in violation of the RFP and, having done so, has threatened the integrity of the bidding process. This allegation is unsupported and utterly false," the statement read.

"All the evidence shows that the County’s award to Securus was proper, legal and made in accordance with rules pertaining to the (request for proposal) process," the statement also read.

The jail phone system is currently operated by San Antonio-based Inmate Calling Solutions, which employs 150 locally at a facility near the airport.

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Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at brian@tpr.org and on Twitter at @TPRBrian