County rejects constable's request to get federal money for DWI checkpoints

Commissioners talk to constable

EL PASO - Former police chief-turned county commissioner Carlos Leon had some strong words for El Paso Constable Luis Aguilar saying Aguilar was failing to do his job during a county meeting Monday.

"With all due respect, I'm not confident your office can handle these DWI drives because you're not keeping up with your Justice of the Peace duties," Commissioner Carlos Leon said.

Aguilar, the Precinct 4 constable, went to El Paso commissioners looking for approval to get federal money to run DWI stops. The grant would have given the constables $77,000 to spend on after-hours DWI stops run by their deputies. Aguilar said the money would have kept more drunk drivers off the street, and fewer deputies working for bars off duty to make ends meet.

"The work is not ... it's overtime," Aguilar said. "It's after working hours.  It has nothing to do with their regular duties."

Those regular duties is what concerned commissioners the most.  Leon told the court that he'd been working closely with local law enforcement offices and had recently heard that Aguilar's office returned 600 warrants that were never served. One of Aguilar's deputies told the court they returned the warrants to the sheriff so more law enforcement agencies could help with the workload.  Leon didn't seem to buy into the excuse.

"I know that you returned those warrants to the Sheriff's Department," Leon said.  "You also returned about 294 warrants back to your JP (Justice of the Peace) out of 294 that you got."

Leon was not the only one to express concern. County Commissioner Patrick Abeln told Aguilar he was concerned with how the grant would be implemented. Abeln said that if work wasn't being completed now, he didn't know how he could expect them to complete proper paperwork that would be required at the end of the year to get the grant money. He expressed concern that the county would have to match $19,000 upfront, but could get stuck paying the additional $77,000 if mistakes were made.

"That to me, if we're not doing our primary job, is a risk that I don't want to take," said Abeln.

Commissioners also heard from other constables. At least one, Constable Hector Bernal, said he backed the request because money would be made available to his office as well. Commissioners ultimately referred to the money as a request by Aguilar, and voted it down unanimously.

Asked if he would bring the grant request back to the county in the future Aguilar told ABC-7, "I might," but declined an interview reacting to the strong words directed towards his office.

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