It all stems from statement made by JWC sheriff

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr.

Alice Echo-News Journal

Following the admission by Jim Wells County Sheriff Oscar Lopez to using his staff to assist with his campaigning fundraising during office hours, as well as the use of county property and equipment for political advertising, Jerry Strickland, Communications Director for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot said an investigation is not something the office would comment on.

Forrest Mitchell, an investigator with the Attorney General's office, has contacted the Alice Echo News Journal concerning the statements made by Lopez. Mitchell would not comment on whether an investigation would take place.

Both County Attorney Jesusa Sanchez Vera and District Attorney Joe Frank Garza said they have not received any complaints against Lopez, and have had no contact with the Attorney Generals office.

Lopez said in a Nov. 7 interview that clerical staff was used during office hours to keep track of funds coming in from the sale of barbecue tickets. The barbecue was a re-election fundraiser, which took place on Nov. 4 at the KC Hall Pavilion in Alice.

The tickets were first disbursed to employees who stayed voluntarily at the Jim Wells County Fairgrounds, following a mandatory department meeting. Lopez was not present when the tickets were handed out, but several officers were there, voluntarily, while still in uniform and driving department vehicles, Sheriff's Administrator Richard Palacios said.

Lopez also had a sign-up sheet in place at the department, for officers to sign if they were in support of Sheriff Lopez for re-election. Lopez uses the form for political advertising, and said things had been done that way for 26 years, and that no one had questioned him about it before.

Sanchez-Vera said she had heard nothing in her office concerning Lopez's statements, and that her office has had no contact with the Texas Attorney General's office concerning Lopez's statements.

She said that the district attorney in district court would handle a misdemeanor offense by a public official.

She said she has not had any conversations with the sheriff since the Nov. 11 article of the sheriff's admissions. Vera said a misuse of county employees, supplies and funds.

Both Vera and Garza said there would need to be a complaint filed for an investigation to proceed at the local level, and that it would more than likely be handled by the Texas Rangers, and not a local law enforcement agency.

"If it's an investigation of a law enforcement agency, the Rangers should take the lead on that," Garza said. "A local agency initiating an investigation on another local agency, it just doesn't happen. In something like this, ordinary citizens could contact the Ranger, and then the Ranger could contact us."

Garza said the District Attorney's office does not initiate investigations. He said for a case possibly involving the sheriff, the Texas Attorney General's office would be the ones to investigate.