To the Editor,
After 2 ½ years, the removal fiasco directed against Constable Mike Jones by Patrick M. Wilson has finally limped to a conclusion: The Constable has been exonerated and fully restored to his Office, and the County has been stuck with a giant bill for litigation costs and expenses with nothing to show for the effort. Clearly Mr. Wilson never gave any dispassionate or objective consideration to the merits, risks and probable cost of this feckless campaign.
When asked by your reporter about the probable cost of this failed attempt to remove the Constable from his elected office, Mr. Wilson declined to answer: “[W]e can’t quantify how much money was spent on this case or on really any case that comes through this office.” Why not? What public official can be allowed to spend tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars without an approved budget – without an accounting?
The DA’s Office does not keep track of the time its Prosecutors spend on any given case. However, based upon actual cash disbursements by the County and based upon a reasonable estimate of the time and effort devoted to this effort over the years by six (6) Ellis County attorneys, three (3) Ellis County Investigators, numerous Ellis County Clerks and personnel in the Office of the Dallas County Special Prosecutor, it seems clear that this ill-fated campaign cost well in excess of $100,000.00.
The civil removal action against Constable Jones was put to a jury trial earlier this year. The ineffective manner in which this trial was handled is typical of Mr. Wilson’s mismanagement: After receiving the testimony of nearly 20 witnesses during a two-week trial, an Ellis County jury unanimously exonerated the Constable on seven (7) counts of alleged official misconduct after deliberations that lasted only about half an hour. Either there was never sufficient evidence to support these misconduct charges, or the trial was ineptly handled by Mr. Wilson’s Office – or both.
After this adverse verdict and judgment, the County was ordered to pay $48,000.00 to Constable Jones to compensate him for the salary that was withheld while he was temporarily suspended from his Office. The Court also assessed about $12,000.00 in court costs for payment by the County. Significant expenses were also incurred to pay the fees charged by outside technical personnel the DA hired to assist with the evaluation of computer and cell phone data. The exact amount of all these expenses and disbursements can be determined to the penny – the County has all the pertinent accounting and payment records. Add to these disbursements the value (or opportunity cost) of the HUNDREDS of work hours spent on this case over 2 ½ years by personnel in both Ellis County and in Dallas County and it is easy to estimate the cost of this project
The pursuit of public integrity is an important function of the DA’s Office. But in every civil case – in every criminal prosecution, the DA must be governed by a continuing dispassionate and objective evaluation of the merits of the case. Such an evaluation must continue as evidence develops and the case unfolds. However, given this outcome, it should not have taken 2 ½ years of civil litigation and criminal prosecution and more than $100,000.00 in costs and expenses for Mr. Wilson to determine that his campaign against Constable Jones was unreasonable and disproportionate to the facts and evidence.
Mr. Wilson owes a public apology to Constable Jones, and an explanation and an accounting to the Commissioners’ Court and the taxpayers of Ellis County.
William T. Little