Men's Breakfast, April 9, 2016

The Men’s Breakfast Group met Saturday, April 9th with Darren Barnett and David Thacker, candidates for Precinct 1 Constable.  The constable’s precinct is the same as the county commissioner’s precinct. 

Darren was raised in a middle class black neighborhood of Dallas that went downhill because of crack.  This decline motivated him to go into law enforcement.  He went to the police academy and joined the Clute Police Department.  After a couple of years in patrol he became a school liaison officer at Brazoswood High School.   After the school formed its own department he left law enforcement for a time but returned as an officer in the Surfside department. 

David Thacker was raised in Freeport and went to Brazosport High School.  He worked for the prison system for twenty years.  One of his duties was to train the tracking dogs.  After he retired from the prison he went to work for the Sheriff’s department.  He then transferred to the constable’s department and has risen to chief deputy to Constable Robin Rape, who is retiring at the end of this term. 

The constable’s department is responsible for providing security for the courts and carrying out the court’s orders.  It provides the courts’ bailiffs and serves subpoenas and writs for the courts.  The deputy constables are also law enforcement officers and can write tickets and assist other law enforcement officers as needed.   Most of the deputy’s time is spent serving subpoenas all over Precinct 1.  This is a big precinct and requires a lot of driving.  The constable’s office has four full time deputies, a secretary and several reserve and part time deputies.  The constable, who is elected, receives a salary of about $80,000 per year and the budget and salaries are set by the commissioner’s court. 

The candidates were asked why constables should be elected instead of being part of the Sheriff’s office.  Constables have no taxing or regulatory authority and are far down the ballot so few voters really know anything about the candidates.   Their answer is that the constables are more accountable to the people than the sheriff, since the constable’s precinct is smaller than the county. 

The candidates were asked about “sewer service”.  This occurs when a process server throws away subpoenas instead of delivering them and says that they were delivered.   This results in default judgments against the defendants who have no chance to state their cases.  David said that that may occur with private process servers, but not with his deputies.   He said that deputies must deliver subpoenas and sign an affidavit that they have done so.  He said that in one case he has gone several times to a person in Surfside with a $400,000 house with a $60,000 judgment against it to try to get her to come to court so that she wouldn’t lose her house, but she refuses to accept service or come to court. 

Some defendants avoid service.  J. Piner Powell of Fort Worth was given as an example.  He had a large number of slum houses that did not meet code.  His business office would collect rent but he could not be found to receive a subpoena.  David said that in these cases, alternative means of service are now available.  The subpoena can be served at the business office, pushed under a door or through a window. 

The men had an interesting discussion and a good breakfast.  The next meeting will be on May 14th.