When you get a speeding ticket you pay the fine or face a warrant for your arrest. That is, unless your case was assigned to Bexar County Precinct 3's Justice of the Peace court in the last year.
News 4 WOAI Trouble Shooter Mireya Villarreal uncovers the inside story on one Justice of the Peace who's accused of refusing to enforce the law after the county cut just one clerk position.
For months we've been telling you about the illegal dumping problems going on in the Camelot 2 neighborhood. These are problems county and state leaders had every intention of fixing by beefing up patrols and citing property owners. But that plan came to a screeching halt a few weeks ago.
"From my perspective, this is retaliation on his part. And quite frankly, he's elected to do a job and he's not doing the job,” Commissioner Kevin Wolff told us. “Crime is rising because of a lack of enforcement on the part of the J.P.."
Commissioner Wolff is referring to Justice of the Peace Keith Baker. Last year Baker was forced to cut one clerical position and, as a result, his office has seen a dramatic drop in warrants issued, even though he still has 17 other people working in his office.
In 2010 9,072 warrants went out and nearly $1.9 million in revenue was brought in for the county. In 2011 11,696 warrants were processed totaling $2.3 million for Bexar County. But this year Judge Baker has only issued 122 warrants in ten months and the county now faces at least a $750,000 drop in revenue.
But Wolff says this isn't just about the money. A drop in warrants means a drop in enforcing the law.
"Personally, the one who suffers the most are the citizens out there relying on us, the J.P.'s, the constables, the sheriff's department, to enforce those laws and provide penalties for those people that don't,” Wolff explained. “If that part of the mechanism isn't working, then that's who suffers the most."
J.P. Baker didn't want to go on camera about this issue. But he did share with us letters and emails he'd sent to county leaders over the last year. In them Baker made it very clear, if he was forced to cut an intake clerk position warrants would suffer.
“What I would answer is that's the most under compensated clerk in Bexar County. If that were true, if every single warrant had to go through that single clerk position,” County Manager David Smith said.
“You don't believe it then,” News 4 WOAI’s Mireya Villarreal asked.
“I would suggest other J.P. office have found a way to deal with it,” Smith answered.
Last year every Bexar County Justice of the Peace had to cut one position. Despite those cuts, county leaders showed us statistics that prove three other J.P.'s have increased their warrants and revenue in the last year.
Baker also argues, he has more than 600,000 residents in his precinct and handles over 45,000 cases. So, he needs that extra clerk more than anyone else.
Judge Baker sent a letter to the county manager's office today saying he wants to work on this issue, but he needs that clerk position back.
Commissioner Wolff says he also has a solution to the problem and it includes redistricting the precincts. He plans to discuss redistricting with other commissioners in the near future, so the work load and staffing are equally distributed between all the J.P.'s.