When Pima County Constable Oscar Vasquez arrived to serve a legal notice to Sue Carpenter last Jan. 30 at her home west of Tucson, he climbed out of his car, walked over to her neighbor's travel trailer, unzipped his pants and took a leak—a performance that was captured on a security cam.
Vasquez then walked up to her neighbor's door and tried to serve the papers. When the neighbor told Vasquez that Carpenter lived next door, he first insisted that his GPS was telling him he had the right home. When the neighbor finally convinced Vasquez that he needed to go next door, he also warned Vasquez that Carpenter had dogs. Vasquez responded that he was armed with a taser.
Vasquez drove next door but Carpenter wasn't home, so he drove his truck across her front yard, leaving behind a rut of visible tire tracks, according to a complaint Carpenter filed with the Constable Ethics, Standards and Training Board.
In his response to the complaint, Vasquez apologized for peeing in public. He said it "was not done out of malcontent." Vasquez just really had to go: "I needed to urgently relieve myself and with the nearest restroom being nine miles away, I immediately relieved myself in order to avoid wetting myself due to being older."
Vasquez, who did not return a phone call from the Weekly, said in his defense that he suffered from a medical condition and was seeking treatment.
The public urination episode was only one of many that have required the Constable Ethics, Standards & Training Board to investigate and reprimand Vasquez in his first term as an elected constable with the job of delivering eviction notices and other legal summons. The string of abuses—including driving county cars at excessive speeds and smashing them up; chasing down a motorist after a near-miss accident at a four-way stop; and a recent failure to take online classes in driving safety and anger management—now has the constable ethics board asking the Pima County Board of Supervisors to suspend Vasquez without pay for at least 30 days.
The 144-page report compiled as background for supervisors to read reveals an elected official who just can't stay out of trouble.
First elected in 2016, Vasquez caught the notice of then-Presiding Constable Michael Stevenson within weeks of starting the job. At a January 2017 training session, Vasquez parked in a handicapped space, although he himself was not handicapped. After Vasquez told Stevenson the placard belonged to his wife, Stevenson advised him not to use it, as it wasn't assigned to him.
But as Stevenson's May 27 report to the constable ethics board shows, Vasquez continued to hang the placard from the rear window of his county-issued vehicle. After Vasquez told Stevenson that he sometimes took his wife to medical appointments in the car, Stevenson told him that the car was for official county business only. Vasquez told the ethics board that he only used the placard when he was taking his wife to appointments in between other errands on the job.
But that dust-up paled compared to the trouble with Vasquez's use of county cars as he drove around Precinct 4 to deliver legal notices and otherwise traveled for the job.
Vasquez has banged up so many county cars that he's no longer allowed to have one. And in his first months on the job, before the keys were taken away, Vasquez was driving in excess of 100 mph on highways with a maximum limit of 65, and was blazing at speeds as high as 79 mph down streets with speed limits between 25 and 45 mph. During a training in Maricopa County, Vasquez hit 103 on Roosevelt Street in Goodyear and 106 mph on West Target Road in Buckeye.
Stevenson repeatedly tried to discuss the unsafe operations of the car with Vasquez and on May 5, 2017, Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry restricted Vasquez from operating a county-issued vehicle outside of normal business hours. Three days later, on May 8, Vasquez blew out the engine of his county car while driving back from a Phoenix training at speeds as high as 91 mph.
Following that episode, the county told Vasquez he couldn't have a county-issued car for one year and required him to purchase a $1 million commercial insurance policy.
Vasquez later had his privileges restored, but they were permanently revoked by Huckelberry in October 2019 after Vasquez damaged three more county cars and failed to properly report the incidents.
Vasquez's lousy driving habits would come back to haunt him in 2019, when he chased down a man after an altercation at an intersection.
In May 2019, Michael Rios filed a complaint saying that Vasquez had narrowly missed colliding with him at a four-way-stop intersection and then pursued him to his house, confronting him in front of his children and threatening to give him a ticket. (Constables don't have the power to issue traffic tickets.)
"I felt he made an attempt to intimidate me, he trespassed and acted in a way as to make me believe he was actual police officer who had the authority to follow me and issue a traffic ticket," Rios wrote in a complaint to the constable ethics board. "My children were scared by his yelling and aggressive demeanor."
In his response, Vasquez denied Rios' charges. He said that Rios had endangered him by coming to a "California stop" at the intersection and he'd pursued Rios back to his house and confronted him "just in a calm, deliberative voice" to let him know "he should know better by having more consideration for the safety of his kids."
The constable ethics board, taking into account Vasquez's previous driving records, concluded that Vasquez's actions had been "inappropriate" and suspended him for 30 days.
Given Vasquez's history of
vehicle damage and various other complaints filed against him, in December 2019 the constable ethics board ordered him to take online driver improvement and anger management classes. While Vasquez paid for the courses, he hadn't completed them as of mid-July. At a July 21 meeting, the ethics board voted to ask the Board of Supervisors to suspend Vasquez without pay for a minimum of 30 days and keep the suspension in place until he completes his classes.
The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to take up the matter at its Sept. 1 meeting. But other than supporting the suspension without pay, there's not much the county can do because Vasquez is ultimately accountable to the voters, says Pima County Supervisor Sharon Bronson, whose district overlaps with Justice Precinct 4.
"We have no statutory authority," Bronson said. "The voters have the ultimate authority, although the county has liability, should somebody sue us."
The county did require Vasquez to turn in his gun, after he threatened to use a taser against Carpenter's dogs when he was delivering the summons during the episode that involved public urination, according to Bronson.
The Constable Ethics, Standards and Training Board can issue letters of reprimand or suspend constables—which it has, numerous times, in the case of Vasquez—but it can't do much more, either.
This year, Vasquez faced no opposition in this month's primary and faces no challenger in the general election.