FORT WORTH After an arrest warrant for his wife was mistakenly mailed to his home last May, District 2 City Councilman Sal Espino fired off an e-mail to city staff requesting the city’s entire Municipal Court system be subject to review and raising the possibility of an internal audit.Espino denied using his position as a councilman to influence the case, but says that the e-mail was sent out of frustration over the operation of the municipal court system. “I was expressing frustration over the entire municipal court system — not just my wife’s case,” said Espino who said he still believes there are ongoing issues with the municipal court but he wouldn’t pursue them because of perception issues. His wife, Elizabeth Espino, had shown up late to a May court hearing for a 2009 speeding ticket and the judge “treated her quite rudely and contrary to normal judicial demeanor standards,” Sal Espino wrote in a May 25 e-mail. She posted a cash bond but several days later, a letter showed up indicating an arrest warrant had been issued, prompting the irate councilman to suggest the entire court system be scrutinized. “At the next city council meeting, as a request for future agenda item, I will request that Municipal Courts also be for the 2nd time the subject of Sunset Review as well as other inefficient departments like Aviation,” Espino wrote in the same e-mail. “I have not yet decided whether to request another internal audit of this department.” Once he learned the following day that the arrest warrant letter had been sent in error since his wife had posted a cash bond, the councilman backed off of those threats. The trial for her speeding ticket is now scheduled to be heard in August. “I extend my apologies for writing my prior e-mail in frustration,” Espino wrote on May 26. “This matter has been satisfactorily resolved.” Sal Espino also said that his wife did not bring up his name or his position when the ticket was issued. On the Nov. 13, 2009 speeding ticket, the officer quoted her as saying “Do you know my husband, Sal, City Coun. (Sic).” The councilman said his wife “flatly disputes that. The officer asked her if she was related to me.” Espino, who was re-elected to his fourth term in May, is a member of the City Council’s Municipal Courts committee. Deidre Emerson, director of Municipal Courts, who was one of the city officials to receive the councilman’s e-mails, declined to comment about Elizabeth Espino’s case. “I can’t speak about a case that is still pending, but I can say that the Fort Worth Municipal Court strives to provide the best service possible to all of its customers, and always in a respectful and professional manner,” Emerson said in a prepared statement. The city currently has a committee looking at revising its ethics policies for the first time since the early 1990s but some critics have claimed the intention is to weaken those rules.
Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698
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