July 16, 2008

US Rep. Silvestre Reyes named in ethics complaint

By Diana Washington Valdez / El Paso Times
Article Launched: 07/16/2008 12:00:00 AM MDT

A complaint against U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, has been filed with the House Committee on Conduct of Official Standards by Friends of the Border Patrol after Reyes' office asked a federal law enforcement agency for help in the kidnapping of a relative in Juárez.

"Reyes, former chief Border Patrol agent, knows that this type of request is frowned upon by the U.S. Border Patrol," said Andy Ramirez, chairman of Friends of the Border Patrol, who submitted the complaint Monday.

The complaint alleges Reyes violated the House Code of Official Conduct because his office was used to benefit a relative.

Friends of the Border Patrol, a nonprofit law enforcement advocacy organization, posted a copy of the complaint on its Web site at www.FOBP.us.

Vincent Perez, Reyes' spokesman in Washington, D.C., said Tuesday that Reyes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and former Border Patrol chief of the El Paso sector, had not seen the complaint.

"The so-called 'Friends of the Border Patrol' is a civilian border-watch group similar to the MinuteMan organization," Perez said in a statement.

"Anyone who reads the letter will realize that this action is nothing more than a publicity stunt to advance the organization's anti-immigration agenda."

Ramirez's complaint packet included a letter of support signed by

Sandalio "Sandy" Gonzalez, former top El Paso DEA official and national president of the Federal Hispanic Law Enforcement Officers Association.

"ICE clearly lacks jurisdiction in crimes that occur in foreign countries, and Reyes has failed to make similar efforts for other victims É in his congressional district," Gonzalez's letter said.

Reyes has not denied that his office asked the Immigration and Customs Enforcement for assistance in solving the June kidnapping of his wife's relative, who is a Mexican citizen.

Reyes and ICE officials denied any wrongdoing. The relative was released unharmed in Juárez after a $32,000 ransom was paid.

Bill O'Reilly, staff director for the House Committee on Conduct of Official Standards, said he could not comment "on a matter that may or may not be before the committee."

Committee investigations are confidential and become public only after they are completed. Sanctions can range from a letter of reproval by the committee to expulsion from the House upon a vote of the entire House of Representatives.

While a complaint submitted by a House member usually carries more weight, the House committee may consider any source of information for an investigation.

In addition to the House Ethics Committee complaint, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, asked Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to order an inquiry into the matter.

Diana Washington Valdez may be reached at dvaldez@elpasotimes.com; 546-6140.

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