Criminal JusticeIssuesLocal NewsTaxes & SpendingSmith County Constable Threatened Civil Rights Complaint Before His Arrest on Theft, Oppression Charges

Within one year of becoming constable, Curtis Traylor Harris was booked in jail on suspicion of ransacking one of his constituents.
July 4, 2022
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On the day of the Democratic primary in 2020, Curtis Harris finished dead last. The only spending Harris recorded on his campaign finance reports was $126 to order push cards from VistaPrint.

He lost the race for Smith County precinct one constable to Willie Mims, who also defeated retired sheriff’s deputy and acting Constable Bobby Garmon. In 2017, the Smith County Commissioners Court appointed Garmon to be the interim precinct one constable after the incumbent went to federal prison for tax evasion.

Nonetheless, the Texas 12th Court of Appeals decided that Mims should be removed from the election because a judge had found he did not submit enough petitions to place his name on the ballot.

The Tyler Morning Telegraph reported that Harris had all but forgotten about the race until the court of appeals ordered a runoff between him and Garmon.

The effort to disqualify Mims ended up paving the way for Harris to get elected constable, even though he received only 10 percent of the primary vote. In a bizarre turn, Harris defeated Garmon by 168 votes in a runoff in which fewer than 2,000 voters participated.

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Less than two years earlier, Harris nearly unseated Constable Ben Adamcik in Dallas County’s precinct three. In 2018, Adamcik won reelection with 51 percent of the vote to Harris’ 49 percent.

After losing the constable’s race in Dallas, he sought to unseat Lee Kleinman on the Dallas City Council. Kleinmann walloped Harris in the election, winning with 78 percent of the vote.

Before he ran for Dallas City Council, Harris reportedly failed to file the legally required campaign finance report for his run for constable in Dallas County.

Though he ran in Dallas as Curtis Traylor Harris, he appeared on the ballot in Smith County as Curtis Traylor. Today, though, his office in Smith County says “Curtis T. Harris” on the front of the building.

The constable’s job was quite the windfall for Harris, who made less than $40,000 as a juvenile detention officer when he was trying to start a political career in Dallas.

During his city council run, Harris told The Dallas Morning News that he was struggling to make rent at his North Texas apartment. His primary residence was his mother’s house throughout his late twenties and early thirties.

Now, he earns a $74,000 annual salary and has a staff of deputies who report to him. The perks of his office are complete with a reserved parking space a few feet from the front door of the constable station — the only spot not surrounded by a chain-linked fence.

(The Texan/Hayden Sparks)

The office buildings that accent the Tyler skyline peer down on the precinct one station, which is within walking distance of the Smith County Courthouse.

According to his biography on the county’s website, the 34-year-old Harris began working in criminal justice as a teen and has more than 2,100 continuing education credits. His resume includes work as a corrections officer and juvenile justice.

During his service as constable, Harris has quarreled with his colleagues at the county courthouse, including County Judge Nathaniel Moran.

In a Smith County Commissioners Court meeting last summer, Harris pressed Moran to provide additional resources for his precinct’s office.

After disagreements ranging from Harris’ office hours to hiring practices, Moran told him, “Learn the law, learn how to run that office, and then we can talk about increasing that in the future if we need to.”

Moran is the Republican nominee to succeed Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-TX-01).

Not long after the controversy with Moran, precinct one Deputy Darrell King reportedly submitted a request to Smith County’s human resources director for an exit interview after Harris fired him.

During King’s interactions with the personnel manager, he made a comment that implied Harris was not living in Tyler or showing up at the office for work.

Emails obtained by ABC affiliate KLTV shed light on Harris’ state of mind and the management of his office as he lashed out at elected officials.

“Also if it is true, I am asking that the subtle nit picking of me and my office ceases immediately from the County Judge, the Counties [sic] Civil Attorney, and anyone else in purview of the County Annex or I will be forced to fill [sic] a Civil Rights and harassment suit against the county,” Harris wrote.

Harris applied for an apartment in Tyler shortly after King and the human resources director raised the residency issue, per KLTV.

The constable also railed against an investigator who he claims violated the Fourth Amendment and other constitutional rights by appearing at his office and questioning deputies without reading them the Miranda warning.

On November 11, 2021, the Texas Rangers arrested Harris and two of his deputies, LaQuenda Banks and Derrick Holman, on charges of official oppression and theft of property by a public servant.

Harris, Banks, and Holman are accused of rummaging through a citizen’s personal belongings while serving an eviction notice and stealing items including ammunition, jewelry, and military medals.

The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement most recently suspended Harris’ peace officer license at its quarterly meeting in April.

The criminal case is assigned to the 241st District Court, where Judge Jack Skeen Jr. set Harris’ bond at $30,000, which he paid in November. He had been free since then, but evidence surfaced in May that Harris attended a police graduation ceremony at Navarro College in Corsicana. He was seen in a video dressed in full uniform with his service weapon.

Constable Curtis Traylor Harris (Smith County Jail)

The conditions of his bond dictated that he was not allowed to leave Smith County or possess a weapon. The Texas Rangers arrested him again and Skeen increased his bond to $500,000.

Harris remains jailed in Longview, where he was once a corrections officer. He was transferred to the custody of Gregg County authorities due to his position as a law enforcement officer, which is routine in cases similar to this one.

Official oppression is a class A misdemeanor while theft by a public servant is a state jail felony. The former carries a maximum sentence of one year in the county jail and the latter carries a maximum sentence of two years in the state jail.

There is at least one lawsuit pending to remove Harris from his office.

Texas law allows a private citizen to file a petition to remove a constable from office. State law provides that a county official can be removed from office for the following three reasons: “incompetency, official misconduct, or intoxication on or off duty caused by drinking an alcoholic beverage.”

A Tyler resident filed the suit in Smith County’s 114th District Court, where Republican Judge Austin Reeves Jackson presides.

The $74,000 question for Harris is whether he will be removed from office or allowed to continue collecting his salary while the criminal case against him proceeds.

Seeking an interview with Harris or a comment on his behalf, The Texan reached out to his lawyer, Andrew Dammann, but he did not respond by the time of publication.

While this could be considered the least of his troubles, Harris was pulled over last year by a deputy constable in Smith County’s precinct five. His insurance had lapsed, so the officer cited him for speeding and failure to maintain financial responsibility. Harris reportedly paid hundreds of dollars in fines for the citations.

Body camera footage obtained by local media showed the deputy trying to find out if Harris, who was in uniform, was on duty and why he might be speeding.

“Are you gonna give me a ticket or what?” Harris interrupted.

After he walked away from Harris’ vehicle, the deputy quipped to himself, “Am I giving you a ticket? Sounds like I am.”

Ironically, Harris got pulled over as he was traveling southbound on U.S. Highway 69, one of the main routes linking Interstate 20 to downtown Tyler. It is not far-fetched that Harris was returning to the Rose Capital from Dallas.

The deputy again approached Harris to give him the citation he “requested” and to tell him his auto insurance was invalid.

Moments later, as the deputy got back in his squad car, he can be heard exclaiming, “Woo! Attitude!”

A copy of the lawsuit against Harris seeking his removal from office can be found below.

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Hayden Sparks

Hayden Sparks is a reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."