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Council members speak publicly about city, union court battle

City is seeking judgment on union's evergreen clause

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SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio City Council members are split on the city's decision to challenge the evergreen clause in the police union's collective bargaining agreement.

The union's current agreement expired on Sept. 30, but the evergreen clause keeps it in effect until 2024.

Last week the city filed a suit asking a judge to determine whether the clause is constitutional.

"We believe that a perpetual contract is unconstitutional and infringes on City Council's fiscal responsibility to provide city services to the taxpayers," said City Manager Sheryl Sculley on Nov. 7. "Elimination of the ‘evergreen clause' levels the playing field for collective bargaining."

The decision to go to court was made during private executive sessions. Multiple sources with knowledge of the discussions said only three council members, Diego Bernal, Ray Lopez and Cris Medina spoke out in opposition of the move.

"I'm all for tough negotiations, but in negotiations, and going to court right now, I just thought was the wrong thing to do," Bernal said. "I believe that litigation is a punctuation mark at the end of the sentence, and I don't believe we are at the end of the sentence."

On Wednesday, District 2 Councilman Keith Toney said the city made a bad decision. 

He wrote in a press release, "My constituents' No. 1 concern is public safety. I am strongly opposed to the city of San Antonio taking SAPOA to court for any clarification of any existing contract. Furthermore, I am supporting the ideals of contract negotiations and that the City Council should invite the SAPOA back to the table without being under any threat of reprisal." 

Toney's statement came the day after the police union endorsed his challenger, Alan Warrick, in the run-off for the District 2 seat.

Mayor Ivy Taylor, District 8 Councilman Ron Nirenberg, District 10 Councilman Mike Gallagher and District 9 Councilman Joe Krier have all said publicly that they support the city's decision.

"Going to a presumably neutral court to get an interpretation is, in my judgment, a way to move the process forward, and I hope it will do that," Krier said.

Council members Rebecca Viagran, Shirley Gonzales and Rey Saldana were not available for comment.

The union has not responded to the city's suit. It is unlikely to be before a judge until next year.