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SAPD volunteer claims online petition led to release

Volunteer started petition to fire city manager

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SAN ANTONIO – Becky Padilla has volunteered with San Antonio Police Department for the last 14 years, helping out any way she could.

"It could be anything from filing in a unit to answering phones, helping with Fiesta, bike rodeo, whatever the Police Department did," said Padilla.

But Wednesday afternoon, she received what amounted to a termination call.

"Wednesday afternoon I got a phone call saying, 'I regret to inform you we have to let you go from the volunteer program,'" she said. "I was kind of in shock so I didn't ask too many questions. I knew it was because of the petition."

The petition in question is one Padilla started at change.org calling on the City Council to remove City Manager Sheryl Sculley. Padilla said she wanted to help the officers she had worked alongside for more than a decade.

"I was just representing and trying to support the fight that's already going on," she said. "If it hit a nerve and it's making City Council listen, there are 2,500 signatures. That's a lot of people in the city who are upset with what's going on. I want them to listen to that."

San Antonio Police Officer Association president Mike Helle, who is currently negotiating with city leaders on a new collective bargaining agreement, was disappointed with Padilla's dismissal.

"I keep forgetting that we live in the United States where people are supposed to have the right to express their opinions without the fear of retribution," said Helle, in a statement. "Becky is a great person and dedicated years of her life helping the San Antonio Police Department through volunteer work and it's shameful to treat good people in this way."

City officials did not return calls seeking comment and a spokesperson with SAPD would only confirm that Padilla is no longer a volunteer. The department's application form does not list anything regarding a code of conduct, leading Padilla to believe the decision to end her 14-year volunteer career came from high up.

"I think someone was told that it looked unfavorably on the department, but I think it was just because I made somebody angry," she said. "I didn't do anything that I thought would reflect negatively on the department. I didn't report anything that wasn't already out there. I just compiled it into one place."