Judge denies summary judgment motions in police, fire union lawsuits

City wants evergreen clauses in collective bargaining ruled unconstitutional

SAN ANTONIO – District Judge Martha Tanner on Monday denied the city of San Antonio's motions for summary judgments in the lawsuits involving the police and fire union bargaining agreements.

"While we disagree with Judge Tanner’s ruling, it was not unexpected," City Manager Sheryl Sculley said in a statement. "We’ve said all along that whichever side lost at the district court level would appeal to a higher court. We feel that given the strength of our position and the significance of the constitutional issue at stake, this is a case that will ultimately be decided by the Texas Supreme Court."

The city filed lawsuits after the police union walked away from the bargaining table following months of contentious negotiations. The fire union never began negotiations.

The lawsuits aimed to declare the 10-year evergreen clauses in the collective bargaining agreements unconstitutional, claiming the now-expired contracts constitute a debt under the Texas Constitution by obligating future city councils to pay expenses for up to 10 years after the contracts have expired. Under the evergreen clause, the city council in 2024 would be required to pay for salaries and benefits agreed to in 2009, no matter the size of those debts and how much they had escalated.

Mayor Ivy Taylor issued the following statement in response to the ruling:

"We’d rather be negotiating than litigating, but since the unions have backed away from the bargaining table, the courthouse is our only recourse right now. The police and fire contracts cost taxpayers more than a half billion dollars annually so we must resolve this issue to ensure that the City’s public safety contracts are affordable to taxpayers."

Michael Halle, President of the San Antonio Police Officers Association issued the following statement Monday evening: 

“This is total vindication for police officers and their families. Sheryl Sculley tried to bully us with lawsuits and legal threats. She lost and in the process wasted over $2 million in legal fees. We will take some time to study the Judge’s ruling and determine our next course of action, but we are thankful to Judge Tanner for her fair and impartial ruling. The Mayor and City Council must examine Sheryl Sculley’s legal strategy and the cost to taxpayers that will only escalate as the City refuses to accept Judge Tanner’s ruling and appeals to try and find anyone who will agree with their frivolous lawsuit. It’s clear now the lawsuit must be dropped for both sides to get back to negotiating in good faith.”


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