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City claims fired SAPD captain abused leave policies

Capt. Shawn Ury received indefinite suspension March 31

SAN ANTONIO – A San Antonio Police Department captain was fired earlier this year after he refused to stop working a second full-time job, according to discipline records obtained by the KSAT 12 Defenders.

Capt. Shawn Ury, a night shift commander and 23-year veteran of SAPD, was suspended indefinitely for disobeying a direct order and intentionally violating a department policy.

Records show that Ury took a job with USAA last fall as an investment research analyst.

Ury used hundreds of hours of accrued leave time to cover his overnight SAPD shift last fall through early this year, the records show.

SAPD command staff, which had approved a secondary work permit last September for Ury to work the second job, refused to renew the permit in January and ordered the captain to stop working at USAA.

"It is my contention that the Department (Chief) is exceeding their authority to control my activities while on my personal time. I understand if you need to initiate discipline proceeding (sic) and I am prepared to make my case to an arbitrator if necessary," Ury said via text messages sent in January to SAPD Deputy Chief Gus Guzman.

Records show that Guzman ordered Ury to stop working with a denied permit via telephone and through emails and text messages before the department opened an internal affairs investigation into Ury's actions.

"Captain Ury communicated his intent to work full-time outside employment at USAA in late 2016 while still employed with the San Antonio Police Department. I could not, in good conscience, authorize Captain Ury to work full-time outside employment, and I denied his outside employment permit authorization beginning in 2017. Captain Ury ignored my directive, continued to work full-time outside employment and was terminated for insubordination," Chief William McManus said in a written statement.

"Why should the member be penalized for the department's failure, the city's failure, to manage their manpower appropriately?" San Antonio Police Officers Association President Mike Helle said when he was asked if it is fair to criticize the city over SAPD vacancies while supporting a senior-level officer who had not shown up at work for several months. 

Members of SAPD who spoke with The Defenders on background for this story described Ury's situation as "retiring on duty."

A written statement from the city manager's office was more pointed:

"This issue is caused by a senior officer abusing leave policies of the department instead of opting to be paid out for that time and retiring. Under agreements in place, the Chief and senior command staff can determine when extended leave has a detrimental impact on operations. We can't have 1 of 20 Captains in this department not at work for almost a year. It's not fair to the department, other officers who want to promote or the residents they serve," Deputy City Manager Erik Walsh said in a statement.

Records show Ury's request to burn several hundred more hours of accrued leave this year was denied.

Helle, who described Ury's shift commander position as nonessential personnel, scoffed at the claim that Ury's decision to burn leave time near the end of his career was preventing other officers from being promoted within SAPD.

"His entire career, he's been a dedicated employee, very loyal to the command staff. For him to be treated this way is beyond belief to me," Helle said.

Helle said the department's promotional eligibility list runs for 18 months.

Additionally, in an email from Ury to Guzman included in the suspension paperwork, the captain said he was "open to discussions about options that include signing away my civil service rights to my position" if it meant making room for a lieutenant to be promoted to captain.

Through an attorney, Ury has appealed his indefinite suspension to an arbitrator. He is also one of several officers named in a class-action grievance filed earlier this year challenging McManus' decision in January to cap the number of accrued leave days that an officer can use a year at 60.

The city, which denied the grievance in April, claims that a general order in place since 2013 allows the chief to grant or deny leave requests based on the operational needs of the department.

A release and settlement agreement signed in early 2014 states leave is granted based on the order and the operational needs of the department.

The union has requested that the grievance also go before an arbitrator.

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