SAN ANTONIO – When saying last week’s decision by City Council to file its sanctuary cities lawsuit was made “with no light of day,” outgoing District 9 City Councilman Joe Krier added that suing government entities should be heard in open session.
If the city charter review commission takes up his recommendation, the City Council will decide in August whether to accept it and put the revision before the voters, perhaps next May.
Krier said by then, the sanctuary cities lawsuit won’t be the issue.
“It’s the process,” Krier said.
Krier said citizens should have been entitled “to know when the city makes the decision about suing the state of Texas for the first time in 300 years.” He said although the decision was reached during executive session, “It’s legal for the council to meet with its attorney to discuss legal action.”
The Texas Open Meetings Law allows for that, although there isn’t a specific reference in the city charter currently under review.
Rey Saldana, who represents District 4 on the City Council, said although he supports Krier’s proposed revision, state law will likely take precedence.
“The city attorney will give us advice and tell us, 'Look, this is the protocol. It’s established by the Open Meetings Act, and you have to consider that,'” Saldana said.
The District 4 council member said keeping legal matters behind closed doors is often a matter of legal strategy.
“The timing of the lawsuit, the location of the lawsuit is a surprise to those folks you are trying to sue because you want the most advantage,” Saldana said.
He also said the closed-door consideration of the lawsuit was done for expediency.
Saldana said the city attorney advised them: “It needs to be done as quickly as possible. If not, other cities will go forward without you all.”
Krier said he’s received numerous calls from the public objecting to how the decision was made and the potential cost to taxpayers. However, he said despite assurances by the city attorney that the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund will cover the cost, he said he worries that might change at some point.
“I don’t know if that will happen. It may not. Our city attorney says it won’t,” Krier said.
Krier also said the council should have filed the lawsuit after the law goes into effect on Sept. 1.
“Let’s find out if anyone is being asked for their papers,” Krier said.
“We couldn’t be sitting on our hands while we fought a discriminatory law that’s coming into effect. I think our community would ask whether we truly have their backs if (we) weren’t coming to fight for them," Saldana said.
San Antonio was not the only city to make its decision in executive session. The Dallas City Council on Wednesday had the item on its agenda to discuss the lawsuit in executive session. After meeting behind closed doors, Dallas Mayor Michael Rawlings read a statement in open session, saying SB 4 is “unconstitutional and would infringe upon the city’s ability to protect public safety.”
Rawlings also said that he and his council colleagues understood the ban's “serious constitutional concerns.”
“On the advice of the city attorney’s office, we will work with other cities throughout the state to challenge this bill in court,” Rawlings said.
Read Rawling's full statement here:
“The City Council was briefed this afternoon in executive session regarding the lawsuit the State of Texas recently filed against various state governmental entities and officials concerning Senate Bill 4, which is known as the “sanctuary cities” bill. The bill is unconstitutional and would infringe upon the city’s ability to protect public safety.
My City Council colleagues and I understand the serious constitutional concerns with SB4. On the advice of the City Attorney’s Office, we will work with other cities throughout the State to challenge this bill in court.”
— Robert Wilonsky (@RobertWilonsky) June 7, 2017
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