SAN ANTONIO – In light of a state investigation sparked by the controversial removal of the Chick-fil-A establishment from the San Antonio International Airport, several council members have responded, including District 8 Councilman Manny Pelaez, who said he was regretful for his decision.
The City Council, including Mayor Ron Nirenberg, voted 6-4 on excluding Chick-fil-A from a concession company’s contract of vendors to be inside the airport. This was based on some council members' claims that the company’s faith-based charitable contributions were given to anti-LGBTQ organizations. The organizations they were referring to include the Salvation Army and Christians for Athletes.
In a letter to the mayor and council members, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton stated the following:
"The city of San Antonio's decision to exclude a respected vendor based on the religious beliefs associated with that company and its owners is the opposite of tolerance," Paxton said. "The city's discriminatory decision is not only out of step with Texas values, but inconsistent with the Constitution and Texas law."
Some council members stood strong by their decision to cast their votes for or against this issue. A representative with Councilman Roberto Trevino’s office stated he was firm on his choice to vote for the removal of the fast food chain from the airport. A representative with Councilman John Courage’s office stated they stand by their decision to vote against the removal of the company from the airport.
District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry joined Courage, and two others stating the way the vote was handled was out of line and a corruption of the process.
“Either the contract should have been approved in total or disapproved in total,” Perry said. “There was no discussion, no contact with Chick-fil-A, no discussion at all. Besides the process, which that should have been a part of the process, there was nothing there. I was very disappointed and that is why I voted no.”
Perry said the final vote was a bad look on the city.
“I have gotten several calls, not just from the city but all over the country. This is a smudge on San Antonio, and it is unfortunate,” Perry said. “It is really is unfortunate. I am more of a process type of guy. How we handled that contract was not the right way to do it. I think we are going to change that process, and instead of taking it through a committee, we are going to give more of an opportunity for more people to be involved and ask questions.”
Perry added he welcomes the attorney general’s decision to look into this matter because he feels it will help figure out where they went wrong and how to prevent this from happening again.
Pelaez apologetically spoke out about his initial decision to second the motion to have Chick-fil-A removed from the airport. He said he had several reasons as to why he voted the way he did.
“Before the vote, I originally was thinking of ways to get more San Antonio-based restaurants in the airport,” Pelaez said. “We were looking for local restaurants because we have a lot as a city to offer here. The second reason I was thinking to replace Chick-fil-A was because they close on Sundays and I wanted a business that stayed open during that time. Number three, the news broke out about where some were upset about their charitable giving.”
Pelaez said going off inaccurate information, he made the wrong decision.
“I went into City Hall armed with this information,” Pelaez said. “Then I made comments about Chick-fil-A and what I had been told about their practices, which were perceived as hostile toward the LGBTQ community. I said things that were not accurate. This decision was very rushed.”
He said he later did his research.
“Turns out, Chick-fil-A actually does protect its employees from harassment and discrimination at the workplace,” Pelaez said. “They got policies and enforce those policies. Their charitable giving is innocuous. My concerns that I express was based off old and inaccurate data. When people make mistakes, what I tell my children is ... they should admit their mistakes. You should apologize and fix what was broken. I hold myself to those same standards.”
Pelaez said he recently met with 40 faith-based leaders to apologize.
“I explained to the I relied on some really outdated and bad information and that the way I described this company was not accurate and I said things that have offended people, and because of that, I regret those comments and I hope people accept my apology for getting it wrong,” Pelaez said.
He said moving forward he will vet information better and take time before making a comment in the future. He also said he hopes this will help them improve their decisions in the future.
“I am willing to be vulnerable and admit that I was wrong,” Pelaez said. “But the bigger picture is that this is a learning experience for all of us. We need to be more consistent and know that when we rush things, we are more likely to not do things correctly. I have the pleasure of serving with City Council members who are always willing to look at process improvements, which make me excited because moving forward, we have identified a big opportunity to make things better.”
Councilman Greg Brockhouse, who voted against this decision, released the following statement in light of the investigation:
“Today Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton opened an investigation into the San Antonio City Council’s decision to exclude Chick-fil-A from the Airport Concession contract and has requested the Secretary of Transportation do the same. This investigation is the result of the City Council’s horrible decision to punish Chick-fil-A for their constitutionally protected rights to freedom of religion. The City Council must immediately reconvene on this item at the earliest opportunity to consider revoking this vote and moving forward with Chick-fil-A as part of the contract. It is imperative Mayor Nirenberg speak on behalf of this City and do his job. He has remained silent as the nation mocks San Antonio.
"Mistakes happen, but they can be fixed and we can show inclusiveness by honoring all points of view. Disagreement is not discrimination and Chick-fil-A deserves to be included.”
As of now, Mayor Ron Nirenberg released only the following statement in response to the investigation:
“The City’s Attorney’s Office is reviewing the letter. I am withholding comment until we have had adequate time to analyze it.”