Paxton files suit to have McManus removed as chief over 2017 immigrant release incident

City attorney calls AG suit “desperate attempt to distort facts”

SAN ANTONIO – A lawsuit filed in Bexar County district court last month by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton calls for San Antonio Police Department Chief William McManus to be removed from office over his handling of a 2017 immigrant release incident.

The “quo warranto” lawsuit, which seeks to remove McManus due to an alleged violation of the Texas Government Code, was filed Jan. 15, court records released to the KSAT 12 Defenders show.

“Quo warranto” is a Latin phrase meaning “by what warrant?” and essentially requires someone in a position of authority to demonstrate why he or she acted a certain way.

City Attorney Andy Segovia on Friday pushed back on the filing and described it as a frivolous lawsuit.

On Tuesday, a Defenders investigation revealed the city has already spent more than $2.75 million defending McManus and SAPD as it fights a sanctuary cities lawsuit filed by Paxton over the same 2017 incident.

That suit, filed in Travis County district court in late 2018, accuses McManus and other city officials of flouting a new state law, Senate Bill 4, that requires local governments to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

Records confirm as of Jan. 13, the city had paid $2,750,242.56 to outside counsel, an average of more than $100,000 a month since the suit was filed.

The suit claims McManus limited the enforcement of federal immigration laws in December 2017, when he made the decision to release 12 suspected undocumented immigrants found inside a tractor-trailer on the East Side, instead of handing them over to federal immigration officials.

Texas AG alleges San Antonio mayor told staff to not contact ICE, flouting SB 4 law

An amended petition filed by the AG in October claims that San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg instructed city staff not to contact federal authorities as the incident played out.

The filing claims high-ranking city officials were told “the Mayor does not want ICE called,” and that Nirenberg later described their release without being handed over to federal immigration officials as a “Christmas gift” for their families.

January’s filing in Bexar County was described by Segovia Friday as a “companion action” to the SB suit.

San Antonio City Attorney Andy Segovia (left) and SAPD Chief William McManus (right). (KSAT)

Segovia, through a city spokeswoman, told the Defenders via email:

This is a thinly veiled attempt by Attorney General Paxton to control who the City of San Antonio chooses to have as Chief of Police and a desperate attempt to distort facts and divert attention from the problems with his own beleaguered office. This frivolous lawsuit tries to manufacture a controversy to make up for the fact that the SB4 case is not going well for them. Consistent with sound litigation practice we have retained separate counsel for Chief McManus. Mr. Paxton’s legal actions have lost any credibility with the public and the court system. This further action will continue to unnecessarily drain City resources on political stunts.

Andy Segovia, San Antonio City Attorney

The SB 4 lawsuit, the state’s first attempt at enforcing the controversial law in court, is about to enter its 28th month of existence.

Segovia, during an interview with the Defenders in the spring of 2019, said he believed it would take between a year and 18 months to resolve the legal dispute.

City officials earlier this year said the timeline he gave during the previous interview was a “very rough estimate.”

The city was able to get a judge to dismiss portions of the suit in the summer of 2019, but court records show the rest of the case remains active.

Depositions were still being gathered as recently as early this month, court records confirm.

Besides seeking civil penalties, the AG suit is also attempting to get the court to prohibit SAPD from enforcing portions of its general manual related to immigration, according to records.

RELATED: Texas AG alleges San Antonio mayor told staff to not contact ICE, flouting SB 4 law


About the Author:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined the KSAT 12 Defenders in 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat. He provides restaurant health reports for KSAT's "Behind the Kitchen Door." Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.