Mayor returns $6K in campaign contributions as radio contract scandal gains steam

Nirenberg campaign also points to over-limits contributions to Greg Brockhouse

Mayor Ron Nirenberg to donate $6,000 to the Battered Women's Shelter after vowing to get rid of "tainted" campaign contributions (Garrett Brnger, ksat)

SAN ANTONIO – Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s campaign said he would be getting rid of all contributions from the co-owners of a communications company at the center of a federal bribery investigation.

“Mayor Nirenberg, out of an abundance of caution, has decided to donate $6,000 to the Battered Women’s Shelter. That is the aggregate total of contributions received from Richard and JoAnne Wells,” said Kelton Morgan, Nirenberg’s campaign consultant.

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The KSAT Defenders found the Wells have been prolific donors, spreading well over $100,000 around Bexar County campaign war chests since 2016. They are also co-owners of Dailey and Wells Communications, which San Angelo LIVE! identified as the company referred to in a federal indictment for the former San Angelo police chief, Timothy Ray Vasquez, 49.

Vasquez, who served as the chief of the San Angelo Police Department from 2004 to 2016, is accused of funneling $130,000 to himself through checks made out to his band, “Funky Munky.”

Vasquez’s band was provided the money in exchange for Vasquez pushing city officials to twice award its public-safety radio system to a company named in the indictment as “Vendor 1,” according to the Department of Justice.

The contracts were worth more than $11 million.

Local outlet San Angelo LIVE! identified “Vendor 1” as Dailey and Wells Communications, based off of its previous reporting on the contracts and the dates they were awarded.

Dailey and Wells Communications is also the recipient of a $108 million public safety radio system contract with the City of San Antonio, Bexar County and CPS Energy. The company was tapped to install a radio system and provide maintenance and support for 15 years.

After the San Angelo story broke, San Antonio City Manager Erik Walsh reassured council members, several of whom he said had reached out about the contract status, saying there had been a three-year evaluation process for the contract.

“Our due diligence did not surface any of the alleged irregularities reported in San Angelo or with any other business dealings of Dailey & Wells Communications, Inc,” Walsh wrote in a Tuesday evening email, adding that the radio system installation project was on time and on budget.

“We will continue to closely monitor this project,” he said.

A cursory search of City Campaign Finance records available online showed contributions by the Wells since Nov. 20, 2018, to every member of the city council, except District 2 Councilwoman Jada Andrews-Sullivan.

Nirenberg’s decision to donate the contributions followed shortly after a Wednesday afternoon media availability session. When asked about his plans for the contributions he had received from the Wells, the mayor indicated he had not made a final decision.

“So I’ll say what we’ve already said, which is that if any of those contributions turn out to be tainted by someone who is not engaged in -- who is engaged in improper behavior, I’ll do exactly what I’ve done in the past, which is donate those or return those,” Nirenberg said.

When confirming later that afternoon that the mayor would be donating the contributions he had received, Morgan pointed a finger at the mayor’s last election opponent, Greg Brockhouse.

“The only thing illegal about (the Wells') contributions to date is the $1,000 in over-limit contributions they contributed to former councilman Greg Brockhouse’s mayoral campaign,” Morgan said.

Online city records show JoAnne and Richard Wells each donated $1,500 to Brockhouse’s campaign during the same contribution cycle leading up to the May 4, 2019 election. The city limits contributions to $1,000 per cycle.

Brockhouse sent KSAT the following statement Wednesday night:

“While it’s flattering the Mayor and his campaign hit man continue to worry about me, I recognize the need to ensure proper reporting. The law allows for a cure period upon notification of an error and as such, reporting will be amended and a refund issued. This was an unintentional, online donation mistake, and it will be corrected immediately.”

About the Authors

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.

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