Council weighing $300K settlement in sanctuary cities lawsuit against McManus

2018 suit brought by AG Ken Paxton accused SAPD chief violating state law when he released 12 suspected undocumented immigrants

San Antonio Police chief William McManus on scene of deadly shooting on Monday, May 24, 2021.

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio city council on Thursday is scheduled to vote on a $300,000 settlement for a 2018 lawsuit that accused SAPD Chief William McManus of flouting a state law that requires local governments to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

The city, to date, has spent millions of dollars defending the allegations against McManus, who was accused of limiting 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.

Attorney General Ken Paxton sued McManus and other city officials 11 months later, claiming they openly disregarded Senate Bill 4, a controversial state law that requires local governments to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

The settlement, if approved, would represent just a fraction of the more than $150 million the city would have owed in civil penalties and attorney fees if it had lost at trial.

As part of a settlement with the Texas Attorney General’s Office, the city would pay out $300,000 from its Self Insured Liability Fund and clarify its written policies on cooperating with immigration authorities in exchange for the AG’s office dropping the suit and its appeal of a second suit that attempted to have McManus removed from his position. That so-called “quo warranto suit” was dismissed by a district court judge last year but is currently being appealed.

The city, as part of the settlement, will not be required to admit fault or that it violated any laws and will not be responsible for paying any attorney fees or penalties.

“There is no admission of fault/violation of law or any finding of fault/violation of law against the City defendants in the City’s response to the human trafficking incident on December 23, 2017 or through any of the policies the Attorney General’s Office targeted in the lawsuits,” a memo describing the proposed settlement states.

The case had been scheduled to go to trial March 28.

A city spokeswoman said via email Tuesday officials could not comment prior to the vote taking place.

An SAPD spokeswoman said McManus was not available for comment, and referred all inquiries to the City Attorney’s Office.

“Under the terms of the agreement, the City has also agreed to clarify in SAPD written policies what SAPD already does in practice - cooperate with federal immigration authorities. ” the memo states.

Tractor-trailer driver Herbert Nichols. (KSAT)

The driver of the tractor-trailer, Herbert Nichols, was taken into custody at the scene and charged under a seldom-used state smuggling of persons statute.

Nichols was given probation in the case in May 2019, according to court records.

About the Author:

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.