City Council approves $300K settlement in Texas’ sanctuary cities lawsuit against McManus

2018 suit brought by AG Ken Paxton sought more than $150 million from San Antonio

SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio City Council on Thursday voted to approve a $300,000 settlement with the state for a 2018 lawsuit that accused SAPD Chief William McManus and the city of flouting a state law that requires local governments to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

To date, the city has spent $6.38 million 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, the city, police department, and city manager 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 represents 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 the settlement, the city 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.

“We remain a compassionate city. This changes nothing for us from an operational standpoint at the police department,” San Antonio City Manager Erik Walsh said Thursday. “This agreement in no way has any impact on things that are outside of our responsibility, like deportations. But we will continue to cooperate with federal officials, all federal officials, here in San Antonio.”

Speaking with reporters after the council’s vote on Thursday morning, city attorney Andy Segovia maintained that the chief did not have the legal authority to hold the suspected migrants after they had been interviewed.

“So it’s not an issue of his decision to hold them or not. He didn’t have the legal authority to hold them,” Segovia said.

As part of a settlement with the Texas Attorney General’s Office, the city will pay $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. A district court judge dismissed that so-called “quo warranto suit” last year, but it is currently being appealed.

Segovia said some “specific language” would change in the police manual, but it wouldn’t change how the incident would be handled.

“It would be handled the exact same way,” Segovia said. “And in fact, the policy manual change only memorializes what has been the customary practice of the San Antonio Police Department.”

As of 5:30 pm on Thursday, the city had not provided the exact language that would change.

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

Regardless of the settlement, the city will keep fighting SB 4 in court, Walsh said.

“We remain one of several cities that is challenging the constitutionality of that law in federal court,” he said. “That obviously will continue.”

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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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