San Antonio City Council in revolt; nearly half of members want to consider forcing out city attorney

Council members cite lack of transparency; ‘significant inconsistencies’

SAN ANTONIO – The day after the city attorney partially blocked their demand for a special meeting, five San Antonio City Council members are demanding another meeting — this time to discuss whether he is fit for the job.

Meanwhile, City Attorney Andy Segovia has all but accused council members of leaking information from confidential, closed-door sessions.

Council Members Melissa Cabello Havrda (D6), Marina Alderete Gavito (D7), Jalen McKee-Rodriguez (D2), Teri Castillo (D5), and Marc Whyte (D10) all signed onto a memo addressed to City Manager Erik Walsh requesting a meeting by May 15. It was submitted to the city clerk late Thursday morning.

“Despite the City Council’s clear and repeated requests on key issues, it has become evident that the City Attorney has consistently failed to follow through,” the group wrote. “Additionally there have been significant inconsistencies and a demonstrated lack of transparency in his legal opinions which have caused delays and unpredictability which affects the Council’s ability to make timely and well-informed plans and decisions.”

As city attorney, Segovia is the chief legal advisor to the city council, city manager, and all city departments. He joined the city in 2016 after a 26-year career with General Motors.

The group said they had lost confidence in Segovia’s abilities and believed “consideration of a change in leadership within the Office of the City Attorney is necessary to ensure that the interests of the Council and the residents of San Antonio are adequately represented and protected.”

The same group had submitted a memo Wednesday evening to host a closed-door discussion about the stalled contract negotiations with the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association. It’s something they say they’ve repeatedly asked for but have been denied.

READ MORE: San Antonio council members flout mayor, demand meeting on stalled fire contract talks

Under the city charter, any three council members have the power to force a city council meeting.

The group says Segovia had previously told council members that discussions about the negotiations would have to be in executive session, a non-public forum where officials can talk openly about confidential business or legal matters.

However, Cabello Havrda said Segovia had told the group he would not fulfill its request for an executive session meeting and that “we were going to, maybe, have a public discussion.”

The council members said they didn’t mind having a public discussion, but the issue was that Segovia would not follow council members’ wishes.

“This was kind of the last straw for us,” said Cabello Havrda.

The council members were mainly focused on having a conversation about the fire contract negotiations, but they said there have been other issues.

Whyte, a first-term councilman, said during a Thursday news conference that there was a transparency problem at City Hall.

“And unfortunately, what I’ve realized over the last year is that the City Attorney’s Office has worked with city staff and with the mayor on too many occasions to block that transparency,” he said.

In a statement emailed by a city spokesman, Segovia appeared to give a reason for blocking the executive session request: loose-lipped council members.

“As City Attorney, I have an ethical duty to maintain the confidentiality of our executive sessions. Based on information that was relayed to me, I have no confidence that what is said there with respect to the collective bargaining agreement – the City’s second largest contract – will remain confidential.”

Andy Segovia, San Antonio City Attorney
Andy Segovia (KSAT 12 News)

Though they had all called for a discussion on Segovia’s future at the city, the five council members were split on what they actually wanted to get out of a public meeting on it..

Castillo said she wanted a conversation about the rules for going to executive session, and Alderete Gavito said she was primarily concerned with the council having a full discussion on the fire contract.

McKee-Rodriguez and Whyte both said Segovia should go if the concerns the group had raised couldn’t be fixed, but only Cabello Havrda said her mind was already made up.

“I’ve been on council five years. It’s time,” she said. “And I’ll tell you, we’re airing a little bit of dirty laundry here, but it’s gotten to that point.”

The 11-member city council is comprised of 10 district representatives and the mayor. And at least some are in stark opposition to what these five are proposing.

Councilman Manny Pelaez (D8), an attorney who is running for mayor in 2025, called the group’s news conference “a political temper tantrum — more theatrical than sincere.”

“Sometimes our clients don’t like the news that we give them, don’t like the advice, don’t like being — our clients. Don’t like being told ‘no, you can’t do that.’ Right. That’s our job, and Andy (Segovia) has never shied away from those difficult conversations,” Pelaez said.

Whyte and Cabello Havrda are also attorneys.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s chief of staff provided a statement from the mayor via text message:

This is a surprise to everyone. We won’t solve budget issues on the City Hall steps or by attacking City officials.

Andy Segovia has exhibited nothing but professionalism, candor, and judiciousness in his time as our City Attorney. He has my support.

The larger conversation surrounding this incident has primarily become a budget issue. I maintain that as policy stewards we should hold all budget conversations in open session. The budget cannot be a private matter.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg

But, in any case, Segovia’s job is not directly in the hands of council members. San Antonio City Council only has hiring power over the city manager, who is responsible for all other city personnel decisions.

Walsh told reporters after Thursday’s meeting that he was “surprised” by the memo, but he had “complete confidence in Andy Segovia and, frankly, the entire City Attorney’s Office.”

He avoided saying whether council members had approached him before with concerns above Segovia but indicated he was open to hearing from them now.

Ultimately, I make all those personnel decisions. And and if a council member has a concern about, an issue or a matter or any of those issues, then I want to hear firsthand from the council.”

About the Authors

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

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