San Antonio Councilman Whyte asks ethics complaint be ‘dismissed without delay’

Local attorney Martin Phipps accused the D10 councilman of abusing his power; Whyte says he was concerned about a child’s safety

Marc White, District 10 (KSAT)

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio Councilman Marc Whyte denied any wrongdoing in his official response to an ethics complaint that he had “interfered” in a private custody matter.

“Being a City Councilman should not prevent me from taking any action necessary to check on the safety of a child as quickly as possible,” Whyte wrote in his response, which he submitted to the City Clerk on Monday.

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The Northeast Side councilman asked the matter “be dismissed without delay.”

Attorney Martin Phipps filed his complaint against Whyte on May 21, claiming the councilman had used his position to try to get San Antonio police officers and Bexar County sheriff’s deputies to remove a child from Phipps’ home on April 26.

Phipps accused the first-term councilman of acting at the request of both his ex-wife, Jessica Joyner, and Whyte’s wife, Lorien, who had represented Joyner during part of an ongoing custody dispute.

Phipps’ specific accusations against Whyte include a conflict of interest, using his position to unfairly advance private interests, using the prestige of his position, and taking up public resources — all of which Whyte denied.

“I acted as I believe any other person would, as Texas law requires, and in an effort to protect a small child from potential child abuse,” Marc Whyte wrote.

An outside attorney reviewed Phipps’ complaint and has allowed most of it to be considered before the Ethics Review Board. Only a portion that alleges a conflict of interest on behalf of an “outside client” was blocked.

RESPONSE

Whyte provided KSAT with a copy of his response and associated exhibits, which included statements from other people involved in the case and screenshots of text messages. KSAT has requested an official copy of Whyte’s paperwork through an open records request but has not yet received a response.

Whyte’s response largely mirrors claims he had made in previous interviews with KSAT.

The councilman said he had been worried about the child’s safety after his wife sent him screenshots of a conversation between Joyner and a child in Phipps’ home.

Though he attempted to contact San Antonio Police Chief William McManus directly, Whyte said Joyner had also already called SAPD, who dispatched officers to Phipps’ home.

On that night, Whyte was at a nearby Fiesta event in the King William neighborhood. Councilman Manny Pelaez (D8) was also at the event and walked Whyte over to Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar, who was also there.

Salazar said in a statement to KSAT, which was also included in Whyte’s response, he had sent a deputy who was working an extra job nearby to “check it out.” The deputy came back a few minutes later and said SAPD officers were already at the location.

Joyner also provided a sworn statement on Whyte’s behalf. She wrote that Lorien Whyte was her friend. Though Lorien Whyte had represented her in an appeal matter related to her custody dispute with Phipps, Joyner said she had not done any work for her since August 2023, when the dispute went to arbitration.

Joyner said she sent a screenshot of her text conversation with the child to Lorien Whyte but did not ask her friend to get the councilman involved. Joyner later sent a screenshot of the conversation to Marc Whyte as well after he texted her “We are on this.” However, she said she did not ask the councilman to take any action.

Whyte said neither his wife, nor Phipps’ ex-wife, “asked me to do anything in this matter.”

However, he also writes that his wife “also said that maybe the Police Chief should get involved,” and a screenshot included in the response shows Lorien Whyte texted her husband, “You have to impart on him how serious this is.”

The councilman had previously confirmed to KSAT the “him” in the message referred to McManus.

Whyte also included in his response several news stories about Phipps’ employees claiming a hostile work environment “to note why I had a heightened concern for the child in question.”

Phipps was at home with family when San Antonio Police arrived that night. According to an incident report Phipps included with his original complaint, SAPD officers spoke with a child in Phipps’ home who said Phipps had grabbed them by the arms and shaken them.

Police did not observe any injuries and did not remove the child from the home.

Whyte’s response also includes a statement from Marta Prada Pelaez, the CEO of Family Violence Prevention Services and Councilman Pelaez’s mother, who said Phipps’ complaint “has all the elements of a textbook case of retaliation.”

“The Complaint and the related media campaign are clearly designed to punish the Councilman who lived up to his obligation to report reasonable suspicions that a child was in imminent danger of abuse,” Prada Pelaez wrote in her statement.

A spokesman for Phipps’ law firm said they did not have a statement on Whyte’s response.

WHAT’S NEXT

Phipps is permitted to file a rebuttal to Whyte’s response. If there are new allegations, Whyte will be able to respond to that, too.

The Ethics Review Board, which is comprised of 11 council and mayor-appointed members, could call a hearing, though it’s not guaranteed.

However, unless Whyte asks for more time, the board must issue a written opinion within 90 days of the complaint, either dismissing the claims or finding a violation.

If it’s the latter, according to the ethics code, the board will impose sanctions, recommend criminal prosecution or civil remedies, or possibly even state why no action is recommended.


About the Author

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

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