Mayor Nirenberg challenged on steps of City Hall
Sculley received $75,000 bonus on top of $475,000 annual salary
San Antonio, Texas Mayor Ron Nirenberg is “proving his worth is without value,” said Joe Salinas, as he watched protestors line up near the front steps of City Hall last weekend. “He is indeed part of the Alamo City Swamp with (City Manager Sheryl) Sculley and the others. What do citizens have to show for it?”
On the back of a #Rethinknirenberg flyer, Salinas referred to his handwritten notes, “We have a damn mayor who sets up there with a brand new set of silky Poseidon-colored-Marco-patterned curtains that cost taxpayers exactly $17,949.40.”
The angry man looked up to the southeast corner of the building and shook his head, “Oh! Did I mention the mayor has a 10-year warranty on his royal drapes? ”
With a year in office, Nirenberg is experiencing a growing outrage among citizens to the point that some came to the steps of City Hall for this latest “Rethink Mayor Nirenberg!” demonstration. Lupe Rivera, donning a patriotic red, white and blue Trump 45 baseball jersey helped handout the flyers to arriving citizens.
“We keep hearing excuses like he’s too busy putting out fires and dealing with disruptions to do his job,” one protestor said. “Well, the fires and disruptions are coming from the actions and inactions of his own Swamp. He can’t blame the past on his corruption.”
Seeming like a Rube Goldberg affair, city officials have been cobbling together a patchwork of their wants for the 2019 budget and spending for what some refer to the 2017 “buddy bond,” resulting in basically a blank-check loan request, chock full of earmarks, including payback gifts for election donators (AKA developers, architects, and favored construction organizations) and some items that would normally be part of their routine maintenance, and not in a bond.
The bond election provided $20 million for “Neighborhood Improvements.” But five other ballot items were broken out as such enormous costs as Streets, Bridges and Sidewalks ($445 million), Drainage and Flood Control ($139 million), Parks and Recreation ($121 million), and Facilities ($125 million). The Facilities was divided among Public Safety Buildings and Library, Museums, and Cultural Arts.
Nirenberg has been a favorite with big money and local media. He continues to buddy up with special interests tied to the $850 million bond. Zachary, an international construction company based in San Antonio, donated thousands of dollars to Nirenberg’s election campaign. Three Zachary corporate entities contributed over $15,000 on a campaign to raise the pay for council members and the mayor.
The mayor was courted by OneSA, the powerful campaign group responsible for selling the $850 million bond package to voters. The group consisted of Zachry, Munoz (architects), Pape Dawson (engineering) and consultants like KGB.
This year, the National Council for Home Safety and Security’s 2018 classified San Antonio as “one of the most dangerous cities in the nation.” According to FBI data, San Antonio was rated highest of “serious crime” among the country’s 15 largest cities in 2016.
Last year, when Texas passed Senate Bill 4 banning sanctuary cities and the requirement of local law enforcement to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, San Antonio was one of the first cities to file a lawsuit against the bill. However, the bill was maintained by upper courts.
Some say “The Swamp” is controlled by City Manager Sculley with her $475,000 a year salary (she was awarded a $75,000 bonus for her performance in 2017). Sculley may have met her match with the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association. Just last month, the City lost a four-year legal fight to invalidate the 10-year evergreen clause in their mutual contract. The Texas Supreme Court denied the city’s petition for review.
Originally triggered by the troubling politics and disturbing actions of Nirenberg, Sculley and Police Chief McManus, the last straw for the #RethinkNirenberg group was the city council’s early May 2018 decision not to submit a bid to host the Republican National Convention in 2020.
The anti-Nirenberg event was billed to “bring to light our Mayor of San Antonio chose to miss a great business opportunity for our city. This showcases poor leadership and diversity. We must bring to light with what’s occurring in our city and let our voices be heard. Urge friends and family to get involved and know what’s going on in our community.”
But that was just a glazing on their shady cake. Things are so bad, that the Texas Attorney General launched an investigation in January ordered the entire City government to preserve all evidence and present any and all documents, videos, and cellular phone data, regarding a December 23, 2017 incident involving Police Chief William McManus.
According to the Police Association, when Special Victims Unit (SVU) detectives arrived to speak with smuggled illegal aliens that were found in an 18-wheeler trailer, McManus “then stated that none of the detainees were to be processed through SAPD databases and ordered them released. At this point, SVU Supervisors were so shocked they requested the order be put in writing.”
McManus released twelve undocumented immigrants into the city without properly and thoroughly identifying them said the Police Association. Sculley said McManus did everything right. But as more information comes out, original suspicions about city leadership have merit.
“By not adhering to official policy, the Chief’s telling both his fellow officers and the community, ‘do as I say, not as I do.’ He’s saying the rules don’t apply to him – that there’s one standard for people like him and another for the rest of us,” said Mike Helle, president of the San Antonio Police Officer’s Association (SAPOA). “This is a terrible message to send to officers under his command, but it’s also a particularly bad one to send during a time when people in minority communities sometimes feel that they are treated by a different standard. As police officers work to build bonds of trust with those in minority communities, the Chief’s actions undermine our efforts.”
How does this effect Nirenberg’s credibility?
When the SAPOA called on both Nirenberg and Sculley to reassign or place McManus on temporary leave, as per SAPD policy, there was no action.
“This is about the credibility of the SAPD,” the association blogged, “but it’s also about the credibility of Mayor Nirenberg, who in a March 28, 2018 memo to the City’s Charter Review Commission stated: ‘I have stated many times that the City of San Antonio should be the ‘gold standard’ of ethics in governance…’”
Even after a confirmation letter from the Texas Attorney General’s Office dated May 25, 2018 stated McManus is under investigation for possible violation of state immigration law (SB 4), there continues to be no action, “except for protecting their own interests, that of the Alamo City Swamp.”
“They should investigate the embezzlement of public funds at Centro SA, the Re-Imagine the Alamo project, and investigate if there is collusion between lobbyists and campaign donors to the mayor and city council,” George H. Rodriguez, known as ‘El Conservador’ in political circles. “All of these appear to be ‘pay-for-play’ schemes.”
Despite Nirenberg being listed as one of the “Scariest People of 2016” by the Texas Bureau Watchdog Organization, the big money, and The Swamp prevailed. Citizens have had the time now to understand this designation.
The state of affairs for San Antonio
Since Sheryl Sculley became city manager in November 2005, San Antonio has experienced a 47 percent increase with the highest debt per capita rating verified by the State Comptroller according to TexasTransparency.org. Under Sculley, the city’s debt burden increased 78 percent between fiscal years 2005 and 2017, now reaching $3 billion.
Sculley and her deputy city manager Pat DiGiovanni were instrumental in the creation of Centro San Antonio. Ironically, DiGiovanni became president and CEO of Centro. DiGiovanni later resigned because of ethics scandals tied to accounting and contract negotiation problems. DiGiovanni was given a “letter of admonition” from the city’s Ethics Review Board for “unknowingly” violating San Antonio’s code of ethics. One of the board members was David Zachry, president of Zachry Corp. Zachary Corp. received a $305 million contract to expand the San Antonio Convention Center.
Sculley hired her own city attorney, Michael Bernard, the brother of Barack Obama’s White House Social Secretary Jeremy Bernard to be the internal investigator of Centro corruption.
Sculley’s ex-chief of staff Edward Benavides, had a salary was $132,804. Soon he became the CEO of the Tricentennial 300-Year birthday for San Antonio. Although his salary increased to $167,763 in his new role, he had to resign after being caught up in another ethical problem. The Tricentennial was a flop by all standards.
“If we ever needed more proof that Mayor Nirenberg and City Manager Sculley have no problem spending money on a losing cause, an analysis by the office of Councilman Greg Brockhouse shows just how much the City has spent on a losing lawsuit against San Antonio First Responders,” the San Antonio Police Officers Association released.
“As of April 1st, the total cost of all ‘evergreen clause’ lawsuits against police and fire is $1,173,642.32,” they wrote. “City-employed attorney are also not apparently good enough, so the City Manager has hired an outside legal team made up of high-priced lawyers, many of whom also happen to be old friends and associates. These attorneys representing the City at the Texas Supreme Court may collectively bill San Antonio taxpayers at a rate of $3,010.00 per hour!”
Nirenberg’s continuous closed door sessions of council members smell of the same trickeries and modus operandi used to take down a statue at downtown’s Travis Park last year. At the time, one city employee in the know of the back door meetings told News Legit before it happened, that he and his co-workers knew “the fix is in” as Nirenberg actively worked to remove the statue. City councilmen Roberto Treviño (District 1) and William “Cruz” Shaw (District 2), joined together to submit Council Consideration Request on July 25 to take down, a memorial erected on June 28, 1899 and was dedicated officially on April 28, 1900.
“That statue stands on top of a 40-foot-high monument,” said the city worker who asked not to be identified. “To move it during the night requires special equipment. They already have someone picked out to do it. The cannons in the park will be removed too.”
“This is going to be a big test for the new Mayor (Ron Nirenberg) to determine if he will listen to the citizens or submit to political correctness. Some of us already know. He is going to have them taken down. The contractor will use a crane, special rigging and lighting to take it down. It had to be planned for and they want it removed soon after they vote.”
The city employee and his colleagues were right. Nirenberg actually bypassed the step of taking the measure to a full city council public vote.
Regarding the recent fiasco about the RNC Convention, Nirenberg and teams ignored prominent business leaders when they informed them no San Antonio taxes or budget money would be required to host the international event, they walked out with lame excuses for saying no.
“Behind closed doors, private City Council meetings must end,” wrote City Councilman Greg Brockhouse. “The Mayor calls for a backroom discussion to bid on a political convention. Show some courage and do it on the record. Stand for what you believe in and don’t hide with the Attorney. The public deserves to know where we stand. We should welcome ALL to San Antonio…Democrats, Republicans, NAACP, LULAC, etc…that’s being inclusive and that’s leadership.”