Councilman: Legal Battle Has 'Wasted' $1.17 Million Taxpayer Dollars

Northwest side City Councilman Greg Brockhouse is calling out city leaders for wasting taxpayer money fighting a legal battle against the firefighters union, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Brockhouse, who was an adviser to the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association before being elected to City Council, says San Antonio taxpayers have paid $1,173,000, including retaining a law firm that charged $900 per hour, only to lose its lawsuit at the trial and appellate court level.

He says total costs to the taxpayers from the city's high priced legal team works out to $3,010 per hour.

  Brockhouse says the City is insisting on pursuing the lawsuit to the State Supreme Court, and that will mean more high dollar bills for taxpayers.

"The costs of the legal team are ridiculous," Brockhouse said.  "These are taxpayer dollars and we must drop this lawsuit against the Fire Union and get back to negotiating.  The only people winning in this fight are the high-priced lawyers."

Brockhouse told the program 'On the Record' on KLRN-TV that if the City were to drop the lawsuit, the fire union would resume negotiations with the City 'within 72 hours.'

Brockhouse says what is truly ridiculous is that the City is suing to have a ten year 'Evergreen Clause' in the 2011 firefighter contract declared unconstitutional, while in the new agreement with the San Antonio Police Officers Association signed in 2015, the City agreed to an eight year Evergreen Clause.

"This makes no sense," he said.

An 'Evergreen Clause,' which is common for contracts with first responders, who are prohibited by Texas law from striking, protect the City and the union if a new contract cannot be reached by calling for the terms of the expired contract to remain in place for the term of the clause.

In the case of the SAPFFA, the union is using the Evergreen Clause to avoid a city demand that firefighters lose their 'zero premium' health care plans which the City says are costing taxpayers a bundle.

The City has responded with an offer to allow firefighters to keep 'zero premium' health care policies for themselves, and cap the amount they would have to pay for dependent coverage.

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