Lawsuit Seeks to Block Council Action on Three Proposed Charter Changes

A lawsuit has been filed that seeks to block San Antonio City Council from voting next week to place three city charter amendments being pushed by the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association on the November election ballot, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

The lawsuit was filed by a Political Action Committee called Secure San Antonio's Future, which was formed to fight the ballot amendments.

The lawsuit claims that the SAPFFA illegally used more than a half million dollars in union dues money to hire a suburban Austin firm to gather the signatures needed to get the three items on the ballot.  SSAF says under Texas law, only PAC money, not union dues money, can be used for political activism.

The three ballot items, which are nearly universally opposed by San Antonio leaders and business advocates, would lower the number of signatures needed to place any action taken by City Council up for a referendum of the public, mandate that all labor disputes between the City and its unions be settled by binding arbitration instead of in court, and would limit the salary and length of service of future city managers.

SSAF says the measures would unsettle the financial markets to the point where San Antonio would lose its AAA bond rating which allowed interest rates on the city's debt to stay low. They say the city manger restrictions, which would not cover current City Manager Sheryl Sculley, would damage the City's ability to find qualified top managers to run the city, again leading to higher costs for taxpayers.

The SAPFFA responded by saying that the City Charter, which is the key document covering charter amendment elections, requires only that the City Clerk certify that the petition signatures are valid, which she has done, and does not address the financing of the petition drive itself.

"In a frivolous lawsuit, the opposition claims the signatures of more than 90,000 San Antonio citizens, which were legally obtained and already certified by the San Antonio City Clerk, are somehow now invalid.  In a complete misunderstanding of the law and the facts, the opposition seeks to keep the voices of San Antonio citizens from being heard," SAPFFA President Christ Steele said.

"This is just one more attempt by opponents to stop the voters from using their voice to speak out against bad public policy and runaway spending of taxpayer money."

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