The Go Vote No campaign has released over seven minutes of secretly recorded audio it claims is of San Antonio Professional Firefighter’s Association President Chris Steele.
The group is fighting the fire union's proposed amendments to the city charter. Like previously released clips, Steele talks about the union’s political goals. The six released audio files vary in length from 30 seconds to over two minutes.
In one file, Steele talked about a city-filed lawsuit that the union ultimately won and said he would ask City Manager Sheryl Sculley and Mayor Ron Nirenberg to resign.
“Because they assured everybody they were gonna win it. And when they lose, we’re gonna say they lost and are not qualified to lead this city. So, there’s a big effort to get that message out,” he said in the recording.
In other recordings, he talks about how he won’t go to the negotiation table to discuss the union's health care and wage contract with the city.
“So the city has asked me nine times to come to the table. I said no. But if we go to the table, 60 days is all you have to negotiate by law. Once you’re there 60 days you file impasse. Impasse says I can’t work with the city, and so then the city has to agree to an arbitrator,” he said .”Now sometimes they don’t agree to an arbitrator, but if they agree to an arbitrator and we agree, we’re gonna have a hearing just like we did with the mediator and they’re gonna give up the contract.”
He also talks about and attempts to influence legislation in Austin.
“I can shut down anything in Austin. Even with Joe Straus gone, we can pass whatever we wanna pass,” Steele can be heard saying. “So, 2019 there’s gonna be some legislation to take care of contracts, take care of insurance and some other things that were gonna pass for us. And we’re gonna shut this thing now. But I think we have a great opportunity now, we’ve got the City Council, we’ve got a Mayor who ... wants to be Henry Cisneros, Julian Castro. He’s a career politician. He wants to go places, and he knows that he can’t while he’s fighting us.”
Two previous audio files were released over the last few weeks. None of the now eight audio files released by the Go Vote No campaign directly mention the charter amendments. Although one clip does talk about contract arbitration — the focus of Proposition C. The campaign has said the audio files were recorded late last year and provided to the campaign by a firefighter.
In a written statement, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said the audio is “further proof of Steele’s campaign of lies and deception. Propositions A, B, and C are meant to serve his own obsessive pursuit of power and desire to cause chaos in a city that he despises. He doesn’t even live in San Antonio.”
In response to the audio release, the fire union said it's just another attempt by the Vote No campaign to deflect the discussion away from the issues.
Prop A would reduce the number of signatures required to challenge city ordinances or policies down to 20,000 and reduces the number of days. Prop B would cap the compensation of the city manager and limit the city manager’s tenure to eight years. And Proposition C would force binding arbitration when the city and fire union are not able to come to an agreement in contract negotiations.
You can see the wording of the propositions here on the Bexar County sample ballot.
Early voting will last until Friday and Election Day is Nov. 6.
Joey Palacios can be reached at Joey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules