The San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association faces a lawsuit from a new political action committee over how the fire union paid to gather signatures for its San Antonio First campaign.
Secure San Antonio's Future, the PAC that filed the lawsuit, says the fire union illegally gathered signatures by paying the company Texas Petition Strategies with union dues instead of political contributions.
“It is expressly against the law. They are trying to hide the money. How much other money have they hidden in regards to their political activities?” said Christian Archer, campaign strategist for SSAF.
The suit, which also includes the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Political Action Committee, seeks financial damages and a restraining order to keep the three charter amendments off the November ballot.
The City Council has until Aug. 20 to place the three amendments on the November ballot by council vote.
“The City Council and the mayor should not take action on signatures that were gathered feloniously. In fact, they’re going to be thrown out and the City Council takes no action,” Archer said.
SSFC was set up earlier this summer as a means to fight the union’s charter amendments, which Archer says would be detrimental to the city. For example, the first charter amendment, which would reduce the number of signatures required to trigger elections on altering city ordinances, he says would harm the city’s form of government.
“So it creates a lot of ballot confusion. We basically change the form of government to a government by referendum,” Archer said.
SSFC is also seeking criminal charges. It has sent a letter to the Bexar County district attorney’s office and the Texas attorney general’s office.
Chris Feldman, an attorney for the fire union and its political action committee, said the lawsuit is frivolous and the union broke no laws.
“This is nothing more than attempt to take away or diminish the effort of the citizens of San Antonio to take more control of their government, he said.”
Feldman said a mistake was made in terms of what forms to use, and it was corrected last week.
“This is really a mountain out of a molehill,” he said.
An initial court hearing is set for Monday.
Joey Palacios can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules