The San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association held a news conference Thursday, one day after the Go Vote No Campaign released audio of what it says is fire union President Chris Steele talking to firefighters about the union's political plans.
During the news conference, Steele refused to answer questions about the tape.
The union has three propositions on the November ballot that would alter the San Antonio City Charter. The union's news conference was called to address its reasons it did not participate in recently canceled debates. Debates hosted by the San Antonio Express-News and KSAT-12 were canceled after the news outlets said Steele canceled his appearance.
“When any organization has reached out to us and asked us to attend … in some form or fashion whether or letter or text we have sent what you see here,” he said, holding up a letter.
The letter was a request for a date or time a representative will be available to attend but does not name anyone specific.
Multiple reporters asked Steele about the secret recording.
“Chris, why is Greg Brockhouse your guy?” asked Brian Chasnoff, a columnist with the San Antonio-Express News.
Steele ignored Chasnoff as well as repeated questions from the media throughout the nearly 30-minute briefing. Instead, two spokespeople for the San Antonio First campaign — David Van Os and Reinette King — answered for him. San Antonio First is the campaign supporting the amendments.
WATCH | San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association news conference
“This is not about Chris Steele, this is about the citizens. And this is not about a leak. This is about the issues,” King said.
Van Os added Steele has a right to talk to union members about political issues.
As for the recording. Van Os said: “For someone to secretly tape a union meeting and then to release it to a political operative is despicable.”
While Steele left the briefing without addressing the tape, he did say: “The firefighters will continue to take the high road; the firefighters will continue to do all that they can to make sure the citizens understand this is not a Chris Steele or a firefighter issue, props A, B, and C does not have our names on there and we’ll continue to do what we can and these great folks will continue to do our job in getting our information to the people.”
Reached by phone, San Antonio Ron Nirenberg said Steel’s “antics speak for themselves.”
“The bottom line is these propositions are about Steele’s special interest power grab and he has confirmed it now with his own words,” he said. “My focus is on protecting San Antonio’s future and making sure voters know the facts.”
Joey Palacios can be reached at Joey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules