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Council Members Deny Claims Made By Fire Union President On New Secret Recording

Council members, freom left, Manny Pelaez, Anna Sandoval and Shirley Gonzales speak at the Go Vote No campaign headquarters after the release of secretly recorded audio. 10.9.18
Joey Palacios
Texas Public Radio
Council members, freom left, Manny Pelaez, Anna Sandoval and Shirley Gonzales speak at the Go Vote No campaign headquarters after the release of secretly recorded audio.

The Go Vote No Campaign, which opposes the San Antonio Professional Firefighter’s Associations proposed city charter amendments, has released another secret recording of what it says is fire union President Chris Steele.


On this tape, Steele said at least five San Antonio City Council members support the union's objectives. However several of those council members say they never offered their support.

The campaign says the audio was recorded at a fire station sometime in late 2017. Steele is heard discussing the union’s contract and arbitration. However, the audio doesn’t specifically mention the charter amendments that will be on the Nov. 6 ballot.

LISTEN | Another secret recording said to be fire union President Chris Steele

“The stars are lining up. I knew you guys were waiting a little while. I’ll talk about that in a little bit. Understand, that I could go to impasse now,” said Steele in the recording. “The city is probably not going to agree and I hope they wouldn’t. They are not going to agree to an arbitrator because everything they have said has been a lie. And the arbitrator is going to see that the city has money. That the city has no business filing a lawsuit.”

He also, on the recording, talks about having support from council members Greg Brockhouse in District 6; Ana Sandoval in District 7; Manny Pelaez in District 8; Clayton Perry in District 10; and Shirley Gonzales in District 5.

“We’re solid,” Steele can be heard saying. “... We’re in a better position than we have been in many years with council but we don’t have six though.”

Pelaez, Sandoval, Gonzales attended a news conference held at the Go Vote No campaign headquarters Tuesday to denounce Steele’s assertions.

“I’m very disappointed that somebody behind closed doors would suggest you can lock up my vote and own it. That’s offensive and people should see it for what it is — yet another example of a mistruth,” Pelaez said.

All three said they have had very little contact with Steele during their time in office.

RELATEDSan Antonio Fire Union President Ignores Questions About Secret Audio

“I’ve spoken with Mr. Steele once in my life and it was months before I ever took office. We did not discuss this issue,”Sandoval said. “For him to say he has my vote locked up is baseless.”

The fire union and city have been without a healthcare and wage contract for the city’s firefighters since 2014, when their last signed contract expired. The union has not shown up to any of the city’s negotiation meetings during that time. The union is currently operating under a 10-year evergreen clause that keeps the last contract active until 2024. The city filed a lawsuit against the evergreen clause but ultimately lost when the Texas Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

“We look forward to the day we can have a contract that supports our firefighters but this idea that our votes are locked is just simply not the case,” said Gonzales, calling Steele’s comments a “misrepresentation of facts.”

Perry, who was not at the press conference, also said he’d hadn’t given full support of fire union issues.

“I haven’t agreed or disagreed with anything in the past to do with the fire union; I haven’t come online either way,” he said.

Perry added the charter amendment battle is the result of not having a contract.

“These propositions are a direct result of the failure to move forward with the contract between the city and fire union — both are to blame,” he said. “There is no excuse to go over four years without a contract or to enter into multiple expensive lawsuits — some, of which, are still ongoing.

“I wish this would not have gotten to this point, but we are in a nasty battle that will only get nastier over the next several weeks.”

Brockhouse said he’s supported the fire union's efforts since day one and because of the endorsement, the union might have interpreted that as support.

“There’s nothing in this recording that isn’t already in the public record,” Brockhouse said. “Firefighters endorsed council members; they assumed they were with them.”

Pelaez and Gonzales previously received endorsements from the fire union in their 2017 campaign bids. But both said they never committed to votes in exchange for endorsements.

This is the second piece of audio Go Vote No campaign has released and campaign manager Christian Archer said there is more audio. Brockhouse is calling for the release of all the audio.

“Release the whole tape and then we’ll have a conversation on it,” Brockhouse said. “But these are games that Ron Nirenberg is continuing to play and it’s dirty cutthroat politics and that’s fine, he’s good at it.”

A statement released by the fire Union accused the city of recording some of its meetings.

“The city has apparently had someone taping our meetings for more than a year and yet they have nothing. It has become blatantly obvious that (City Manager) Sheryl Sculley and the special interests who run city hall play games like that, while potholes go unfixed and Fire (sic) doesn’t have a contract. Do you need any proof about who these city council people work for?”

Joey Palacios can be reached at joey@tpr.org or on Twitter @joeycules

Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules