City Attorney talks about banning citizens from City Hall
UPDATE (Thursday, 3:05 pm): We just spoke to Jim Harrington with the Texas Civil Rights Project, who last year challenged the City of Austin’s practice of banning Occupy protesters from City Hall (and won). Harrington now says the TCRP plans to file a lawsuit against the City of San Antonio in federal court on Cuellar’s behalf to get his ban lifted. Having met with Cuellar to hear his case earlier this week, Harrington remarked, “I think it’s even more puzzling and unexplainable what the city’s doing. This absolute ban they have on him without reason, indefinite and without appeal, it’s just amazing.”
Kudos to TPR for pressing City Attorney Michael Bernard this week on the rather shady banning of two disgruntled ex-employees from City Hall and Municipal Plaza.
TPR last week ran lengthy interviews news director David Martin Davies conducted with John Foddrill and Michael Cuellar, recipients of sweeping criminal trespass warnings that ban them from the halls of local government. Bernard wouldn’t talk to Davies for last week’s story, but after the program ran he decided to comment this week.
We reached out repeatedly to the City Attorney’s office last month before writing about the bans (see “Trollin’ ain’t easy”), but Bernard refused to comment. His remarks to Davies this week still don’t really address the serious questions raised by Foddrill and Cuellar: namely, how did the city decide both are dangerous enough to ban, why is there no process to appeal or petition the ban, and how long will the bans last? (Language in the no-trespass warnings each received essentially make the bans indefinite).
Bernard says the city issues the ban if police find that someone is a legitimate, violent threat. That explanation doesn’t seem to hold water when you consider Foddrill’s case in particular. Most at City Hall, and even some in the press, would call him irritating, frequently emailing his lengthy, sometimes venomous, screeds far and wide alleging widespread public corruption. But, as we explained in our piece last month, police records from the summer of 2011 indicate Foddrill never had a threat assessment from the department before his ban in 2009. When SAPD sent a mental health detail out to his home on July 4, 2011 at 10 p.m. to conduct one, officers concluded they were “unable to find a mental health issue involved, no crisis, and no signs of danger to self or others.”