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Texas Civil Rights Project sues City of San Antonio for banning man from City Hall

February 12, 2013

Michael Cuellar

The Texas Civil Rights Project yesterday filed a lawsuit against SAPD Chief William McManus, San Antonio City Attorney Michael Bernard, and the City of San Antonio for the rare practice of banning troublemakers from City Hall and Municipal Plaza.

The group sued on behalf of former SA Fire Department contract coordinator Michael Cuellar, one of two disgruntled ex city employees who have received sweeping criminal trespass notices signed by McManus and Bernard. The letter indefinitely bans Cuellar from attending Council meetings, citizens to be heard sessions, or any other public meeting at City Hall or Municipal plaza. Cuellar could face arrest, along with a fine of up to $2,000 and up to six months of jail time, if he violates the ban by stepping foot in City Hall or Muni Plaza.

In December we profiled Cuellar and John Foddrill, the other criminal trespass letter recipient with his own bitter fight against the city. The City hasn’t fully explained why both are banned, and neither have been provided a way to appeal the decision. While Bernard wouldn’t speak to us for the December piece or provide us with even a general statement about the process of banning citizens from COSA buildings, McManus has handed out a statement saying the letters are only issued “in direct response to a threat, threatening behavior, and/or harassment.”

Bernard, who hasn’t returned the Current’s calls for comment on the TCRP’s lawsuit, explained himself, sort of, to TPR last month, again insinuating Cuellar was a serious threat. Cuellar in his lawsuit says the city has undertaken a “public campaign to justify their actions by defaming Mr. Cuellar and wrongly accusing him of being a threat to public safety.”

Cuellar is apparently no longer speaking to the media, directing the Current’s inquiries to the TCRP (he did, however, provide the above photo). That could in part be due to the oddly dismissive treatment he got from E-Ncolumnist Brian Chasnoff last month, who reported on Cuellar’s arrest when he refused to sign a speeding ticket. Cuellar accused the officer of targeting him because of ethics complaints he’s filed against numerous city employees, including City Manager Sheryl Sculley. Chasnoff wrote it off as just another story “in the annals of delusions of persecution.” Chasnoff glossed over the problematic, and likely unconstitutional, nature of Cuellar’s indefinite ban from City Hall buildings, writing only, “In August, he was banned from city buildings because staff considered him a threat.”

After Cuellar met with the TCRP last month, director Jim Harrington told us, “The absolute ban they have on him without reason, indefinite, and without appeal, it’s just amazing.” Harrington filed the suit only on Cuellar’s behalf Monday, and in a prepared statement said, “This is one of the most bizarre First Amendment cases I’ve seen in my 40 year legal career.” Harrington last year challenged the City of Austin’s practice of banning Occupy protesters from City Hall and won.

Foddrill filed his own lawsuit against the city last month. Foddrill, who is representing himself, has not received the backing of the TCRP like Cuellar has.

While we still don’t really know why Cuellar was banned, we do know that in February 2012 Cuellar was told to resign or be fired from his position with the SAFD after an incident with a fellow worker – Cuellar claims in his lawsuit the incident was later “determined not to have any merit.”

Following his resignation, Cuellar began filing numerous public information requests with the city, hoping to find why he was let go. Cuellar, in his lawsuit, also says he began looking for any information related to “improprieties” he had discovered at the fire department.

One of those requests appears to have been right on target. On August 20, 2012, according to his lawsuit, Cuellar sent the city a request seeking any information on Nim Kidd, the man who’s now in charge of emergency management at the Texas Department of Public Safety. Cuellar had heard that Kidd, a former SAFD district chief, was somehow still drawing income from the City of San Antonio. Soon afterward plainclothes officers delivered Cuellar’s criminal trespass notice dated August 31, 2012 to the home of Cuellar’s parents.

But just last month the Austin American-Statesman ran an investigative report detailing exactly what Cuellar was after. Kidd, DPS’ most costly executive, has a special roundabout pay arrangement in which San Antonio pays Kidd’s DPS salary, but is in turn reimbursed by Texas A&M’s Engineering Extension Service, which contracts with DPS. As Statesman reported:

Kidd was hired under a complicated deal that involves one paycheck, two jobs and contractual agreements between three different public entities. Until now, it hasn’t been publicly disclosed. Kidd’s real job is at DPS. The second job is a no-show position with San Antonio’s fire department that enables Kidd to earn credit toward his city firefighter’s pension while working elsewhere. His desire to keep growing that retirement was what motivated the roundabout arrangement, DPS officials said.”

After last fall’s Convention Center scandal, Cuellar’s ethics complaint was the main reason former deputy city manager Pat DiGiovanni was ever publicly admonished by the city’s Ethics Review Board in public. Cuellar also filed ethics complaints against former city employees who got free or discounted rooms at the Grande Hyatt in return for giving away free Alamodome suites during 2012’s Monster Jam event – the Ethics Review Board recommended law enforcement investigate three former city employees for possible criminal charges in the matter.

We don’t know exactly why Cuellar has been deemed a “threat” by the powers that be. But so far his hunches on shady city dealings have been spot on. – Michael Barajas

TCRP sues COSA over city hall ban by

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  • Jake Hogan

    Wait??? So the City is paying some guys retirement that is working for the state? I feel like the state should be paying this guys retirement. Not the citizens of San Antonio

  • ShamusMacgillicutty

    This Fire Department deal has a lot of really dirty angles that cuellar started poking around in. Lots of federal grant monies being awarded through the state, approved by this Kidd guy who depending on who you ask may or may not work for the very people he is supposed to be neutrally and impartially handing out FEMA and homeland security money to, the city of san antonio. We are talking millions here. Just request the records from DPS. Oddly enough, Kidd in his capacity at the state is also his own boss in san antonio, Charles Hood’s boss. Thats a great deal. The city managers office is the actual responsible party here. It was the main force to get this guy up to Austin in the DPS. Don’t really understand why. There is some hidden benefit here for the city that escapes me, besides the obvious front of the line preference in grant money. I am also amazed the Firefighters Union or the police and firemens pension fund group doesnt seem to care one bit that Kidd will soon be drawing a pension from the city when he didnt actually qualify for the years of service requirement. However, the Firefighters Union is its own little incestious self-dealing nightmare. What a tangled web!! I feel sorry most of all for the brave firefighters of san antonio. They have no idea of all the corruption and graft swirling around right over their heads. Ultimately they will be the ones who bear the black eye.

  • Kymbny

    Shouldnt the city have to demonstrate what type of “threat” he poses? Are we talking physical? Violent? Clearly just bringing up questionable city dealings cannot be considered a “threat”. I think this sounds like the City over-reaching and over-reacting. This much effort to remove him definitely makes me think he’s probably better informed than most citizens and the City is simply seeking to muzzle him before anyone else finds out the truth.

  • John Foddrill Sr

    DPS troopers posted information concerning DPS Asst. Director Nim Kidd’s “sweetheart” deal on their union website.

    In an effort to provide background information to the Austin American Statesman news article additional information was posted directly connecting the TWO illegal, unconstitutional bans to efforts by whistleblowers to investigate and expose public/police corruption, grant fraud, accounting fraud, theft perjury/obstruction and the ongoing efforts by the City of San Antonio TX to hide the criminal activity.

    We have asked ethical, honest Troopers to step up and help us sidestep the roadblocks DPS officials set up to stymie any criminal investigations into the public/police corruption and associated crimes. We remind them that they cannot stand on the sidelines while public safety is impacted by the theft and misuse of tens of millions of dollars set aside by law / budgets / grants to support E911 and other public safety systems.

  • John Foddrill Sr

    Can you contact us at asap.
    We can keep your identity secret and protect your privacy but want to talk to you about the corruption we are investigating inside the SAFD and the City.
    We agree…….The theft and misuse of tens of millions of dollars taxpayers approved for E911 and public safety support indeed has placed both citizens and first responders at risk. We cringe every time a system fails and the City states that public safety was not impacted.
    thanks for your support..
    Citizens Against Public Corruption Waste Fraud and Abuse

  • John Foddrill Sr

    The TSTA deleted the thread containing links to media reports of the two Federal Civil Rights lawuits and information detailing other efforts by law enforcement to hide “shady” dealings concerning the SAFD, SAPD, DPS and our tax/grant dollars. They allowed two other threads with links to the Statesman article to remain.
    We have copies of the entire thread and will distribute copies to the media. Maybe investigative reporters can link the DPS asst. Director Kidd “sweetheart” contract to other “under the table” deals the State and City of SA want to keep hidden .Reporters should ask the Texas State Troopers Assoc. why they want to help hide the corruption and lawlessness instead of exposing it.

  • tax payer

    Fire everybody that works for the city and rehire then for less pay, so we can get back a rebate for paying taxes for too many years. I’ll be happy and naturally they’ll be happy too for getting back their jobs.

  • Anselem ,Kelechi,Ofordirinwa

    hello i need to talk to you about my case i get bet up and push me down where i m in handcuff and shackle so i fell with my head and start having a brain problem , which i have a good evidence to prove in this case ok

  • Anselem ,Kelechi,Ofordirinwa

    hello i need to talk to you about my case i get bet up and push me down where i m in handcuff and shackle so i fell with my head and start having a brain problem , which i have a good evidence to prove in this case ok

  • Anselem ,Kelechi,Ofordirinwa

    hello i need to talk to you about my case i get bet up and push me down where i m in handcuff and shackle so i fell with my head and start having a brain problem , which i have a good evidence to prove in this case ok

  • John Foddrill Sr

    A sworn affidavit was submitted 04/25/2013 to DA Reed and AG Abbott detailing 45 months of Texas Open Meeting Act violations asking that Reed recues herself due to her involvement in helping hide the public / police corruption. AG Abbott was asked to have an independent prosecutor investigate and prosecute the crimes.

    “Pursuant to CHAPTER 551. OPEN MEETINGS and other applicable laws/regulations, I request that you investigate alleged violations of the Texas Open Meetings Law.”

    “I believe that The City of San Antonio TX via the actions of Julian Castro, Mary Alice Cisneros, Ivy Taylor, Jennifer. Ramos, Philip Cortez, David Medina Jr., Ray Lopez,
    Justin Rodriguez, W. Reed Williams, Elisa Chan, John Clamp, Diego Bernal, Leticia Ozuna, Rey Saldaña, Cris Medina, Carlton Soules, Sheryl Sculley, Michael Bernard and Leticia
    Cantu from July 1, 2009 to April 3, 2013 violated the Open Meetings Law.”

    I ask that the most severe measures be taken against the persons involved in this criminal activity. I ask that they be fined and jailed as is prescribed by law. I ask that all city business
    conducted during the illegal meetings be found null and void. I ask this as these persons and others representing the City /County have not taken this matter seriously while they continued to conduct business hiding important information from citizens/taxpayers who made uninformed decisions based upon only the information the City /County permitted
    them to know. Taxpayers deserve to know ALL the facts about how their money is spent or in this case stolen/misspent thus the need to have the maximum penalties levied against the participants in this criminal scheme violating the trust of our taxpayers and the civil rights
    of at least two law-abiding citizens.

  • Peter

    That’s a fantastic idea. I got one better. Lets just fire everyone and not rehire. We didn’t have 911 200 years a go and we did just fine.

  • John Walt

    Now, with the clown Chief arresting armed men at Starbucks, men who did nothing wrong, he has again placed the City in jeopardy. Is there any knowledge of this, or where I can make a contribution to the legal funds of either case? This Bozo is out of control. He thinks he can write and enforce law. He can’t.

  • John Walt

    SOS should be contacted, with a class action threatened. You are right about the Act.