Paxton Sues San Antonio to Obtain Records on Chick-fil-A Decision

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Atty Gen. Ken Paxton

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the City of San Antonio in November 2018, alleging that officials there had violated the law in December 2017.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit Monday against the City of San Antonio to compel it to release documents related to his office’s investigation into City Council’s decision to remove Chick-fil-A from an airport concession contract.

The City cited 63 exemptions it could use to avoid providing information related to Paxton’s information request, which includes meeting records, emails, calendars, and other internal and third-party communications from City Council members, City staff, and third-parties, according to a letter Deputy City Attorney Edward Guzman sent to Paxton in April.

In a second letter, the City focused on its argument that some information is exempt according to State law because it expects to be sued by the State. The process of citing possible exemptions is part of the typical process when the City receives a request.

“The City of San Antonio claims that it can hide documents because it anticipates being sued,” Paxton said in a news release. “But we’ve simply opened an investigation using the Public Information Act. If a mere investigation is enough to excuse the City of San Antonio from its obligation to be transparent with the people of Texas, then the Public Information Act is a dead letter. The city’s extreme position only highlights its fear about allowing any sunshine on the religious bigotry that animated its decision.”

Paxton launched the investigation in late March after the infamous 6-4 vote based on Councilman Roberto Treviño’s (D1) motion to approve a concessions contract with the requirement that Chick-fil-A be excluded from a list of potential airport restaurants. Treviño stated at the time that he could not support a company with “a legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior.”

Paxton and others, including mayoral candidate Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6), said the action violated Chick-fil-A’s religious freedom. Mayor Ron Nirenberg said his vote was a business decision and that he wanted all vendor options open seven days a week. Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays for religious reasons.

“It is reasonable to surmise that the Office of the Attorney General is actively investigating the City of San Antonio in preparation for possible legal action related to the information being requested,” Guzman wrote. “Allowing the use of the Texas Public Information Act as a means for discovery when litigation is anticipated undermines the litigation process and robs a government entity of its legal protections and reciprocal discovery afforded under state law.”

The Chick-fil-A issue has become a point of contention in the mayoral runoff. Brockhouse has long-criticized City Hall and Nirenberg for issues with transparency and uses the issue to point to a “lack of leadership.” Nirenberg is generally dismissive of accusations claiming they’re “political theater.”

The City’s action, to ask for a ruling on whether the documents were releasable through the Open Records Division of the Attorney General’s office, is a “routine request,” according to a statement sent by the City.

“Instead of allowing the routine process take its course, the AG decided to sue and not wait for a decision from his own department,” City Attorney Andy Segovia said in a statement. “The Attorney General notified the press before any communication with the City, or even before the City was served with the suit.”

The City’s statement noted that it’s unclear what legislative authority the AG’s office is using to investigate the airport contract, and “Furthermore, it is clear from the strident comments in his press release that any ‘investigation’ would be a pretense to justify his own conclusions.”

The City sent almost 250 pages to the Open Records Division, according to the statement, and a decision is still pending.

Paxton cited Chick-fil-A’s affiliation with the Christian faith and “traditional understanding of marriage” as the true reason for its ousting from the San Antonio International Airport.

“Members of the City Council who spearheaded the decision to exclude Chick-fil-A did not attempt to hide their discriminatory motives,” Paxton wrote, noting Treviño’s comment that the company is out of line with “our core values as a city,” and Councilman Manny Pelaez’s comment, which he later retracted, about some people in the community interpreting Chick-fil-A as a “symbol of hate.”

12 thoughts on “Paxton Sues San Antonio to Obtain Records on Chick-fil-A Decision

  1. Hey Ken – hopefully when the state of Texas is done with your indictment as our Attorney General on securities fraud charges you can tell us why, for example, we don’t have a Hooters at the San Antonio Airport? What about their “religious freedom?” A dog racing track in the Alamodome? A Biker Bar in Alamo Plaza? Could it be that perhaps cities have a sincere responsibility to determine what best suits their civic needs and concerns based on what our elected officials (that we freely vote into office to specifically address these matters) resolve? Twice the City Council has voted against allowing Hooters at the Airport and twice Brockhouse has screamed bloody murder because the voting didn’t go his way? One shudders at the prospect of his actually becoming our mayor. Two years of utter discord, antagonism and more of the endless “my way or the highway.”

  2. Hizzoner says that his position was determined solely by a desire to have only airport food concessions that would be open to serve the public seven days a week. I can see that point of view as possibly a reasonable one. However… Point of information: did the city’s official published request for bids include this requirement? In most states, the text of the request for bids is the binding statement on what the criteria will be for determining the winner(s).

    • Exactly!! RN never made being open 7 days a reason for his vote until AFTER there was blowback nationally and locally during an election year. He lied about his vote. He is also lacking leadership bc when given the chance to right the wrong he was the deciding vote and voted against it. He should know the bidding process, as should all of CC. For one CC member to override the legal and fair process for personal political reasons makes this city look biased and lacking in fair play toward business. CFA was vetted and approved…but then excluded bc of additional requirements imposed on it alone by one councilman and a mayor without the courage to stand up for the process. It’s not about CFA…it’s about who is next? The transcript from the CC meeting alone is enough to prove the AG and FAA case…but the communication re the CFA vote should make interesting reading!

  3. When the FAA and the Texas AG investigations confirm religious discrimination in the exclusion of Chick-fil-A at the airport, what penalties can they levy against the city? Could those council people voting to discriminate be held individually liable for their actions?

  4. Chick-Fil-A uses its profits to support organizations that work to remove LGBTQ civil rights. If a prospective vendor similarly used its profits to support the KKK or the American Nazi Party, would SA or Ken Paxton want them in our airport? It’s the same degree of discrimination

  5. What is your proof that CFA, as a business entity, works to remove the rights of anyone? There is a legal process for city bids and all bidders are required to have the same requirements…not extra requirements brought up by a single councilman after the competing vendors have been vetted and approved using the legal process. That is the point of the CFA mess. RN argument it was about being open 7 days is a lie-based on what was actually voted on in the meeting. It should cause alarm that a lone councilman, backed up by a CC that doesn’t understand the bid process and a mayor who should have been a leader to stop the vote—twice—can defy the legal process to exclude an already vetted business…based on one article from a biased source…not a record of discrimination, no proof…but lots of personal politics.

    If you go down the road of making charitable and organization contributions by ALL owners – not the business entity-the basis for selection of vendors, who decides which charitable causes and organizations are palatable? (In this case the Salvation Army and Fellowship of Christian Athletes would not be…and exclusion will violate the rights of others.) What happens to the rights of individuals to donate to the charities of their choice? Do individuals now have to turn over their personal IRS statements to check their charitable contributions for a business bid…most people don’t list organizations for which there is no tax benefit on their taxes…so how do you vet ALL owners? You cannot hold one vendor to a higher standard than the others, especially when they met the requirements put forth by the city.

    (Your use of the KKK and American Nazi Party are extreme , but straw man, arguments as both of those organizations are considered terrorists, by the FBI definition of terrorist organizations.)

    • You misquote me. I did not say CFA “works to remove rights.” I explained that CFA uses corporate profits to support orgs whose mission includes abolishing marriage equality; therefore, CFA supports orgs that discriminate.
      I wonder if CFA provides spousal benefits to an employee who marries someone of same gender.

      • They do not use corporate profits…it was the charitable contributions of the owner that were in question, not the corporate entity. What organizations does the corporate entity support that has as its purpose what you describe?

        Is providing spousal benefits part of the RFP? The RFP is not a tool of politics, but of business…and which company can provide the best service/make the most return for the city based on criteria pertinent to the task. Providing spousal support for employees is not something an RFP would include.

  6. I believe there are far more priorities for the airport than having a fast food resturant. I wish the focus was more on the expansion of the airport that makes it a better experience for travellers, such as a simple traverse from Terminal A to Terminal B. Also, I guess Hooters and Twin Peaks restaurants are out of the question.

  7. There are far more important issues the Texas AG should be pursuing and spending Texas’ money on than latching onto this politicized, sensational nonsense. I’ll remind San Antonians and visitors who actually care about this Chik-Fil-A non-issue, that there are 16+ San Antonio-area locations they are able visit Monday through Saturday, in order to obtain mediocre fast-food chik’n products. Can we please put this story to roost now?

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