Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
San Antonio City Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) asked the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office Tuesday to investigate whether a closed-session discussion about whether the City should bid to host the 2020 Republican National Convention violated the Texas Open Meetings Act.
“It is my opinion there were clear violations within the discussions that warrant investigation,” Brockhouse wrote in a letter sent to District Attorney Nico LaHood on Tuesday. “However, as the violations were committed in the confines of the closed session, I am prohibited from disclosing the facts, unless compelled to do so through investigation.”
“[The meeting is the] latest and most blatant example which threatens the very fabric of open government,” he wrote.
Standing in front of an assembly of reporters Thursday, May 3, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg announced the city would not submit a bid to host the GOP convention, when the party’s presidential nominee is selected.
That announcement came after City Council’s executive session, during which Council members privately discussed the financial and logistical considerations that would come with hosting the 2020 Republican National Convention.
“City Council’s conversation about the Republican National Convention was conducted in the standard manner for economic development and other matters that are covered by the exceptions in the Open Meetings Act,” Nirenberg wrote in a statement Tuesday. “We conducted the meeting as advised by legal counsel, who was present. We are confident that the discussion was compliant with state law.”
The day before the meeting, Brockhouse requested an opinion from City Attorney Andrew Segovia, who sent a memo to Council explaining that the item met the legal requirements for a closed executive session. That memo was sealed under attorney-client privilege. Per state law, open meeting exceptions include litigation or a settlement offer, deliberating personnel matters, deliberating the purchase or lease of property, discussing certain financial contract negotiations, or discussing deployment of security devices.
It is unclear whether the financial contract negotiations exception can be used when no genuine contract exists or will be drafted.
“We received [Brockhouse’s] request and will reserve comment for now,” a LaHood spokesperson told the Rivard Report.
In the letter, Segovia also told the full Council that members could not discuss the political pros and cons of a convention bid during executive session, Brockhouse has said.
Some in the local business community – including two chambers, leaders in the local tourism and hotel industries, as well as prominent CEOs – have chided Council for passing up an economic development opportunity for what they perceive as largely political reasons. Several members of Council have cited their disagreement with the policies of President Donald Trump as cause for not supporting a bid.
The San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, two of the more influential local chambers, chose to stay out of the debate.
Brockhouse’s letter, with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and the Texas Rangers copied, called for a sweeping review of the Council’s closed-session policies.
“This is not an isolated issue and it is my opinion, a thorough review of the practices of the closed session policies of the San Antonio City Council will lead to greater transparency and protecting the public’s right to participate in their governance,” he wrote.
On Wednesday afternoon, Councilman Manny Pelaez (D8) condemned Brockhouse’s letter and cited the District 6 representative’s intentions of running for mayor.
“I’m taken aback and disappointed by Councilman Brockhouse’s lamentable attacks and the casting of ugly aspersions on the work this City Council does to gather information and discuss matters allowed under the Texas Open Meetings Act,” Pelaez wrote in a statement. “His accusation that we committed criminal violations of Texas law makes for exciting red-meat politics to help bolster his aspirations to higher office.
“However, if getting accused of a crime is what we get from meeting with Councilman Brockhouse, why in the world would we want to meet with him for anything else going forward? In my view, playing fast and loose with referrals to criminal prosecutors and law enforcement to score points is cheap and it’s what people hate about modern-day populist politics.”
Reporter Jeffrey Sullivan contributed to this article.