Group files complaint alleging San Antonio police union illegally used dues for 2021 political campaign

The complaint filed with the Texas Ethics Commission accuses the powerful union of illegally spending more than $600,000 to fight Proposition B.

click to enlarge News of the complaint comes as police reform group Act 4 SA is gearing up to campaign for the San Antonio Justice Charter, a measure that would decriminalize marijuana and abortion. - Michael Karlis
Michael Karlis
News of the complaint comes as police reform group Act 4 SA is gearing up to campaign for the San Antonio Justice Charter, a measure that would decriminalize marijuana and abortion.
A police reform group alleges in a state filing that San Antonio's powerful police union illegally used member dues to finance campaigns opposing a 2021 ballot measure that would have stripped the union of its collective bargaining power.

The complaint, filed Monday, with the Texas Ethics Commission alleges that the San Antonio Police Officers' Association (SAPOA) made more than $600,000 in illegal donations to political entities fighting the ballot initiative known as Proposition B.

SAPOA officials were unavailable for immediate comment on the complaint, which was filed by police reform group ACT 4 SA.

In a statement, ACT 4 SA said its leadership is unsure whether SAPOA union members were aware of the $600,000 donation. In Texas, it's illegal to use union dues for political campaigns unless union members are aware and approve the donation.

Prop B ultimately failed by a slim 2% margin during May 2021's citywide election. If passed, the measure would have barred SAPOA from collective bargaining with the city, removing some of the union's power to negotiate wages, healthcare, leave and other policies.

Although ACT 4 SA was established after the Prop B vote, Tomas served as deputy director for Fix SAPD, the group behind the ballot measure.

ACT 4 SA's complaint also alleges that current SAPOA Treasurer Jason A. Sanchez broke the law when he filed a campaign finance report about the 2021 expenditures under his own name instead of the union's. Sanchez wasn't the treasurer on file for the organization at the time of the paperwork, according to the Ethics Commission complaint.

The complaint comes as ACT 4 SA kicks off its campaign for the San Antonio Justice Charter Initiative, a measure that would hypothetically decriminalize marijuana and abortion in San Antonio along with banning certain controversial police tactics. After a successful petition drive, that proposal will go before voters in May of this year.

SAPOA President Danny Diaz has criticized the Justice Charter Initiative, saying the proposed changes would hinder SAPD's ability to do its work. Union leadership has said it plans to use $1.8 million in general funds for targeted political expenditures against the charter, according to Act 4 SA.

"Instead of focusing on their job of upholding the law, they plan to spend $3 million over the span of two election cycles to influence policy and mislead the public," ACT 4 SA's Tomas said in a press release. "The police union will stop at nothing to gain political power and fight the community's clear demand for more accountability, transparency, and a true sense of safety.

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Michael Karlis

Michael Karlis is a Staff Writer at the San Antonio Current. He is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., whose work has been featured in Salon, Alternet, Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, Orlando Weekly, NewsBreak, 420 Magazine and Mexico Travel Today. He reports primarily on breaking news, politics...

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