The public square is the cornerstone of democracy. The concept is that anyone can hop on a metaphorical soapbox and air their grievances about the government.
But what does it take to be banned from the public square in San Antonio?
It’s happening to two local residents who are being shunned by their elected representatives. John Foddrill and Michael Cuellar are two separate cases but with some suspicious common factors. Both men are former city employees who say that while on the job they found evidence of fraud or waste in city government.
Both were dismissed, and when they later protested, were told they were not allowed to go to city hall – or the city council chambers.
"The reason why the average San Antonian should care about this issue is, I once heard Winston Churchill say something [that] applies in this case: 'You cannot stand by and let one person be stripped of their rights without it someday coming home to you.' If [the city] can do it to us, they can do it to anybody."
In this episode of The Source you'll hear from both these men, but not from the city. TPR reached out repeatedly to the city communications department and the city attorney’s office asking for reaction, comment or an explanation, and received no response.
Official Response from District 1:
We did hear back from District 1 City Councilman Diego Bernal, who would not be recorded or go on the record to discuss the issue. However, he did say on the record that he was concerned about the lack of due process for the city council bans and would look into that.
“A Criminal Trespass Warning letter can be issued in direct response to a threat, threatening behavior, and/or harassment wherein repeated contacts by an individual are made thus creating an environment of fear. Criminal Trespass Warning letters are typically issued when the behaviors previously mentioned are clear and obvious.”
This being said, we have not been told what the obvious behavior issues are for Foddrill and Cuellar. And it does seem like the standard for banning people from attending a city council meeting should be higher than that.
We would like to have the city go on the record and on the air about this topic and our invitation to their participation remains open. Without the city’s participation there is no counterweight to the claims made by Foddrill and Cuellar.
- City Attorney Michael Bernard has responded to our inquiries and his remarks are included in the Jan. 16 episode of The Source: Banned From City Hall - The City Responds And The ACLU Reacts (see related content)