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Councilwoman Jada Andrews-Sullivan (D2), under fire from a former campaign worker who says she is owed money, said Tuesday she should have done more to quickly resolve the payment issue but rejected allegations she lives outside the district and has practiced nepotism in staffing her Council office.
Andrews-Sullivan, who won her seat after a heated runoff against interim Councilman Keith Toney, said she believes some of the allegations came from campaign workers who believed they should have been hired for her district staff and from other community members who endorsed other District 2 candidates.
“To have people that are looking to damage your name … is one of the hardest things to have to continue – to have to keep combating,” Andrews-Sullivan told the Rivard Report on Tuesday.
Former campaign worker Sylvia Lopez told several local news outlets that Andrews-Sullivan owes her $4,200 for canvassing work ahead of the June election. Checks written in payment to Lopez from the councilwoman were flagged for possible forgery by Andrews-Sullivan’s bank because the signatures were unusual.
The San Antonio Police Department (SAPD) received a complaint about the four checks that was investigated by its Forgery Unit, SAPD Lt. Jesse Salame said via email, but it concluded that the incident was not criminal.
“After obtaining interviews and reviewing the facts, the case was deemed to be civil in nature and subsequently closed,” Salame said.
Lopez, who has worked on campaigns for 34 years, said she just wants to be paid for the work she did for Andrews-Sullivan as block walking coordinator.
“If she would have just paid me from the get-go, none of this would have happened,” Lopez said. “I didn’t want to go to the media or anything – they came to me.”
Campaign fundraiser and coordinator Veronica Gonzalez has said she signed the checks with Andrews-Sullivan’s permission. But Andrews-Sullivan denied letting Gonzalez sign those checks on her behalf.
“That’s not how we did it,” Andrews-Sullivan said, adding that she would leave pre-signed checks with her staff while she was out campaigning.
Such a practice is standard procedure for campaign coordinators, said Gonzalez, who has worked in politics for 20 years, as is signing on behalf of the candidate.
“Sylvia did the work, she earned the money, and I paid her … No other vendors had a problem [with the checks she signed],” she said, just Lopez’s last check. “That gives me the impression of mismanagement of funds [on Andrew-Sullivan’s part].”
Andrews-Sullivan’s final campaign finance report from July 15 showed $5,143.95 cash on hand.
The councilwoman said she would “happily” pay Lopez what she claims she’s owed, but she needs to see a notarized invoice with dates and times of services provided as well as a detailed list of block walkers employed. In the meantime, Andrews-Sullivan said, there’s a check for $1,000 for Lopez waiting to be picked up at her office.
The councilwoman said she has hosted several fundraisers since she won the election to pay for remaining campaign costs.
“I have to protect my donors and I have to protect my community and not let people walk all over me,” Andrews-Sullivan said. “Now we’re just really looking to get the invoices and have her paid in full; it’s really just that simple.”
Lopez said that if she’s not paid in full this week or at least is contacted by Andrews-Sullivan, Lopez said she will file a civil lawsuit on Monday.
A previous invoice Lopez submitted to Andrews-Sullivan was paid, Lopez said. “I gave her the paperwork she wanted and now she’s saying that’s not enough,” she said.
For political vendors, providing such a detailed, notarized list is not common practice, Gonzalez said.
Neither campaign worker wanted a position in Andrews-Sullivan’s Council office, they said.
Questions surrounding Andrews-Sullivan’s residency surfaced last month after her mother told reporters the councilwoman hadn’t been staying with her for two weeks. During the month of July, Andrews-Sullivan said she took a “staycation” at a nearby Comfort Inn.
“You have to take a break away from the madness of it all … [I am] a 44-year-old woman, [I] do not have to be home all the time,” Andrews-Sullivan said. Until she can find a house in District 2, she said she will continue to stay with her mother.
Gonzalez and others raised questions about Andrews-Sullivan’s hiring of Eartis Eaglin, a former business partner who is working as a Council aide at her constituent office, saying he and the councilwoman are romantically involved. City officials and employees are prohibited from hiring relatives, spouses, or anyone they live with, according to the City’s Ethics Code.
“We’ve been good friends since we were 12,” she said of Eaglin.
Asked if she is romantically involved with Eaglin, she said, “never have been, never will be.”
Amid the controversies, Andrews-Sullivan said she and her staff have been working on the “real issues” that face District 2, which includes the East Side.
She has recently attended neighborhood meetings and a public safety meeting, and she met with the City’s budget staff to talk about her district’s funding priorities, she said, which includes service and maintenance costs for the Ella Austin Community Center and more funding for the MLK March. City Council will see a draft budget for the next fiscal year on Thursday.
Some neighborhoods in the district struggle with some of the highest crime rates in the city, and the East Side is still recovering from decades of underinvestment in public and private infrastructure while grappling with an influx of new development with the potential of fostering both growth and gentrification.
District 2 has had five representatives on City Council, both interim and elected, over the past five years.
Andrews-Sullivan, a disabled U.S. Army veteran and motivational speaker, was born and raised on San Antonio’s East Side. She defeated Toney in a hotly contested runoff election, winning 52 percent of the vote.
She said she does not want “the noise to distract us from doing the work that we need to be doing for the community.”