This article has been updated.
San Antonio City Council members will vote next week on whether to formally sanction Councilman Mario Bravo with a vote of no confidence over an outburst directed at Councilwoman Ana Sandoval in September, according to a meeting agenda posted Thursday evening.
Following the September incident, the City of San Antonio launched an investigation and Mayor Ron Nirenberg removed Bravo from his committee assignments.
The results of the investigation determined Bravo, who represents District 1, had “aggressively approached and berated” Sandoval (D7), violating the city’s equal employment opportunity and anti-harassment directives, as well as the city’s policy prohibiting violence in the workplace, according to the agenda item.
City Council members met behind closed doors Thursday morning to discuss the issue for roughly two hours at the beginning of their regular meeting. Bravo and Sandoval were not in the room for the presentation of findings or the discussion of how City Council should respond, according to sources familiar with the situation.
The city hired an independent investigator to look into Bravo’s behavior leading up to a Sept. 15 council vote on a plan to spend excess CPS Energy revenue in September.
On Thursday, Bravo stood outside the room as its results were presented to colleagues, then took his regular place at the dais after the discussion. He asked to present his side of the story to fellow council members in the closed session but was refused, according to sources familiar with the meeting.
“City Council believes a publicly issued written censure and vote of no confidence are the appropriate response to Councilmember Bravo’s actions on [Sept. 15],” the agenda item for the Nov. 10 council meeting reads.
A draft of the resolution City Council will vote on next week says Bravo’s “behavior has negatively impacted his and the City Council’s ability to conduct its business,” leading the Council to “lose confidence in his ability to act as an effective colleague.”
It needs eight votes to pass and go into effect immediately; if it passes with six votes it would go into effect 10 days after its passage, according to the draft. Bravo and Sandoval would recuse themselves from the vote, according to city spokeswoman Laura Mayes.
Bravo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Reached by phone Thursday evening, Sandoval declined to discuss the situation.
“This brings none of us any joy,” said Councilman Manny Pelaez (D8), who is an employment attorney. “We’re giving this matter the seriousness that it merits.”
Pelaez said City Attorney Andy Segovia instructed council members to refer reporters to his office for further information.
The censure vote is among City Council’s limited options to rebuke one its members.
“If you look at the charter, clearly [members of the Council] cannot be removed,” Segovia said, but Nirenberg could permanently remove Bravo from his committee assignments if the mayor chooses.
Removal of a sitting council member before their term expires would be up to voters, according to the city’s charter. Ten percent of the number of registered voters in District 1 at the time Bravo was elected would have to sign a petition and submit it to the City Clerk’s Office. Bravo was elected in 2021, and city elections are set for May 6, 2023.
The city charter states: “The council shall order a recall election which shall be held not less than thirty nor more than forty days after the petition has been presented to the council, and at the same time as any other special or general election held within such period. If no such election is to be held, the council shall call a special election.”
Bravo and Sandoval, both proponents of climate action, were romantic partners prior to Bravo’s election to City Council. In September, Bravo had been promoting a proposal to spend surplus revenue from CPS Energy on home weatherization, while Sandoval wanted to put some of the money aside for other climate mitigation efforts, including a fund to pursue federal grants that require matching local funds.
Nirenberg included Sandoval’s plan in the city’s overall budget proposal, paving the way for most of the CPS Energy money to be given back to ratepayers as a rebate.
Bravo sought to delay discussion of the CPS Energy revenue portion of the budget so that members could explore other uses for the money, such as his weatherization proposal. Though many council members expressed that they wanted the money used for something other than a rebate, Bravo’s effort failed on a 5-5 vote, with Sandoval abstaining.
Before the meeting Bravo confronted Sandoval over the issue, bringing up their past relationship and saying she had “knives” in his back, the San Antonio Express-News reported. Bravo later apologized for his behavior to Sandoval and to his District 1 constituents.
On Thursday, Sandoval took her seat at the dais shortly after the public part of the meeting had begun.
Mayes said in a statement earlier this week that the independent investigation into Bravo’s behavior was “consistent with the city’s policy for addressing workplace conduct.” It was conducted by New Braunfels attorney Natalie Rougeux.
An engagement letter between the city and Rougeux says she would serve as outside legal counsel for the city, conduct an investigation and provide City Council with her analysis of legal liabilities in a written report. She was to be paid $315 per hour for the work, and a legal assistant was to be paid $150 per hour.
Mayes said “the city manager, in consultation with the mayor, is responsible for handling workplace matters involving Council members.”
In May 2021, Bravo upset three-term Councilman Roberto Treviño to win the District 1 seat. With city elections more than six months away, Bravo already has a 2023 challenger. Last month Sukh Kaur, an education consultant and yoga instructor, announced plans to run in District 1.
Bravo reported $15,700 in his campaign account as of Sept. 30, according to his most recent campaign finance report.
This article has been updated to clarify when the resolution of no confidence would go into effect if passed by City Council.