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Though former San Antonio City Manager Sheryl Sculley was only able to share her thoughts on her new book, Greedy Bastards, for about 25 minutes Tuesday during a one-on-one conversation with San Antonio Report Publisher and Editor Robert Rivard, she was able to hit some of the highlights.
The event, which officially launched the book, took place at the Twig Book Shop at Pearl Brewery but was cut short after technical difficulties stopped the live stream. Sculley and Rivard will continue their conversation on Friday at 11 a.m.
Sculley’s book, Greedy Bastards: One City’s Texas-Size Struggle To Avoid a Financial Crisis (Lioncrest Publishers, Austin, 2020), gives readers an insider’s glimpse into the dysfunctional City organization she inherited when she was recruited in 2005 and details the smear campaigns and divisive election born out of disputes over health care and other terms in police and fire unions’ contracts.
“When I was recruited here in 2005, the police and fire union contracts were not even on my radar,” Sculley said Tuesday. “The mayor and council at the time, Mayor Phil Hardberger, who convinced me to come to San Antonio with Councilmember Richard Perez, and the others on the council at the time were looking for more professionalism within the city government, improving the credibility, improving service delivery to the public. … And in my early years, I was focused on all of the above, including getting our financial house in order. And in that process, of course, came across these contracts.”
You can listen to the audio from Tuesday’s shortened event here:
Sculley’s book delves into the disciplinary process in San Antonio law enforcement, which she said needed reform when she first arrived and still does. One of her first hires was San Antonio Police Chief William McManus, whom she hired within the first six months of her time with the City.
“We needed change to give him the authority to fire bad officers,” she said. “And the majority of the officers do great work. They are well regarded. I’m grateful for their service. … But the chief doesn’t have the authority that he needs.”
One of the problems Sculley pointed out was McManus’ limitations with the arbitration process when terminating police officers. McManus often is unable to use an officer’s entire file during arbitration, Sculley said. But when working with McManus, Sculley said they found problems with certain police officers and also a pattern of bad behavior within individuals. Sculley gave the example of one officer who had been jailed for sexual assault. When she examined his complete complaint file and saw “some signs early on” that there could have been problems, she asked, how many other officers fit that description?
“My experience over more than 40 years in city management is that when you hear about things more than once, and there are patterns, you need to pay close attention to those,” she said. “These are important jobs and we’re here to protect the public.”
Greedy Bastards’ original publication date was May 19, but was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic for logistical and philosophical reasons.
It’s hard to promote the book well during a pandemic, but Sculley also didn’t want to detract focus from the immediate health crisis, she said. Then there’s the “elephant in the room: this book’s title,” she wrote in a letter from the author. “I worry about this title being misconstrued during this pandemic.”
The phrase “greedy bastards” was borrowed from from police union President Mike Helle, she wrote, “who uttered it in a video to accuse me of portraying the association’s membership as such. I didn’t. And by the time you’ve finished reading this book, you’ll know that I never would.”
As shutdown orders continued, a financial crisis rose over the horizon, and a new police union contract loomed, she realized the book was more relevant than ever.
“Even as we all dream of a post-COVID-19-world, we’re realizing it can’t look like the old one,” she wrote. “We can’t go back to business as usual.”
The protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis, only further elevated the book’s relevancy and highlighted the need to buck the status quo, she said.
“These reforms are still a priority.”