Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Fired Worker Shows San Antonio Ban Lacks Cause

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (CN) - A federal judge said he was unconvinced that a former employee San Antonio banned from its city buildings actually "poses any physical threat."

Michael Cuellar was working as a contract coordinator in the San Antonio Fire Department when he chose resignation over termination in February 2012.

Cuellar said the department saddled him with the decision after his involvement in an incident with a co-worker that "was determined not to have any merit."

After resigning, Cuellar allegedly made multiple requests for public information regarding the end of his employment and "matters of public interest."

Police Chief William McManus and City Attorney Michael Bernard issued a criminal trespass notice blocking Cuellar from entering several government buildings, including City Hall and the Municipal Plaza Building. Cuellar said the ban occurred just as the Public Works Department had hired him as a contract coordinator.

Cuellar sued the city, Bernard and McManus for violations of the First Amendment and his right to due process in February. He sought an injunction preventing enforcement of the criminal trespass notice.

U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez granted that injunction Wednesday, despite noting an apparent discrepancy in Cuellar's claims.

"Cuellar alleges that the ban caused him the loss of a subsequent opportunity to work as a contract employee for the city," a footnote in the 10-page order states. "Ironically, while Cuellar presents himself as a private citizen watchdog patrolling corruption at City Hall, Cuellar was using his girlfriend, a city employee, to direct the outside vendor to offer him this contract employment. Cuellar and his girlfriend kept the outside vendor in the dark about their relationship."

Rodriguez also noted a violence-in-the-workplace report that involved Cuellar.

"The report stated that Cuellar threatened to strangle and kill employees in the purchasing office because his requests had not yet been processed," Rodriguez wrote.

He nevertheless found that Cuellar poses a minimal threat to the city.

"Defendants argue that Cuellar poses a threat to the safety of its employees," Rodriguez wrote. "No doubt that Cuellar has acted rudely and has been verbally abusive towards some of his fellow employees; however, the defendants have failed to tender any persuasive evidence that Cuellar poses any physical threat. While employed at the city, Cuellar was not placed on leave or punished, and no law enforcement officer was summoned to the workplace. Cuellar was not discharged, but rather allowed to resign in lieu thereof. He did not attempt to reenter his former work site. Cuellar, however, has engaged in behavior that is either sophomoric or constitutes more than a nuisance to those law enforcement officials charged with guarding our elected officials.

"On the other side of the scale, plaintiff is being deprived of rights afforded to him by the First Amendment," the ruling concludes.

Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.