Leaders of San Antonio Water System dropped a lawsuit Monday aimed at stopping a petition drive to overhaul the city-owned utility in its tracks, arguing that petitioners didn’t gather enough signatures to bring their proposed reforms before voters anyway.
Members of the coalition seeking the reforms, however, say they still have time to gather the 20,000 valid signatures they need to get the reforms on the May ballot.
Activists want a number of changes to the city charter, including to rework the utility’s governance structure, slash the pay of its CEOs, limit their tenure in office and place stricter term limits on SAWS board members.
In an attempt to rout the coalition, SAWS officials sought a ruling from a Travis County judge in December that the water utility’s governance can’t be changed through a ballot measure. The proposed amendments, lawyers for the utility argued, would contradict language in city ordinances and bond agreements spelling out how the utility is governed and “threaten the validity” of $3.3 billion worth of bonds and notes.
Now, SAWS officials say they no longer need to pursue that course of action because petitioners haven’t turned in any signatures.
“SAWS has an obligation to protect and defend its rate-payers, bondholders and the ordinances passed by the San Antonio City Council from threats which have the potential to negatively impact its continued operations, including its bond ratings, and will continue to consider all appropriate action to do so in the future,” Nancy Belinsky, the utility’s vice president and general counsel, said in a statement.
On ExpressNews.com: Jefferson: ‘Kneecapping’ reform — San Antonio Water System is trying to kill a proposed cap on CEO pay, scrutiny of high-dollar projects and other controls before voters can weigh in
Leaders of the coalition, which includes the Alamo Sierra Club and the League of Independent Voters, contend SAWS’ declaration of victory may be premature — and that there’s still enough time to turn signatures in to the city clerk’s office in time for the May election.