San Antonio City Council, in a special Nov. 14 meeting, voted to censure District 10 Council Member Clayton Perry based on his involvement in a recent alleged vehicular hit-and-run, but council opted not to ask for his resignation as originally proposed in the meeting agenda item.
The Nov. 6 incident prompted some local leaders and constituents to question whether Perry was drunk, based on a police report stating he smelled of alcohol and a body camera video that shows Perry lying on his lawn and slow to an answer a police officer’s questions.
But after Perry apologized to council and community members, and acknowledged having a personal problem, as well as after numerous residents spoke in his defense, the council voted to strike from the agenda item a call for Perry’s resignation.
Instead, Perry is now on an indefinite leave of absence, and the city is currently seeking applications from eligible District 10 residents interested in serving as an interim council member until Perry says he is ready to return to work.
Additionally, Perry has been stripped of his council committee assignments, city officials confirmed Nov. 15.
In a prepared statement, Perry said he would also use his sabbatical to further consult medical professionals “to ensure this will never happen again.”
“I commit wholeheartedly to whatever course of action or rehabilitation they recommend. I take my responsibilities as an elected official to District 10 and the city of San Antonio very seriously,” Perry said.
While police took no action the night of the reported accident, they did on Nov. 10 issue a warrant for Perry, who turned himself in to authorities the same day.
Perry was released from custody later the same day on $2,000 bond. He was charged with a Class B misdemeanor for failure to stop and give information for a vehicular crash with $200 or more in damages. According to the county, Perry’s arraignment is set for Dec. 12.
On Nov. 11, the city called a special council session for Nov. 14 to consider a resolution declaring no confidence in Perry and request he voluntarily step down. City Attorney Andy Segovia said the council could remove a member only if they were convicted in a court of law of an offense involving moral turpitude, according to the city charter.
Perry issued the same prepared statement shortly before the special meeting and during the session, offering apologies to the people in the Honda Civic he allegedly struck, and to fellow council members, his staff and constituents. He also expressed gratitude the outcome of his car crash was not worse.
“I’m very grateful to God that nobody else was injured, and I humbly, respectfully ask for forgiveness,” Perry said.
Perry said a sermon delivered during a church service he attended Nov. 13 reminded him that faith gives people the confidence to be courageous in the face of adversity.
“I have faith that I can be better, do better and make better decisions,” Perry said.
Perry asked for a sabbatical from his duties as the District 10 elected representative while Bexar County law enforcement authorities complete their investigation. Perry also said the time off will allow him address his personal issues.
Before the council considered their proposed resolution, Perry said he did not intend to resign from his seat, and instead sought empathy and understanding from the community.
“I am asking for some time for me to heal, for due process to play out and for a little humanity and compassion,” he said.
Perry acknowledged making a mistake, although he would rather have his council colleagues be patient during the criminal investigation process and not consider “rushing this resolution.”
“At the end of the day, it is my belief that the people of District 10 who elected me should be the ones who decide who sits in this office,” Perry said.
Perry is in his third term as the District 10 council member; the mayor’s office and all 10 council seats are up for election in May 2023.
Several residents, friends and associates spoke at the special council meeting to defend Perry, with some saying the council was rushing without due process, and that District 10 and the city has benefitted from his council work.
District 9 Council Member John Courage, just before the special Nov. 14 meeting, said his office received messages from numerous District 10 residents suggesting he oppose any council action censuring Perry or seeking his resignation.
The controversy surrounding Perry prompted District 10 resident Luke Schulte to create an online petition requesting Perry’s resignation. As of 1:30 p.m. Nov. 14, the petition had 201 of 500 desired signatures.
Schulte, echoing comments from some people who signed his petition, said District 10 deserves better leadership.
“You must resign immediately,” Schulte said in his petition.
While council members said they have enjoyed working with Perry, regardless of differences in political beliefs, some representatives, such as District 2 Council Member Jalen McKee-Rodriguez, said the council must hold one of their own accountable or risk losing trust from constituents.
“When we make a mistake, it’s important how we make them, and it’s important how we take accountability,” he said.
District 1 Council Member Mario Bravo, who received a no-confidence vote from the council Nov. 10, said he disagreed with the resolution and abstained from voting on the matter.
“It feels rushed, and it feels like a bit of campaigning from this dais instead of doing the work we’ve been elected to do,” Bravo said.
Other council members said they take Perry’s apology and commitment to self-improvement to heart, and asking him to resign—especially in light of his statement and comments from his supporters—was not a measure worth pursuing at this time.
“I believe it’s a more appropriate way of addressing the concerns we all share on council,” Courage said.
District 8 Council Member Manny Pelaez said he was heartened to hear Perry pledge to seek rehabilitation.
“That's even more important to me—your taking ownership and that knowing that you’ve got a problem are two very important steps out of 12,” Pelaez said.
Council voted 8-1 to amend the initial resolution, deleting their resignation request and eliminating language that said Perry seemingly showed little to no remorse or accountability for his behavior.
Perry and McKee-Rodriguez abstained from the amendment vote; Mayor Ron Nirenberg cast the lone no vote, saying he wanted to remain consistent with comments he made shortly after the accident. The council then voted 9-2 to pass the revised no-confidence resolution, with Bravo and Perry abstaining.
Perry did not say how long his sabbatical will last. City officials said they will accept applications from aspiring interim District 10 council representatives through Nov. 28.
The council expects to review applications at its Nov. 30 meeting, pare down the finalist list to three candidates, and select Perry’s replacement as soon as Dec. 1.