City Council candidate ends up with egg on his face
By Brian Chasnoff / Express News
In the current issue of San Antonio Man Magazine, a fawning profile of District 8 City Council candidate Rolando Briones informs readers he was fired from the San Antonio Water System for refusing to eat a raw egg. Ron Aaron Eisenberg, who wrote the profile, says that’s what Briones told him.
There’s just one thing wrong with the story: It’s not true.
Briones was fired from SAWS in 2002 for “lack of leadership” and “willful violation of company policy,” according to SAWS documents. More specifically, he was fired for “acceptance of gifts from SAWS’ contractors,” according to documents filed in a federal lawsuit.
Briones admits he accepted “meals and golf outings” from vendors and defends this as a normal course of doing business. The magazine profile, though, mentions none of this. It paints Briones as a righteous victim of retired Air Force Gen. Eugene Habiger, who was CEO of SAWS at the time.
Its first few paragraphs, while painfully obsequious, bear reprinting:
“How do you go from earning $15,000 (sic) a year in 2002 to grossing over $9 million dollars (sic) in 2012?” Eisenberg writes. “Just ask Rolando Briones, 43. He’s done it and he’s done it on his own.
“It all began with getting fired from (SAWS). Briones loved working for SAWS. … But like many who worked for the San Antonio-owned water company, he did not get along with (Habiger). The fact is, a lot of folks didn’t get along with ‘the General,’ as he was called.
“The end came when Briones refused to swallow raw eggs at a SAWS staff meeting. … No eggs, no job!”
The profile goes on to laud Briones for starting a successful engineering firm.
The egg incident actually occurred. Habiger describes it as a “motivational” exercise at a meeting for SAWS’ Combined Charities Campaign in 2003. About 50 vice presidents, directors and managers were encouraged to eat raw eggs, shell and all.
But Briones no longer was a SAWS employee when they did.
His termination “occurred about a year before the raw egg incident, so Briones wasn’t even around,” Habiger told me. “So that’s totally bogus. He was terminated for cause, for inappropriate professional behavior. He is so far off base.”
Briones’ whitewash of his record doesn’t sit well with Habiger, who once commanded America’s nuclear arsenal as former head of the U.S. Strategic Command.
“His assertions are totally untrue and totally inappropriate for an elected official in San Antonio, Texas,” Habiger said.
To straighten this out, I called Briones on Wednesday, the first day candidates could file to run for the City Council. (Briones filed first in District 8.)
He tried to tap-dance around the raw egg.
“I think (Eisenberg) meant to say that figuratively,” Briones said. “He did not quote me. But that was the environment I felt we were being exposed to. I thought it was a very military-esque environment.”
I asked him how such a literal phrase, “the end came when Briones refused to swallow raw eggs at a SAWS staff meeting,” could be written “figuratively.”
“It may sound literal, but he did not quote me,” Briones said. “I was not at that meeting.”
I called Eisenberg to clarify exactly what Briones had told him.
“I just wrote what (Briones) told me,” Eisenberg said. “I asked him, ‘Did you go to the meeting where allegedly staff were asked to swallow raw eggs?’ And he said, ‘I did, and I refused to do that.’”
(In an email to an editor, Eisenberg wrote, “Rolando did tell me that he refused to eat the eggs!”)
Amid all the runny yolk, here’s my take: In the service of a glowing profile, Briones lied to Eisenberg. He then lied to me about lying to Eisenberg. Ironically, this attempt to erase an ethical blot on his record only resulted in highlighting it.
This would almost be amusing if Briones weren’t actually angling for City Hall.