San Antonio – Universal City Fire Chief, Steven Darnell launched an attack on women in a sensational video interview that he claims he was the victim of a bad divorce in 2014. His blog was almost a reverse #MeToo which empowered men to consult with him and follow his advice when their wives betrayed the man’s trust.
The facts are Stephen Darnell is currently married. Based on a number of Texas legal protections for spouses who are victims of abuse, the SA Observer has not attempted to report on what is within the marriage. Last week, we published the report of Jennifer Polendo, which Darnell met on Tinder.com. He posed as a single man seeking a relationship. Polendo was unaware the Fire Chief was legally married. As a single parent with children, she was hopeful of the opportunity of a long lasting relationship with Darnell. According to our interviews, once he repeatedly beat her, and she found the truth, that Darnell was legally married, she reported her claims to Universal City. According to the UC Fire Chief Manuel Casarez statement, the Observer published last week, he indicated Polendo’s case was sent to an investigator – Gerard Herrera. Disturbingly, Polendo says “I have never been contacted by this investigator. I don’t know who he represents, his background, and if he is an employee of Universal City.” She says the handoff process for victims is an area of great improvement.
Some of our readers on social media, tweet and believe like the President of the United States that due process is appropriate. Yes, there is a segment of society who believe that a rush to judgement is never appropriate. But when two testimonies or complaints have been filed concerning abuse by a high-level public official, and photos of violence do not lie, when does a Fire Chief or City Manager make a reasonable decision to suspend their star employee?
Again, some of you said “Let’s not rush to judge…”, “Darnell’s work may be excellent…” and some of the women who saw the pictures of Darnell sadly sad “MeTooPlease” as their response to the “tall, dark and handsome” Universal City Assistant Fire Chief Darnell’s alleged behavior.
After being told the victims have not been interviewed and after being denied any statement from the Universal City, we kept digging for evidence.
What did we find? More breaking news… as we searched the neighboring Guadalupe County’s public website, you will find in 1998, 20-years ago, Darnell was listed as Defendant: Steven Anthony Darnell vs The State of Texas. The record says, Assault Causes Bodily Injury Family Violence – GUILTY. This was an assault on Lawanda Fennell-Kinney. This violence occurred 20-years ago before Jennifer Polendo reported the same physical abuse. We have not heard from his current spouse, regarding the reports.
It is our editorial responsibility to inform you, Ms Fennell-Kinney did not come looking for us. We found her public complaint and notified her of our findings. The question is how did Darnell get a pass as a Peace Officer, receive license to carry a concealed hand gun, and become promoted as a Fire Marshall and Assistant Fire Chief? Like many women today standing up, Lawanda Fennell-Kinney had the courage to address the situation. She says, “As a professional who serves women of family violence/domestic violence and in situations like this, all I can say is yes the public record of my incidents with Mr. Darnell did happen as the report states. The incident was adjudicated through Guadalupe County and I moved on. I am sorry twenty years later these things are still occurring, and would have hoped Mr. Darnell would have grown as a person. I am prayerful for his children, family, and for any unfortunate events to any of his victims. #MeToo”
After reporting on one victim last week, our readers were shocked to learn this public official of Universal City, Texas has not been arrested, fired, or being held to any standard through an “investigation”.
Today, Jennifer posted on social media her picture of her bruised face and her hash tags #MeToo #Porter #UCFD. Jennifer appropriately links her story to Robert Porter – the White House staffer recently released for his alleged violence against his wife. Like Darnell, Porter was promoted to a very prominent position working for the chief of staff and his security credentials were not complete. As the picture of the victim’s black eye was broadcast – Rob Porter continued to be praised for his outstanding work by the President.
One of the disturbing facts remains Universal City received complaints against Darnell back in October 2017. It went unanswered. The City Manager still has not responded to the allegations.
Why should at least three women, who were brave enough to respond and report having police protective orders against Stephen Darnell in place, have to be ashamed of the abuse they received at his hands? Why did two victims, after filing protective orders, have to move their homes and relocate their children to avoid future harassment, threats and violent confrontations with Stephen Darnell? What is the price the victim pays to create a normal life in the middle of chaos and dysfunction? Is there a Good Old Boy cover-up in Universal City, especially as the problems detailed last week, were reported by at least two women? Who is the investigator that was mentioned, who has never been properly introduced by Fire Chief? Is this investigator a part of the local police, or an independent investigator reporting to a higher authority?
As this report, I am listening to CNN’s Ana Navarro. Ironically Navarro says, “Domestic abusers are not all in tank tops, they are Rhodes Scholars and professionals too.” In the San Antonio area (Universal City), this #MeToo has impacted at least three women negatively. One woman says “Is once enough, two too many, or is three not enough. Maybe a fourth woman will need to come forward to help justify the three victims and their complaints????”
As it pertains to the position as Fire Marshall, Darnell's name is not documented on the State of Texas website for Peace Officer. He wears a badge but under what authority? Is the silence a part of a bigger cover-up? He has shut down businesses in Universal City as a certified Fire Marshall? What due process do those business owners have with Universal City if it is factual Darnell was not properly certified?
With the silence between Universal City and the press, it appears there is a much larger issue and possible institutional cover-up of a very high ranking city public official. How the nation, states, cities, counties, and towns respond to the issues of violence against women by its' leaders is a conversation we are in the middle of. #METOO