People of Santa Clara, it is time for concern. The City is being led by someone who believes she is above the law and above reprisal.
On the surface, the Aug. 30 closed session of the City Council that resulted in a he said/she said involving the Council majority and the Council minority may seem like the same old politics. But this one came to a frightening conclusion.
Words were exchanged and Mayor Lisa Gillmor determined that the “verbal attacks and irrational behavior” – her words, not ours – displayed by Council Member Anthony Becker required police presence.
As Gillmor told the SF Chronicle, “I called the police because it was obvious he was having huge anger issues. I’m always very careful if it appears anyone is getting out of control. But he was so emotional and I wanted to protect myself.”
But the number that Mayor Gillmor called, in this case, was not 9-1-1. It was a direct call to Police Chief Pat Nikolai. A public records request to the City of Santa Clara shows that Mayor Gillmor called Chief Nikolai on Aug. 30. The Chief missed the call, but he called Mayor Gillmor back. Then, the Chief got on the phone with police dispatch and received a call from Sgt. Joshua Craig.
Unfortunately, Chief Nikolai’s records are the only records The Weekly can access. An official Public Records request made by The Weekly that asked for “Communications between Lisa Gillmor and Kathy Watanabe and employees and officials of the Santa Clara Police Department from Tue 8/30 8:30 a.m. to Wed 5 p.m., including: 9-1-1 calls for services, calls to non-emergency PD phone numbers, calls to city or personal cell phones, text messages, emails,” went unanswered by Mayor Gillmor and Council Member Kathy Watanabe. That’s despite the fact that Mayor Gillmor herself told the SF Chronicle that she “called the police” and Chief Nikolai’s phone records back up that fact.
This raises two important issues that every citizen of Santa Clara should take note of no matter how they feel about the 49ers, the Council majority or the Mayor. First, a public official sworn to serve the people of Santa Clara DID NOT comply with an official California Public Records Act request – a system that was created with the sole purpose of holding the people in power accountable.
Phone logs from Chief Nikolai prove that there was information to report, yet Mayor Gillmor used her own discretion to determine that this information was not something that should be shared with the public.
Second, that as Mayor of Santa Clara, Mayor Gillmor believes she is more important than the ordinary citizens of this City. The Editorial Board is not arguing the merits of Mayor Gillmor’s call of distress. She is a citizen of Santa Clara. If she felt threatened, she is well within her rights to call for help.
What the Editorial Board is concerned about is the message that this call sends to the other citizens of Santa Clara.
Santa Clara is a city with a population of more than 126,000 residents and a police force of more than 150 sworn officers. Many of those officers are trained and certified to deal with crisis situations.
But Mayor Gillmor did not call 9-1-1 to reach one of the officers that would help “protect” her. Mayor Gillmor used her position of power to call the highest-ranking member of the Santa Clara police force directly. Who then called police dispatch and a sworn officer of the City of Santa Clara.
These actions prove Mayor Gillmor believes she is allowed special privileges. Privileges that are not stated in the City Charter. Privileges that allow her to pick and choose which formal public records requests she must comply with and which ones she can ignore. Privileges that allow her to personally call the Chief of Police when she needs to “protect” herself.
People of Santa Clara, is this what you want? Should any leader of this City be more important than its average citizen? Does the position of Mayor give someone extra privileges? What happens if you or I cross the Mayor? Can she call the police chief to check the registration on your car? Can she dispatch an officer to write you a ticket for jaywalking?
Make no mistake. What happened on Aug. 30 and everything that transpired following the event was a power move by the Mayor of Santa Clara. Mayor Gillmor had the opportunity to call 9-1-1, but she personally called the Chief of Police instead.
As the leader of Santa Clara, Mayor Gillmor had the opportunity to respect the rules of the closed session of the City Council, but she chose to run to the media instead.
Mayor Gillmor and Council Member Watanabe had 10 business days to comply with an official public records request, but they refused to comply.
Through her actions on Aug. 30 and the days following, Mayor Gillmor has conveyed two things to the people of Santa Clara. One that in her vaunted position as mayor, she is more important than any ordinary citizen, and two, you cross the mayor at your own peril.