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Council Calendars: Is City Pushing Brown Act Envelope?

The biggest issues popping up on the February Council Calendars are that five Council Members listed the Feb. 3 Fifth Annual Librarypalooza as an event they attended and four reported attending the AMD, Inc. Headquarters Grand Opening on Feb. 7. Mayor Lisa Gillmor, Vice Mayor Kathy Watanabe, Dominic Caserta, Teresa O’Neill and Debi Davis each had the library event listed on their calendar, and Gillmor, O’Neill, Watanabe, Davis listed the grand opening.

While Gillmor, Watanabe and O’Neill have the AMD, Inc. grand opening listed as a “public event,” Davis’ calendar has it listed as an “invited guests,” or by invitation, event, which is a distinction that must be made. Although the Council Members are not in direct violation of the Brown Act/Open Meetings Law, it is often frowned upon for a majority—or more than three—Council Members to attend any non-Council meeting or event, either paid or by invitation, as it is entirely possible—although unlikely—official City business would be conducted.

Notable on the Council calendars is Gillmor’s Feb. 15 meeting with City Manager Deanna Santana and Sam Singer of Singer Associates, Inc. Singer Associates touts itself as “Best of the Bay: San Francisco’s top public relations and corporate communications firm,” according to its website and names its specialties as public relations, public affairs, crisis communications and creative services. Singer Associates lists the City of San Jose, City of Pacifica, City of San Bruno and City of Milpitas as clients.

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Since Santa Clara’s Public Information Officer Jennifer Yamaguma has been acting as City Clerk after the abrupt departure of Rod Diridon, Jr. on Feb. 6, there is and will continue to be, a hole within the City’s communications department. However, if a communications consultant is to be hired, it would need to happen through official avenues (RFP voted on by Council) so the City doesn’t run into another incident similar to the one with Banner Public Affairs in 2017.

A final interesting note in February is that Gillmor and O’Neill’s online calendars have been changed. While all other Council Members have a full history of their meetings dating back to when the City adopted Ordinance No. 1950, Chapter 2.160—or the calendar clause—Gillmor and O’Neill’s online calendars only list the month of February, leaving no recorded history of any previous meetings.

Both Gillmor and Caserta received a deposition briefing for the Yumori-Kaku vs. The City of Santa Clara lawsuit, with Gillmor’s deposition briefing on Feb. 12 and Caserta’s on Feb. 8 and 9. Filed Nov. 20, 2017, the lawsuit alleges that Santa Clara is in violation of the California Voting Rights Act of 2001, Elections Code 14025. The discriminatory effect alleged is that Asian-Americans are not represented or have been elected to City Council, despite 30.5 percent of Santa Clara’s eligible voters identifying as Asian-Americans.

Developers took a backseat in meeting with Council during the month of February. Gillmor recorded only one meeting with Stephen Ross of Related Companies regarding City Place on Feb. 28 and one meeting about development updates with Carlene Matchniff of Irvine on Feb. 20, while Watanabe met with Jonathan Fearn of Summerhill and consultant/lobbyist Cynthia James on Feb. 5 about the Tasman East project.

View Council Member calendars at http://santaclaraca.gov/government/public-calendars-of-certain-city-officials.

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