Mayor Lisa Gillmor got on her soapbox about ethics at the Council’s most recent meeting, saying her Council colleagues — who were subject of a Civil Grand Jury report that accuses them of suspect dealings with the San Francisco 49ers — should not be “policing” themselves.
Gillmor lobbed the accusation several times at Tuesday night’s meeting during a discussion to consider responses to the findings and recommendations in the report. She harped on the ethics of the item being sent to the City’s Governance and Ethics Committee because Vice Mayor Suds Jain and Council Members Raj Chahal and Kevin Park, all named in the report, sit on that committee.
Among the report’s findings are claims that five Council Members, dubbed the “49er Five” by Gillmor supporters, regularly meet with the team, “possibly” violating the Brown Act. Further, the report intimates that the Council majority has done the 49ers’ bidding, placing the team’s interest above the City’s.
Additionally, the report put Council Members Karen Hardy and Chahal in its crosshairs for “potentially” violating the City’s gift policy by taking tours of the stadium.
Gillmor suggested an independent commission evaluate the report’s findings and advise the Council on the matter, but the Council majority squashed the motion, instead preferring to defend itself against the accusations in the report.
“It is going to be very difficult for members up here to objectively respond to the grand jury report when they are the subject of the grand jury report,” she said. “I don’t see any way to talk about issues about ourselves.”
With the November election looming, Gillmor spouting off about ethics is convenient political timing, especially since she has come under heavy fire in recent months for a slew of ethical accusations.
Her support of Santa Clara News Online blogger Robert Haugh, who mayoral opponent Anthony Becker has accused of allowing comments with a homophobic invective on his platform, landed her in hot water.
Her writing a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom asking for special dispensation for campaign contributor Related caused the Council to consider altering how letters from the City are dispensed.
Her real estate company possibly skirting labor law was also a bad look.
And, of course, there is her unsubstantiated claim about Loyalton Ranch.
Becker defended himself and his colleagues, saying meetings with the 49ers are noticed on council members’ calendars, including what was discussed. He took issue with what he saw as the report’s carelessness. He added that the report is trying to “muzzle” the Council majority.
“I was never interviewed. I was never asked to provide any evidence. In this country, you are innocent until proven guilty,” Becker said. “It is our right to defend ourselves. This is a one-way conversation. That is not policing ourselves. It is standing up for our Constitutional rights.”
Park said the report was clearly political, pointing the finger at Gillmor for several seemingly unrelated infractions. When Gillmor chimed in to ask whether Park was intent on simply attacking her or listing her “litany of lies,” Park responded “We don’t have time for that.”
Further, he took issue with the mayor’s request to accept the findings of the report, but when she withdrew that part of the motion, Park said he still had issue with other elements of the request, saying Gillmor was trying to “bully” the Council into accepting what she wanted.
Chahal also took issue with the grand jury’s not contacting the accused city council members.
“Even in third-world countries, where there are dictators, a conviction is done after the person is given a hearing. And here we are, in the United States of America, in a system where the judicial system is considered super great…Have you heard of this type of justice in the United States?” he said.
He went on to say that the accusations in the report are “very vague.” He called the grand jury “a political jury,” adding that “lies and misrepresentation are the hallmarks of this grand jury report.”
“The mayor mentioned how can we police ourselves; how can we investigate ourselves? […] What right [does the grand jury] have to target somebody’s image without even asking their response to that?” Chahal continued.
The City has 90 days to respond to the report, which was published in two parts Oct. 7 and Oct. 10. The item returns to Council at its next meeting.
Consent Calendar Spending
• A $407,000 agreement with CherryRoad Technologies for professional and technical services for PeopleSoft Human Capital Management Enhancements and Configurations.
• A five-year $1.6 million contract with Guidehouse, Inc. for consulting services for regulatory compliance for North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) and Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC).
• A two-year $90,000 extension to a contract with Townsend Public Affairs for legislative advocacy services; total contract is now $342,000.
• A $1.33 million amendment to an agreement with Wallace Roberts and Todd to study the relocation of city hall.
The next regularly scheduled meeting is Tuesday, Nov. 1 in the City Council Chambers at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara.
Members of the public can participate in the City Council meetings on Zoom at https://santaclaraca.zoom.us/j/99706759306; Meeting ID: 997-0675-9306 or call 1(669) 900-6833, via the City’s eComment (available during the meeting) or by email to PublicComment@santaclaraca.gov.