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Council Denies Independent Ethics Commission On Grand Jury Report

Mayor Gillmor questioned the ability of the current City Council to police itself, council members say they're standing up for the Constitutional rights.

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.

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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.

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9 Comments
  1. Buchser Alum 1 month ago
    Reply

    David,

    You wrote: “Her support of Santa Clara News Online blogger Robert Haugh, who mayoral opponent Anthony Becker accused of homophobic invective, landed her in hot water.”

    That is false. Anthony Becker did not accuse Robert Haugh of homophobic invective. Becker accused Haugh of running a website on which a couple of third parties posted comments that referred to him as “the monkeypox candidate” and “low hanging fruit” and “a dingleberry.”

    The way you phrase it suggests that Becker believes that Haugh himself wrote homophobic invective which is just not true.

    The distinction is very important to make and you should not make such accusations with such ambiguous language. Unless you want the Silicon Valley Voice to seem like just another fringe blog that is full of amateurish partisan opinions. Even Robert Haugh does not write pieces attacking people at Silicon Valley Voice personally or trying to insinuate that you are homophobic.

    Your comments are not moderated and if someone were to post something with truly homophobic slurs and someone else screenshotted these would it be justified for someone to accuse you David Alexander of homophobic invective?

    Robert Haugh is a one man band whose personal bias is evident in everything he writes. But even he does not go to the lengths that you and others here do to make unjustified and deceptive personal attacks. Is this really the level of professionalism that the Silicon Valley Voice aspires to?

  2. David Alexander 1 month ago
    Reply

    You are right. Thank you for your attention to detail. I will contact the editor about a correction. It would be better to say he gives a platform to such comments.

    • Buchser Alum 1 month ago
      Reply

      David,

      You write: “You are right. Thank you for your attention to detail. I will contact the editor about a correction. It would be better to say he gives a platform to such comments.”

      Thank you for acknowledging and considering my criticism.

      I do not think that “it would be better to say he gives a platform to such comments.” That makes it sound like homophobic comments are commonly seen on his site and commonly allowed. This is simply not true.

      What would be accurate to report would be: “On Robert Haugh’s website there have been two or three comments written by readers that contain homophobic language or language that suggests homophobia in relation to Anthony Becker. One comment by an anonymous commenter referred to Becker as “monkeypox candidate” but this offensive slur was later edited out by Haugh. In another comment Bob O’Keefe referred to Becker as “low hanging fruit” and a “dingleberry.”

      Then leave readers to conclude whether or not the above constitutes “giving a platform for homophobic invective.”

      Of course you could just simply write your opinion and lead readers to beliefs you want them to believe and have your piece filed under the “Opinion” section of this site where such pieces belong.

  3. CSC 1 month ago
    Reply

    In previous Civil Grand Jury reports, specific to the City of Santa Clara, here are some observations…
    .
    1) City of Santa Clara: Public Records Access, “The Paper Chase”
    • In addition to responses, Mayor Gillmor replied, “(i) The lack of benchmarking that should have taken place during the investigation and (ii) Why has the City of Santa Clara been targeted?”
    • Civil Grand Jury Report: https://www.scscourt.org/court_divisions/civil/cgj/2019/CGJ%20City%20of%20Santa%20Clara%20Final%20Report%20-%2006.18.19.pdf
    • City of Santa Clara response: https://www.scscourt.org/court_divisions/civil/cgj/2019/Responses/City%20of%20Santa%20Clara%2009.16.19.pdf
    2) Police and the Mentally Ill: Improving Outcomes
    • Civil Grand Jury Report: https://www.scscourt.org/court_divisions/civil/cgj/2018/Police_and_Mentally_Ill_Improving_Outcomes050818.pdf
    • Then Police Chief, Mike Sellers, was provided the opportunity to review responses prior to being submitted to the presiding judge: https://www.scscourt.org/court_divisions/civil/cgj/2018/Responses/Police%20and%20the%20Mentally%20Ill%20City%20of%20Santa%20Clara09.05.2018.pdf
    3) Law Enforcement Public Complaint Procedures
    • Santa Clara PD in violation of California Penal Code 832.5(a)(1) https://www.scscourt.org/court_divisions/civil/cgj/2013/LawEnforcementPublicComplaintProcedures.pdf
    • Santa Clara PD admits to violation https://www.scscourt.org/court_divisions/civil/cgj/2013/responses/LEcomplaint/SantaClara.pdf
    .
    In the above previous cases, the Mayor questioned why they were “targeted”, accused the jury of lacking adequate benchmarking, and allowed those accused of violating state law to review responses before submitting to the presiding judge. By allowing council members Becker, Hardy, Jain, Park, and Chahal to review and respond to the current Civil Grand Jury report, the City of Santa Clara’s governing body is simply following precedent in these matters.

  4. Hmmmm 1 month ago
    Reply

    Please point out the specific inaccuracies in the grand jury report. Please indicate which of recommendations (that increase transparency and accountability) would hurt the citizens of Santa Clara.

    • Davy L 1 month ago
      Reply

      An excerpt from a Mercury News article (10/16/22)
      “… The grand jury didn’t interview any 49ers representatives. Not did it talk to Becker or Chahal to hear their side. That omission is unusual for a grand jury. Instead, the report largely parroted Gillmor’s narrative of events. As a result, it contains multiple errors, such as the charge that the 49ers are at fault for falling to book non-NFL stadium events that would generate promised revenue for the city. That failure was largely due to the pandemic coupled with the Gillmor-led council decision in 2017 to not allow week-night concerts that go beyond 10 pm.”
      “The lawsuit was the right course of action and ended the city’s $2 million-a-year legal expenses grand jury should interview all parties involved … They would learn that settling the 49ers.”

    • Davy L 1 month ago
      Reply

      Oops, sorry. Got cut off. Here’s the continuation:
      “They would learn that settling the 49ers lawsuit was the right course of action and ended the city’s $2 million-a-year legal expenses.”

  5. W.S 1 month ago
    Reply

    I think the Grand Jury who wrote the report should be completely embarrassed about their work. It reads so heavily of bias that it is shameful. No interviews, no supportive documentation, interpretation of council meetings without further input, and so on. I would truly like to know how many people on that Grand Jury are Lisa Gillmor associates/friends/supporters. It is well documented that Lisa Gillmor is not in support of the 2026 FIFA Cup coming to Santa Clara. Santa Clara hosted the Super Bowl without incidents but apparently it now has to determine if there is a risk to the city for the FIFA Cup? The Eighth Finding was particularly biased in stating “how loyal and dedicated the previous City Attorney and City Manager” were and that they were terminated shortly after raising issues related to the 49ers. Apparently, the Grand Jury DID NOT watch any of the council meetings regarding the LACK of communication from Attorney Brian Doyle regarding the opposing Council’s settlement offer on the CVRA lawsuit that ultimately cost the city $6million nor did they watch any of the council meetings and saw the repeated disrespect and acrimony coming from City Manager Deanna Santana to members of the Council. They were not fired due to issues with the 49ers. They were terminated due to poor performance and poor management skills. Lisa Gillmore and Deanna Santana are at the heart of the problems between the 49ers and the City but apparently the Grand Jury chose not to review those records in order to support Gillmore and Santana. What an absolute sham of a report.

    • Davy L 1 month ago
      Reply

      W.S:
      Thank you very much for your comments. I agree with you 100%.

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