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Council Gives City Attorney $320,000/Year Contract, Hires Consultant to Regulate Cannabis

Despite strenuous objections from the Vice Mayor, the Santa Clara City Council approved making the Interim City Attorney full-time to the tune of $320,000 a year.

Brian Doyle has been acting as Interim City Attorney—working part-time—since former City Attorney, Richard Nosky, resigned early this year during his evaluation. The Council unanimously—with Vice Mayor Dominic Caserta and Council Member Patricia Mahan—approved bringing Doyle on full-time in a closed-session meeting Dec. 12.

However, Caserta said Tuesday night that he had concerns of “procedure” and “performance” regarding Doyle’s appointment. Caserta, along with Council Member Patricia Mahan, were unable to attend the closed session meeting where the rest of the Council agreed to offer Doyle the job full-time.

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Caserta told the public that he would “enthusiastically” vote “no,” explaining that he took umbrage with Doyle’s $320,000-a-year salary—a figure that Caserta claimed Doyle suggested—not going through the Salary Setting Committee, adding that it was 7 percent higher than Nosky had been paid previously. At a time when, because of budgetary reasons, the Council is asking City employees to “tighten their belts,” Caserta said he was “monumentally concerned” with the kind of message giving Doyle such a salary sends.

He called the process for setting new employee salaries “murky” and “inconsistent.”

Further, Caserta said he was under the impression Doyle would be brought on short-term, and he expressed chagrin at the lack of written performances of Doyle’s work, saying that he has “grave concerns” with Doyle’s performance. Doyle, he said, frequently interjects personal opinions on Council matters.

“The role of the City Attorney is to be the objective, fierce advocate for clients,” Caserta said. “It is not a Council Member. It is not a policy maker.”

Still, the rest of the Council felt differently.

Council Member Teresa O’Neill said Doyle had been evaluated, although she acknowledged that those evaluations had “not been captured in writing.” In regards to Doyle’s pay, she said to get candidates with that kind of experience the City should consider the competitive market they are in.

Council Member Pat Kolstad said he “understood” Caserta’s concerns, but still voted in favor of the appointment.

Mayor Lisa Gillmor said Doyle has been doing a “phenomenal job” and that Santa Clara is “lucky” to have him.

“He has done wonders for the City,” she said. “With him in a full-time position, we can only do better.”

Council mainstay Kirk Vartan, a San Jose resident with a Santa Clara business, said Doyle gives responses that are “straight” and “clear” and that he does so “quickly.”

“He is not afraid to get his hands dirty,” Vartan said.

Caserta said the criticisms were not a “personal attack,” and even applauded with the rest of the crowd when Doyle re-entered the room following the discussion. The vote passed 5-1, with Caserta being the lone “no” vote.

 

Cannabis Ordinance

In the wake of last year’s vote to legalize the recreational use of cannabis, the City Council has been hurrying to get regulations in place before state laws go into effect.

Toward that end, the Council approved a contract with Fairfield-based SCI Consulting Group to provide services surrounding the local regulation of commercial growth and distribution of cannabis.

Ruth Shikada, Assistant City Manager, said SCI would help conduct public study sessions, do research and assessment as to how to restrict cannabis sales, help draft an ordinance and draft the City’s policies surrounding its sale.

She said those regulations would likely come before the Council in May to ensure that, should the Council opt to place a commercial tax on the sale of cannabis, a ballot measure will be ready by November 2018.

Neill Hall, with SCI, said his company is doing similar consulting for 17 cities in three counties. The timeline, he added, is “very doable.”

Deborah Bress, a Santa Clara public meeting mainstay, said she hopes to hear the positive aspects of allowing recreational use of cannabis; so far, she said she has only heard “gloom and doom.”

Vartan said he hoped the Council will look for ways to capture revenue from the industry prior to any attempt to impose a tax so as to generate money for the City in the meantime.

“Dip your toe in this, and have something coming along,” he said.

The Council unanimously approved the $192,000 contract.

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New Parks

Overhauls to two parks were also a topic of discussion.

Machado Park and Bowers Park will get facelifts to bring them up to Americans with Disabilities Act standards (ADA) as well as to make better use of the space. The work is funded by a federal grant.

Jim Teixeira, Parks and Recreation Director, said both of the parks are in need of updates. The schematics for the parks will ensure that children of all ages and abilities can enjoy the park in a variety of ways.

“We are really trying to make the parks themselves outdoor community centers,” he said. “We are really hitting on all cylinders.”

The Council approved the schematics but asked the City Manager to look into expanding the planned dog park area.

 

Contracts

The Council rejected a contract to fix two sanitary sewer pumps that pump two-thirds of the City’s water.

Alan Kurotori, the City’s Public Works Director, said his department recommended denying the bid from the lone bidder—Anderson Pacific Engineering Company—because the $3.8-million bid was 80 percent higher than the engineer’s $2.1-million estimate. He said he plans to split the massive project into two projects and put it out for rebid.

Another $75,000 bid for the demolition of a repair shop at 1021 E. El Camino Real—submitted by San Bernardino-based Balandra Demolition—saw unanimous Council approval.

 

Finances

Angie Kraetsch, Finance Director for the City, gave the Council the comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR) for fiscal year 2016-17, detailing the finding in an audit conducted earlier this year.

While the auditor gave the City an unmodified (aka a “clean”) opinion—i.e., the auditor believes the financial statements are presented fairly and in accordance with general accounting principles—there was still room for improvement.

Kraetsch said the auditor also found the City to have “significant deficiencies,” mainly, she said, because some payroll employees have access to more financial information than they should.

Another cause for concern is that the unfunded pension liability—including the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) and Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB)—amounts to roughly half a billion dollars.

However, the news wasn’t all bad. Although the general fund’s $192-million balance was a $6 million decrease, the City increased the balance of assets over liabilities by $144 million, causing assets to exceed liabilities by $1.7 billion. The City also paid down $45 million of outstanding debt last fiscal year, mostly on Levi’s Stadium debt.

 

Stadium Noise Monitoring

Prior to the regular meeting, the Council held a study session on noise at Levi’s Stadium. Studies have been done to evaluate noise levels at the Coldplay and U2 concerts and this season’s NFL games as well as other events such as soccer games.

The findings are that the neighborhood is subject to significant ambient airport noise, noise levels are less than forecasted in stadium environmental impact report, the U2 concert exceeded the EIR permit condition maximum target by a total of 1 dBA—measurement of relative loudness—and Coldplay’s noise level was within target level, 60 dBA. By contrast the noise of a jet taking off or landing at San José airport is 77 dBAs in the stadium neighborhood.

The Council will meet again 7 p.m. Jan. 23, 2018 in Council Chambers at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara. Council Member Patricia Mahan was absent from the meeting.

 

We’d like to hear from you. To share your thoughts about City Council topics, please email your letter to scweekly@ix.netcom.com for publication. Please include your name and phone number with your submission—phone numbers will not be published

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1 Comment
  1. Vickie Fairchild 2 years ago
    Reply

    “Caserta, along with Council Member Patricia Mahan, were unable to attend the closed session meeting where the rest of the Council agreed to offer Doyle the job full-time.”
    Caserta did not show up for the meeting. His tantrum on the dais made no sense. He was not able to give feedback earlier because he didn’t show up to give that feedback. It’s no one’s fault but his own. Even Kolstad saw through his tantrum and called him on it.

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