The Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury has called out some members of the Santa Clara City Council, saying, “…the actions and inaction of certain council members are not consistent with the duties owed to the constituents they were elected to serve, causing severe dysfunction in City governance.”
The Weekly has obtained a copy of the report that is expected to be released by the Civil Grand Jury on Monday. The timing of the release is suspect—a month prior to the November election in which several of the named parties are participating.
At issue is whether five of the seven members of the City Council are unduly influenced by the 49ers into making decisions against the better interests of the City and in favor of the 49ers. The Civil Grand Jury report says Anthony Becker, Suds Jain, Kevin Park, Karen Hardy and Raj Chahal have created a “City Council Voting Bloc.”
“The Civil Grand Jury found through the course of its investigation that these five members can – and do – vote in a manner that is favorable to the 49ers,” reads the report.
While the report does not go so far as to say that the five violated state laws governing open meetings, it does say there is “serious question” about the timing of the meetings between some members of the council and registered 49ers lobbyists.
It accuses the “City Council Voting Bloc” of not holding ManCo (the Forty Niners Stadium Management Company LLC) accountable for its “financial accounting deficiencies” or its “inability to hold non-NFL events to create revenue for the City.”
The Civil Grand Jury focused on Chahal and Hardy – who are up for re-election in District 2 and District 3, respectively – and Becker – who is running for mayor. The report accuses all three of receiving donations from 49ers PACs within days of voting in favor of a lawsuit settlement between the City and the 49ers. (While it might be a mincing of words, none of the candidates have directly received funds from the 49ers for their campaigns. The PACs operate separately from the candidates.)
The report also covered a Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) complaint about whether an “operational tour” of Levi’s Stadium by Hardy and Chahal and accused the “City Council Voting Bloc” of having former City Manager Deanna Santana and former City Attorney Brian Doyle fired at the behest of the 49ers.
“The former City Attorney and former City Manager raised many of these financial, safety and ethical concerns [regarding the 49ers and Levi’s Stadium] to the City Council publicly at City Council meetings,” reads the report. “Registered lobbyists with the 49ers informed members of the City Council Voting Bloc that they wanted the City Attorney and City Manager fired. The City Council Voting Bloc obliged, and both the City Manager and City Attorney were fired – leaving the City rudderless and without strong leadership.”
Brown Act Violations?
Perhaps the biggest issue the Civil Grand Jury looked at was whether the City Council members violated the Brown Act. The report accuses the newly elected members of the City Council of holding “regular closed-door meetings” with registered 49ers lobbyists, saying it was “concerned about transparency and whether the 49ers lobbyists are dictating City/Stadium Authority policy to the detriment of residents.”
It stopped short of saying there was unmistakable proof that a violation of the Brown Act occurred but accused the members of the Council of circumventing the rules.
“Notably, the meeting arrangements often occur in a ‘hub and spoke’ fashion of serial meetings with two groups meeting with the 49ers lobbyists—the same three members in one meeting, the same two in the other, typically held back to back. These meetings occur with the members of the City Council Voting Bloc and never include the remaining two members of the City Council,” reads the report.
The investigation focused solely on the meetings involving the five council members and the 49ers between 2020 and 2022 but did not include data from any meetings between the remaining two members of the council – Mayor Lisa Gillmor and Council Member Kathy Watanabe – for comparison.
Investigation Offers No Opportunity for New Information
While the information provided in the report clearly points to potential wrongdoing by five of the seven members of the City Council, there is no new information introduced in the Civil Grand Jury report that has not been heard ad nauseam by frequent attendees of Santa Clara City Council meetings.
These are accusations often made during Council meetings by fired City Attorney Doyle (one of the focal points of this investigation) and former City Council Member Teresa O’Neill who was unseated in 2020 by Park (another focal point of the investigation).
The methodology for this report relies almost entirely on information found the City’s website or during viewings of the City Council meetings.
“The Civil Grand Jury conducted more than ten interviews; reviewed City ordinances and policies; studied legal opinions and legal documents; reviewed more than 700 emails; watched videos of City Council meetings; examined council members’ public calendars; reviewed portions of the City’s charter and ordinance code, the City’s Ethics and Values Program, and the Council Policy Manual; reviewed public Stadium Authority financial documents; reviewed multiple media articles; and consulted with legal experts. The Civil Grand Jury used these sources of information to develop facts, findings and recommendations,” reads the report.
In reading the bibliography, the “media articles” cited within the investigation include three articles from the Mercury News, four articles from the San Francisco Chronicle and one article from Mother Jones Magazine. Articles from the San Jose Spotlight or this publication, which have both extensively covered City Council meetings and the 49ers lawsuit settlement, were not considered in the investigation.
Findings and Recommendations
In fact, the findings of the Civil Grand Jury report are a compilation of talking points from previous City Council meetings and the recommendations for resolution will sound eerily familiar to recommendations made by regular attendees of the Council meetings.
The findings include the following:
First, that the “City Council Voting Bloc” meets “regularly” and “serially” with lobbyists for the 49ers and since they are not required to disclose the substance of those discussions, they do not. The frequency of these meetings reportedly “leaves the impression” that the “City Council Voting Bloc” is “meeting in a manner to subvert the Brown Act’s open meeting requirements.”
The Civil Grand Jury recommends that the council members be required to publicly disclose any meetings with 49ers lobbyists regarding a topic on the meeting agenda. It also asks that Santa Clara expand its calendar ordinance to include minutes of all meetings, including attendees, agenda, duration and summary of matters discussed and that all closed-door meetings with 49ers lobbyists are recorded. It is also suggested that the City establish an open governance commission.
The second finding was based entirely on hearsay that one member of the “City Council Voting Bloc” received real-time influence from 49ers management. To remediate this, the Civil Grand Jury suggested that “The City should require council members to be visible at all meetings either in person or on camera.”
The third finding said ManCo has not provided “sufficient financial accounting,” has failed to remediate several fire and safety violations and that there is a “lack of financial transparency.”
The Civil Grand Jury recommended that the City hire a certified public accounting firm to do a comprehensive audit of Stadium Authority finances, find a third-party referee to oversee all of ManCo’s management activities and allocate staff to oversee Stadium operations.
The fourth finding involved the “lack of information and potential risks” involved with bringing the 2026 FIFA World Cup to Levi’s Stadium.
The Civil Grand Jury said the City should require a report from the 49ers on commitments made for the FIFA event, then evaluate whether the FIFA event poses a risk to the City.
Finding five looked at protocol for operational tours of Levi’s Stadium. The Civil Grand Jury recommended that the City adopt a policy and outline procedures for elected and appointed officials to conduct operational tours of the Stadium.
It also recommended that council members who do not adhere to the protocol could be censured and that the City should hire an independent consultant to evaluate and publicly report on whether council members have violated the City’s “Gifts to Appointed and Elected Officials” policy.
Finding six points to the “ethical dilemmas and governance challenges” created by the relationships between the City, Stadium Authority, StadCo and ManCo and suggests the City hire a “qualified legal and ethical consultant” to evaluate the challenges and report findings and recommendations as well as look at the likelihood that the 49ers lobbyists will continue to influence elected officials and City governance.
Finding seven pointed out that the City’s ethics rules were developed before the passage of Measure J. Instead of suggesting that the ethics rules be restructured, the Civil Grand Jury suggested that Santa Clara create a process for any member of the public to file a complaint and testify at a public hearing, that a Public Ethics Commission be created and that council members be required to attend additional third-party training on good governance.
Finding eight seemed the most partisan of the findings. It reads: “The City Manager and City Attorney positions are important executive-level leadership positions within the City. The City Attorney and the City Manager raised concerns about the 49ers and council members activities related to the 49ers. Both were fired shortly thereafter. Members of the City staff, including the former City Attorney and former City Manager, have shown commendable loyalty and dedication to the City and its interests.”
There were no recommendations for this finding.
Impact of Civil Grand Jury Report
While the report provided by the Civil Grand Jury does point out flaws in the City’s systems and make recommendations, it does not go so far as to suggest that there is enough evidence of misconduct to warrant removing any of the council members from office.
In fact, the report points out what jurors see as improprieties but never accuses anyone involved of breaking the law.
At this point, it is up to the City to decide whether or not it wants to implement any or all of the recommendations provided by the Civil Grand Jury.
According to the Santa Clara County Courts website, anyone can submit an anonymous complaint to request a Civil Grand Jury investigation.
Ring the damage control sirens. Can’t wait to read the whole report! This sounds very troubling and likely will lead to the withdrawal of some candidates from November.
Funny that as a journalist your instinct is to call out the timing of the report. Or did your editors make you add that line? Seems awfully strange that a journalist would call for a delay in reporting that would allow politicians to avoid accountability in an election. Unless you were acting as a PR firm for the accused.
It’s silly to imagine any candidates would withdraw from the current election. Please note the article’s conclusion: “what the jurors see as improprieties, but never accuses anyone involved of breaking the law”.
Davy L, you seem pretty defensive of the Weekly/Voice here. You respond to all comments and I find it so curious.
I decided to read the Weekly/Voice since the breaking of this news (I stopped reading it since it is so clearly funded by 49er money and not objective). I saw your comments and decided to respond to this one:
“Please note the article’s conclusion: “what the jurors see as improprieties, but never accuses anyone involved of breaking the law”.”
I would encourage you to watch the latest episode of Public Trust Review, a low-budget podcast that talks specifically to this argument/justification for bad behavior. One quote I will share: To earn public trust, City officials must be able to say more than, “We followed the law today.” Just imagine how much credibility an elected official or city staff member has is they announced every day or at a press conference: “I didn’t break the law today.” That sure makes ya feel good, doesn’t it? The law if the “floor” not the “ceiling.” We expect our elected officials to follow the law, and demand our elected officials to be ethical and build public trust. Even the “appearance” of a conflict demands action, recusal, or discussion.
This episode is 14 minutes long and it focuses specifically on your point here. I hope you will watch it. I would love to hear your feedback or have a discussion on it. The episode features Dr. Tom Shanks, an expert ethics phd. He actually created the ethics program in Santa Clara like 20+ years ago.
First, I disagree with your opinion that the Weekly/Voice is “so clearly funded by 49er money”. This may also be the belief of “Buchser Alum”. However, I have no interest in viewing the podcast especially since Dr. Tom Shanks is the speaker. I’ve read one of his articles in the Mercury News attacking our City, which I very strongly disagree with. The reason for my many comments is mainly in response to “Buchser Alum”, who I consider to be a “jerk”. Other than that, I work at home, which gives me a lot of “free” time, so I often have nothing better to do.
Davy, if you are truly concerned with Santa Clara, and I believe you are, you should be very interested in Dr. Tom Shanks and he was hired by the City of Santa Clara to create their ethics program….literally. Not sure what you bias is against him since he is an ethics guy.
And my statement about the Weekly/Voice being a 49ers funded operation is based on their stories. As I said, I kind of stopped reading it since it is like a paid advertisement. It goes way back when Carolyn Shuck changed her reporting style. It was pretty drastic. It was back in the Jamie Mathews led days. I used to have a lot of respect for the SC Weekly. Unfortunately, the editor has let money walk all over its journalism. That’s not to say there isn’t good reporting that happens in there, because there is. I have seen a number of solid stores over the years since the change. However, the majority report of “news” is more like a 49ers funded puff piece or a 49er friendly council member piece. Why else would the many issues the city has with the 49er’s management team be so undercovered or simply unreported?
I have seen so much corruption in this city over the past 20 years, and for a brief moment when Gillmor was appointed as Mayor, the clouds broke and transparency began. It was a long road, but one that Gillmor never backed down from. It was not pretty and it was embarrassing for the city, but it had to be done to try and clean up all the back room activities, self dealing, and opaqueness that was created by the former council majority. Think back to when Mathews was mayor and how the soccer park almost got handed over to the 49ers. Why do you think he walked off the job the day after Super Bowl 50, with 3 years left in his term? The walls were closing in. The Metro just devastated the council, staff, and 49ers behavior. And ironically, some of the activists that fought those very people are on council today making deals with the devil in the same way the old council did. What a shame.
I guess it is true: Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Sorry Kirk, but I do not agree with you. I am a resident of District 6. May I ask what District you reside in? Prior to two years ago, I had no interest in City politics. Ok, I knew who our Mayor was, but that’s all. I did not know the names of any Council Member. I figure my single vote never mattered. The election of 2020 sparked my interest. For the first time, our voters were voting in Districts! There were 3 candidates. However, only one, Becker, voiced a strong support for the Six District System. I had doubts whether my single vote would make much difference. However, I was surprised after the votes were counted. Becker won by only by a few votes! So, my single vote did matter!
For myself, I feel no threat from the 49ers or Related. They can spend as much money as they wish. It’s their money. And it’s no comparison to the much larger amounts spent by other businesses and corporations.
My dislike for Lisa Gillmor began primarily to her animosity to our Six District System. I personally felt this was an important improvement for our City and voters. At last, our city was being well represented by our City’s diversity. And then, there was the instance when she and Watanabe would not allow Council Member, Kevin Park, to speak at a Public Diversity Meeting. Finally, Lisa was also a very strong supporter of both Santana and Doyle, both of whom were fired for doing a poor job. Since I am only a recent observer, I have not witness any reason why she should continued to serve as our Mayor. Anyways, my vote goes again to Becker and a hope for a better and brighter future for Santa Clara.
Wow Davy, that’s pretty frightening that you share 49er talking points so comfortably. And I say 49er talking points as they were much of the instigators for the controversy on districts. Since you were not involved in politics prior to 2020, let me take a brief moment to elaborate and challenge some of your conclusions:
1. The Mayor and Council (before 2020) convened a 16-member charter review, primarily to focus on district elections. These were council appointed by area and each council member could appoint one or two members. I don’t recall how all were selected, but it seemed to get a pretty good representation of the city. The committee came back with a recommendation for 3-districts (not 6). An ill-informed judge just came up with 6, who knows why. Based on population, 6 seems a bit too many as someone can represent a large portion of the city with like 2,500 votes. And the tired excuse of “discrimination” and groups of nationalities being in one district over another is just false. The real fact is Santa Clara does not have pockets of any one ethnicity; it is a blend. So 3 districts made sense – 2 council members per district, and every two years, one of the two is elected. I won’t bother going into more, but the real reason that measure failed is because Santa Clara combined rank-choice voting with districts and it was confusing. So, 6 districts is what you have. Mayor Gillmor NEVER was against districts. That is just untrue.
The Kevin Park incident at the Diversity Rally that Councilmember Wantanabe organized. Kevin walked up at the last minute, unannounced and never having asked to speak prior. Kevin has a habit of doing this and causing a scene at council meetings. I know as I have seen it, maybe you haven’t. He would sometimes sit in the back of the council chamber and walk up for public comment or when speaking on an item without filling out a speaker card and strolling up during “final call” from the back. Watanabe saw this and reacted. She had a tight program with other speakers and performers. Should she have allowed it, sure. But in the moment and knowing how unpleasant Kevin has been to her and others, she reacted as a human being. That has nothing to do with Lisa.
Lastly, yes, Lisa was supportive of Santana and Doyle. Since you have not been part of the council meeting or other activities in Santa Clara politics, you might not know how much money was saved by Santana. Did she cost too much, I would tend to say yes. Did she earn her salary 10x, definitely. And Doyle held the 49ers accountable. To say Lisa was friendly to him is non-sensical. All of the council should support the city attorney and the city attorney is doing the work of the council and protecting the city. He too has earned his salary 10x.
But you don’t know any of this because you were not engaged in city politics prior to the circus that is in place now. What district do I live in? I live in District 6 in San Jose. I am about 500 feet from Santa Clara and my pizza shop is headquartered in Santa Clara. I have been involved with local Santa Clara politics for almost 20 years and am speaking from experience, not mailers or the Weekly articles or the propaganda.
I would encourage you to do aa bit of research as your data seems to be one sided. And let me be perfectly clear, I was no fan of Santa Clara for over a decade. In fact, quite the opposite. You can ask former council members and city residents that were engaged. But Santa Clara being led by Lisa Gillmor gave me hope, and that gave me the motivation to re-engage in Santa Clara politics. I saw a chance for a respectful government, and one that was not bought and paid for. And if you take some time to look at what the Grand Jury is saying, you will see that Becker, Park, Suds, Raj, and Karen have been less than transparent, lacking in ethics, destroying the public’s trust, and doing the bidding of the 49ers. It is so ironic, because most of them never even wanted the stadium and fought against it. I’m surprised Deborah Bress isn’t chiming in at this point.
You’re going to vote for Becker, and that is your right as a resident. I encourage you to do your homework if you want to defend these people the way you do. And before you try to justify your position with propaganda-based data, you should do a bit more research. I understand you haven” been involved with city politics before 2020, but that doesn’t mean city politics didn’t exist. You should educate yourself on it. I gave you some starting points. Best of luck.
What district does Kirk Vartan live in? Oh that’s right — District 7, San Jose.
Thanks, Kirk, but little of what you wrote has affected my thoughts. For myself, the biggest and most important impact that happened to our City during the past few years was the Six District Election System. I felt Lisa fought strongly against this, and that remains my chief dislike for her. Without this, our Council would likely remain totally Caucasians, and not at all representative of our City. Regarding Measure “C”, I saw this as another feeble attempt by Lisa to weaken the impact of the CVRA. As for the Park incident, I was not present; however, our Council did formally reprimand and censure both Lisa and Watanabe. You mentioned Deborah Bress, I’m not familiar with her. I do want to state clearly my opinions and my vote has little to do with any propaganda-based data. As noted by Gabe Vaccare, you’re actually a Resident of District 7.
Your schoolyard comeback against Kirk says more about you than it says about him. He has written well considered statements about the issues and you are responding with the equivalent of a schoolchild’s taunt “I know you are but what am I?”
Kirk operates a business in Santa Clara that is well known throughout the area and draws people from all around to our city for great pizza. Agree or disagree with him he has shown a deep interest and familiarity with Santa Clara issues. And he has more of a stake in how the city is run than the average resident.
What the heck are you complaining about? What Gabe stated was a true statement. You are the person guilty of “schoolchild taunts”. Stop blaming others for your own faulty thoughts. And regardless of what you have implied, Gabe and I and many others in this City, not only you and Kirk, also have deep interest and familiarity with Santa Clara issues and a stake in how our City is run.
I have no doubt that you have deep interest and familiarity with Santa Clara issues despite your declaration that you did not begin to pay attention to Santa Clara politics until 2020. That notwithstanding you clearly care a lot about Santa Clara issues and I assume Gabe does too and you both have a stake in how it is run.
I never said the two of you did not.
All I said was that Kirk does too. Him being a resident of San Jose if that is true does not take away from his commitment to Santa Clara and the benefits he has brought to the city.
Gabe took a silly cheap shot and that is what I was pointing out.
Wow, I didn’t mean for this to devolve. Thanks for the support Buchser Alum. And what Davy and Gabe said is patently false! I do not live in San Jose District 7 (I live in San Jose District 6, as I mentioned in my original comment).
It is unfortunate that city boundaries create these artificial barriers to discussion and collaboration. Our cities blend together, and whether you live in Santa Clara, work in Santa Clara, or live in another city, we are all part of the same community. This “it’s my city, go away” attitude will not help us all get out of the many challenges we face here in Silicon Valley in terms of housing, homelessness, worker equity, traffic, parks, etc.
I am very invested in terms of time and energy in Santa Clara. And I am sure Jed and his band of good guys really care about the fairness of the elections and how racially balanced the city council. I know Jed is committed to the city because he wrote a letter to the city to build three soccer fields before the stadium was approved…because he cares. How are those fields looking?
Kirk, Gabe was just adding some humor in the conversation, and I did too. Sorry, no offence intended. I do object to “Buchser Alum” attacking us with “schoolyard tactics”. But then, knowing him, it’s not surprising.
FWIW, I live in Santa Clara District 6 too, right near Maywood Park. And you know what, Becker doesn’t have my vote. Districting was supposed to bring better representation, but I can’t think of a single thing that Becker has done for District 6.
At one time myself and my neighbors actually had hope for Kevin Park. I read the Grand Jury report, and unfortunatley just looking at his calendar of frequent closed door meetings several times a month with the 49ers really changed my impression of him.
I am also a resident of District 6. My vote is going to Becker. As for Kevin Park, that is totally up to the voters in his District. I think that is the nicest part of our Six District Elections. We have a diversity of voters and regions that no single group can control. Prior to that, I believe our City was mostly represented by voters in our downtown area.
Davy L said “Prior to that, I believe our City was mostly represented by voters in our downtown area”. No, that’s not true. The neighborhoods around Pruneridge/San Thomas were also well-represented. That’s what was so great about Kathy Watanabe representing the Northside – they finally got some good representation.
Our City Council is more diversifying today than it was prior to the Six District Election System. Until then, our city never had a minority Council Member. Our Council is now more representative of our City. As for Kathy Watanabe, I expect her to be voted out of office in another two years due to her tight ties to Lisa Gillmor.
Hi Kirk: I am co-President of the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jurors’ Association and very much enjoyed the video you put together. Please let me know how to contact you to discuss this matter in greater detail. Thanks!
San Jose Spotlight coincidentally has a piece on the report too.
Not the Mercury or the Chronicle or any local TV or radio stations.
Just the two local online news sites that also coincidentally have glaringly partisan bias for the political allies of the Forty Niners.
The campaign website made for Raj Chahal with Forty Niners money somehow has a photograph of Chahal that was created from a photograph that was also used for a 2018 SV Voice piece.
It is obvious who is pulling the strings. It has been obvious that the Forty Niners have been pulling strings in our elections. They have been doing this plain as day.
And it has become obvious that the Forty Niners are also pulling strings with a couple local news sites.
We deserve better local coverage from the site that has roots in Santa Clara’s last printed newspaper.
There is really no need for you to continue your tirade. Just take a “deep breath” and relax. This election will be over soon.
We hold our Police Department to a high standard by requiring them to wear body worn cameras. Maybe our elected officials should to do the same and have all meetings recorded so that they can be reviewed by the public.
That’s a very good idea. It’ll make for good viewing, a pleasant way to pass away the time and enjoy some hot popcorn.
There is one particular session I would gladly pay to see. This was the session discussing the 49ers lawsuit and settlement. Before it ended, Watanabe stormed out of the room slamming the door with a loud BANG! Shortly thereafter, Lisa also came rushing out very angry and upset. Both claim Becker was yelling and cursing. Wow! Lots of fireworks! This would make for a great Broadway production. Instead of “Ten Angry Men” it could be retiled “Two Angry Women”.
There can be good and valid reasons for some meetings to not be public but not totally private.
It is not a must to have video recordings or transcripts for everything. But we should not have council people meeting with the Forty Niners in twos and threes glaringly making sure to be able to legally keep the meetings totally private.
And even when meetings should not or need not be public they should still have city staff like the city attorney or manager or clerk attend.
But of course these five are meeting in twos and threes to specifically to avoid this kind of neutral witness.
There was a 49ers lawsuit our Council Members wished resolved. They felt Gillmor and company were hindering this effort. Gillmor was content spending millions and millions of city dollars on lawyer fees until the trial. So, our Council Members saw a need to make direct contact with the 49ers to clear up this issue. Well, it did turn out successful, as the lawsuits were settled. That is the end of the story. For which they were elected to do, they deserved a metal. But Gillmor was upset. Why? Well, there is an election, and there are doubts whether Lisa will remain as Mayor. This was a last minute effort for Lisa to remain in power.
You can and should be better than this.
A civil grand jury report that isn’t public yet somehow ends up in the hands of Silicon Valley Voice and San Jose Spotlight. Two local news outlets that have been glaringly partisan in their coverage of Santa Clara politics. Glaringly in favor of the Forty Niners’ interests when Forty Niners matters or their chosen council people are the subject.
At least you did not make things as obvious as Spotlight which ran a piece that included lengthy quotations from Forty Niners executives. But your piece still reads like a press release for the Forty Niners. Publishing their spin on the report before it is released.
This is not reporting. This piece is an editorial. An opinion piece. One that is glaringly trying to frame this the way the Forty Niners and their council allies want it framed.
Your recaps of the candidate forums have been a nice exception but most of what is published on SV Voice has been glaringly partisan. That is why the grand jury did not read any SV Voice articles. They did not read any SantaClaraNews.com articles either I am sure and for the same good reason.
This is a new low. Getting alerted to an impending grand jury report before it is publicly released. Probably by the Forty Niners. And then printing their talking points.
It is one thing for SantaClaraNews.com to operate as a totally partisan publication. It is a one man band. SV Voice actually has a history as a publication in our city. But now it is basically a partisan blog too. Only with multiple writers and some ad revenue.
You can and should do much better. SV Voice overall and specifically you too Erika.
What you are saying is just your opinion. Nothing wrong with that. However, I suggest spending more time looking into your own mirror.
Hello Buchser Alum, I will respectfully disagree with the idea that I should not report on something that is news simply because it is prior to the release of said news. By not reporting on it, I will not prevent others from reporting on the matter.
That said, I will apologize for not mentioning that “Unsportsmanlike Conduct” was the title given to the Civil Grand Jury report. That was an oversight on my part. It was not editorializing, though it might have seemed that way.
I endeavor to report the truth and I would like to think that my accounting of the report is equally uncomfortable for all parties involved. However, I am also okay if you think that it was editorializing.
From your comments and interaction with this website, I can tell that you care deeply about the City of Santa Clara and while we may not always see eye to eye, I appreciate that you make every effort to stay informed about what happens in the City both from this publication and other publications that cover Santa Clara politics. As a journalist, all that I hope for is that someone can make an informed decision and that at least a little part of that informed decision can be based on the facts that I present.
Thank you for your continued readership and recognition of my work, whether you believe I get it right or wrong, your comments are appreciated.
Thank you for your response. I reread your article and I should modify what I said to be clearer. I do not feel that your article was entirely editorializing. I should not have said that it reads like a press release because to be fair and accurate your article has a lot of straight reportage.
I also do not think it is improper to report on the report before it is officially released. If you get a copy of the report then you should report on it because it is a big story in the public interest. I am curious however how Silicon Valley Voice came to get a copy of the report and post an article on it many hours before major newspapers such as the Mercury News and Chronicle. And even hours before fellow hyperlocal online news outlet San Jose Spotlight. Can you disclose how you were alerted to the story and got a copy of the report in time to publish an article in the wee hours of the morning?
My critical reaction to your article is less about the first third or so of the article which I think reads pretty straightforward and is straight reportage in your style. And the rest of your article also includes a great deal of simple reporting of the facts in relating what is contained in the grand jury report.
But the rest of your article also has a lot of editorializing that is sometimes explicit but sometimes implicit. Not simply reporting what is in the report but interpreting the report by characterizing your opinion on aspects of it. And the way you interpret the report is clearly with a balance that is Forty Niners friendly. As a reader I see this plainly and I cannot divorce it from the plain and obvious bias that your publication has generally had in favor of the Forty Niners, its allies on the council, and against Gillmor and any allies of hers.
For you to make a summary declaration that “In fact, the findings of the Civil Grand Jury report are a compilation of talking points from previous City Council meetings” is editorializing and not an accurate way to put things. The report includes things talked about in council meetings because the report deals with serious matters of concern and of course serious matters of concern will have been raised for discussion at council meetings.
But there have been not as serious matters raised that I would also dismiss as “talking points” at council meetings that are not in the grand jury report. Because they are not serious such as the matter of whether or not Anthony Becker yelled a profanity at Kathy Watanabe in the closed session for discussion of the Forty Niners settlement offer.
And I believe the following summary declaration is also unjustifiably dismissive and is also making ominous and vague insinuations without substantiation in a manner that is unbefitting serious and fair minded journalism: “the recommendations for resolution will sound eerily familiar to recommendations made by regular attendees of the Council meetings.”
Credit to you for then listing the findings and recommendations in a manner that is generally unadorned with editorializing. But discredit to you for prefacing this with the above dismissive and suspicion casting editorializing.
Your summary section with the header “Impact of Civil Grand Jury Report” reads far less partisan than what is a rather naked defense of the Forty Niners on San Jose Spotlight but you are still clearly albeit subtly writing from a viewpoint that deemphasizes the seriousness of the report. Mayhaps you feel like you just called it down the middle and that things need to be characterized as either glass half full or glass half empty but I think it is clear that you are trying to impart a reassuring feeling upon the reader. Reassuring as to concern they should feel.
For example when you write this: “In fact, the report points out what jurors see as improprieties but never accuses anyone involved of breaking the law,” it frames the reports conclusions as being not that worrisome because there is not evidence to support an accusation of breaking the law. But “improprieties” are concerning and the degree of these improprieties were found to be enough for the grand jury to make a quite strong statement that should be very concerning for all Santa Clarans: “The Civil Grand Jury’s investigation confirms that the actions and inaction fo certain councilmembers are not consistent with the duties owed to the constituents they were elected to serve.”
You lead off with that and thank you for that as that is the report in a nutshell. But I think the way you conclude your article is not only editorial and not reportage but also indicative of bias that while less dramatic than what is common on Silicon Valley Voice still parallels the very clear biases that are expressed here.
Your final sentence of “According to the Santa Clara County Courts website, anyone can submit an anonymous complaint to request a Civil Grand Jury investigation” would be a very curious way to end an article on such a matter for any journalist. It suggests that you would like to leave your readers with the impression that a civil grand jury investigation can be called for any random complaint from the public.
The more accurate and complete way of “reporting” the same fact is to also state that a civil grand jury investigation is not undertaken for obviously frivolous complaints. They are serious affairs with serious bars to clear to be undertaken. And the reports literally speak for themselves and what this report reports, finds, and recommends is clearly serious concern. And not merely some random anonymous complaint submitted to the county court website.
If this article were written by Carolyn Schuk I am sure that I would take exception to much more and object far more strongly in general. I appreciate that you bring a less biased viewpoint to Silicon Valley Voice coverage but I also feel that you can be more fair minded.
I believe that you endeavor to report the truth and I assume that you too care deeply about Santa Clara. And I can see that you strive to inform your readers on what is going on in the city. I object when you add what reads to me as your opinion and when you present some parts of your largely factual presentations with embedded opinions or insinuated ones.
I have a good knowledge of the petty politics of our fair city that go back decades. And how this has also involved the Voice formerly the Weekly. I think that people at the Voice must care about Santa Clara and try to benefit it with their reporting and editorializing. I can imagine reasons why the staff of the Voice think that Lisa Gillmor is a major obstacle to the improving the city and even why conceding some of the city’s interests with regard to the Forty Niners is worth deposing Gillmor.
But there is a limit and we are far over that limit. Even if councilpeople believe they are serving the interests of the city and not the Forty Niners it is simply unacceptable that five of them are having private meetings in twos and threes with the Forty Niners to nakedly evade public meeting requirements. Even before considering that these same five councilpeople have had literally millions of dollars spent by the Forty Niners to put them into office and keep them there.
I am not a partisan supporter of Lisa Gillmor who will dismiss any criticism of her. I have discussed things I disagree with her and concerns I have about some of her behavior here and elsewhere.
I feel that Silicon Valley Voice is so strongly against Lisa Gillmor that there is a general pattern of minimizing any concerning behavior by anyone who is a political opponent of hers. This is short sighted misguided and just simply shameless when it comes to what should be a journalistic news operation. While this applies to you least amongst your peers at the Voice you are still part of the Voice and my criticism still applies to you at least in part.
Please do better. It is wrong to surrender principles and the city’s interest even if it is thought that getting Gillmor out of office is in the city’s long term interests. The ends do not justify the means and will taint whatever future built upon them.
“It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
Very well stated, Buchser Alum. If you are comfortable reaching out, please do so at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am sure we can share notes on some pretty good history.
And Davy, I don’t believe you think life is meaningless. If you did, I don’t think you would take the time to read all this and keep replying. I do hope you dig deeper than the past two years in terms of researching what has happened in city hall. It’s hard to even me to comprehend, and I had a front row seat, sometimes even on stage. I am always happy to get into more details, but it looks like this conversation is winding down.
Let’s see if Monday’s 61-page report is consistent with what has been reported. And I hope we can all agree that if it is mostly accurate, this is pretty troubling. If not, then we should examine why we are not all in agreement on the principles and concerns the report highlights.
Kirk, this entire report is simply Lisa’s October surprise. It’s a “fake”. Very similar to Hillary’s emails, or Hunter’s laptop. Ok. We disagree. That’s fine. No hard feelings. It’ll all be over soon in just a few more weeks. After that, I expect this entire report will be filed away into the trash bin.
So well said, Buscher Alum. And although I don’t usually agree with Kirk Vartan, I must say I do admire his tenacity and endurance.
I find it shocking that Davy L is so dismissive of a Civil Grand Jury report’s findings.
Sorry we don’t agree. No hard feelings, ok? My opinion is that this report is a simple “hit” job that is has little semblance to reality. But that’s just me.
Erika, of course the 49ers are going to claim it’s a hatchet job, and of course the headline for this article is slanted and downplayed to sound like this is football penalty and not a serious legal charge.
To readers, please consider reading the SF Chronicle article today on this matter. It is very informative and does not cherry pick information in favor of the 49ers.
The 49er 5 got drunk on their own power and their incestuous relationship with the 49ers. They are political simpletons, who have been molded and used by the 49ers. To the 49ers 5 the 49ers couldn’t care less about you and will happily throw you under the bus when the time comes. What has happened with the 49ers 5, the 49ers, and the citizens of Santa Clara is immoral, unethical, and likely legal.
Any candidate for office or any media publication that hitches their wagon to Anthony Becker and or the 49er 5 have zero credibility.
Thank you Grand Jury for shining a bright light on the corrupt relationship between the 49er 5, Jed York, and the 49ers.
The Grand Jury report is damning of the council and 49ers, and it’s very predictable that the 49ers would label it a hatchet job. Just follow the money, and the potential tens of millions of dollars the 49ers stand to lose.
This election will be over soon. After that, I believe all this shouting and screaming and finger pointing will cease. Our Council Meetings will then soon become very dull and boring affairs. The 49ers will crawl back into their caves. Ok, we may still hear an occasional grumbling from Watanabe, but other than that the fighting and battles are over. Peace and harmony has been declared in our City, and we can all look forward to a bright and better future.
I felt the same way about the title but it seems this title was actually the title of the grand jury’s report. You can see and read the report on San Jose Spotlight which is another local news site that unfortunately seems to be firmly in the Forty Niners back pocket.
To your eyes, everyone and anyone who views the 49ers favorably is “in their pockets”. How stupid.
I’m confused. Commenters here seem to be upset that SVV published something that seems to be advantageous to their candidate. They seem like kids who planned a surprise party and someone else had a party first and stole their thunder.
This is the “storm” before the “calm”. After the election, all the comments and commenters will quietly disappear. So, just sit back, relax, and enjoy the party; it will be over soon.
Hi Buchser Alum, I did not see a link to the report on San Jose Spotlight, just their usual and slanted “reporting”. Thanks
Giwargis’ piece on the grand jury report reads like a Forty Niners press release but they do have the full report embedded below the piece. They are using an embedded viewer and there are controls for turning the pages and zooming in and out.
It’s a very interesting report. I agree it’s slanted towards the 49ers. However, it also reveals the bias make-up of the Grand Jury members and their bias actions. It tells the “other” side of the story.
The report is interesting but it is not slanted “towards the Forty Niners” unless you mean that it is slants toward pointing out the corrupting influence of Forty Niners money in Santa Clara.
It does not reveal bias in the make up of the grand jury members. You do not even know who is on the grand jury and whether or not they have a bias. You are just repeating a Forty Niner talking point that so far has no basis in fact.
Trying to allege that Lisa Gillmor has somehow rigged a grand jury in county supreme court is a desperate and empty allegation that is meant to distract everyone from the known fact that the Forty Niners have been rigging elections with the millions of dollars they spend on their chosen councilpeople and chosen candidate for mayor Anthony Becker.
Sorry to disagree, but the names of the grand jury members must be available. The 49ers made a statement declaring they are mostly Gillmor’s neighbors, business associates, and allies. In reality, you are the one making up lies. A known fact the 49ers are rigging elections?
I did not say that the names of the grand jury members are not available.
I said that you do not know who is on the grand jury and whether or not they have a bias.
You just read a Forty Niners spokesman saying that and assume that it is true.
If we had you making decisions then you would have asked no questions of the Forty Niners when they claimed they deserved over $4,000,000 in annual rent decrease and Santa Clara would have lost over $180,000,000 in rent due to your unquestioning belief in everything the Forty Niners say.
I doubt even Anthony Becker thinks the Forty Niners speak no lies.
We make judgments and decisions based on our experience and knowledge. The fact that this report came out just before an election, strikes me as being purposely planned. This is just too phony of a coincidence. Anything like this would automatically raise my doubts and suspicion. It’s often done. A last minute surprise! That is my primary reason for questioning this report. So, I give this report a “failed” grade.
The only thing deliberate about the timing is likely that they made sure that it came out before the election instead of afterward.
But the timing does not affect all the facts in the report and findings and recommendations based on those facts.
Without the report everything that I have listed out as a concern is still a concern.
I disagree. The timing is what matters. That is what makes this report such a phony. All it is a deliberate attempt to influence the election. The “facts” are meaningless and play a very unimportant role. After the election, this report will be totally ignored, completely forgotten, and buried, never to be mentioned again.
Davy, you are literally stating that anything of significance that comes out within a month (more/less), is suspect and cannot be considered as relevant. And what seems even worse, the actual facts of the material is not relevant due to the timing and will be ignored or seen as having corrupt intentions.
Now, I’m with ya in being very skeptical of information coming out of pretty much any news outlet these days; that is a real shame. I have deep roots to journalism and it breaks my soul just a little bit every day we have news outlets that are untrustworthy. That being said, it doesn’t mean that a report should be dismissed because of timing. Interrogate it, challenge it on the merits, debate it, but outright dismissing it is not the correct response. That has nothing to do with who is right or wrong, it has to do with the process and how you approach data.
Take a look at the merits of the argument you are stating:
– the report is failed and doubted due to timing
– the statements challenging the legitimacy of the report is not based in a fact, it is a feeling
– if something is critical of a position or a group of people, it is politically motivated and therefore untrue.
– you feel the jury is somehow manipulated by Gillmor
If you are saying you don’t trust the report because of these conclusions base don your experience, then we have a disconnect on how data supports conclusions. Challenging Gillmor’s policies, past actions, or projects is absolutely fine (and it should be done for all council members), but dismissing something supports Gillmor’s and others have stated publicly (myself included), that doesn’t seem reasonable. And I am guessing the grand jury saw enough data and evidence to make these conclusions. Not liking them doesn’t make them invalid or corrupt. If you can materially prove that these statements are untrue, you should definitely go to the DA and inform him.
Kirk, this entire report is simply Lisa’s October surprise. It’s a “fake”. Very similar to Hillary’s emails, or Hunter’s laptop. Ok. We disagree. That’s fine. No hard feelings. It’ll all be over soon in just a few more weeks. After that, I expect this entire report will be filed away into the trash bin.
A very interesting article:
It shows the bias and partisanship that went into this report. I believe this Grand Jury wrote their conclusion first, and then began gathering bits of dubious evidence to support this conclusion. I suggest our city/county/state begin an investigation of this Grand Jury. This appears to be a last minute hit piece to influence the upcoming election.
That Spotlight article is the one that shows bias and partisanship.
All the evidence that the grand jury used to make their conclusions are not “dubious.” They are all listed in the report itself and they are all facts and publicly known facts. Logs of private meetings with the Forty Niners in twos and threes to avoid needing for the meetings to be public and with public record. Public logs of campaign spending by the Forty Niners on the same five councilpeople meeting with them in private. Public videos of council meetings and logs of votes in favor of the Forty Niners interests in our city’s records. Public articles by major newspapers raising the exact same questions about potential corruption.
I do not know if you are an employee of the Forty Niners or a friend of Anthony Becker or just someone who hates Lisa Gillmor but there is a grand jury report that shows serious questions that need to be answered and also makes serious proposals that should be followed.
When you try to dismiss the grand jury and its report it says more about you than it does the grand jury.
I am not an employee of the 49ers. I am not a friend of Becker. I do not hate Lisa Gillmor, but I do wish to see her removed as our Mayor. Here is question for you: What District are you? Are you, like Kirk, a resident of District 7?
This “evidence” may be actual observations but they can not be considered as “facts”. These observations can then be interpreted and different conclusions can be reached. This is especially true if the observations are incomplete, as in the case of lacking input any from the 49ers. Please note the final conclusion from their report: No wrong doing has been done.
The 49ers claim bias has since the Grand Jury is a volunteer group which they claim is “stack with Gillmor’s neighbors, business associates, and allies”.
I am a decadeslong resident of Santa Clara.
There are facts in the findings. It is a fact that the Forty Niners Five have had dozens of private meetings with the Forty Niners since 2021. In the case of Anthony Becker and one other councilperson they have met with the Fortyniners more than they have had City Council meetings.
It is a fact that these five have met the Forty Niners in twos and threes. It is a fact that any meeting with four or more councilpeople must be public and cannot be private like their meetings.
It is a fact that the Forty Niners have spent millions of dollars getting these five elected and keep them in office.
You wrote: “Please note the final conclusion from their report: No wrong doing has been done.”
They did not say that no wrongdoing has been done. Try to find a quote saying there was no wrongdoing. You will not.
They did conclude “the actions and inaction of certain council members are not consistent with the duties owed to the constituents they were elected to serve, causing severe dysfunction in City governance.”
You wrote: “The 49ers claim bias has since the Grand Jury is a volunteer group which they claim is “stack with Gillmor’s neighbors, business associates, and allies”.”
They also claimed that they were owed a decrease in rent of over $4,000,000 per year. We had to fight them in litigation that went to arbitration and the neutral arbitrator not only ruled against them but also added a rent increase.
This will net the city over $180,000,000 in additional rental income over the life of the lease.
Why are you so eager to believe whatever claims the Forty Niners make despite them having a track record of lying out of self interest and to the detriment of all Santa Clarans? They are not necessarily always lying but every claim they make against the city should be fully investigated and not accepted at face value as you do.
There was a 49ers lawsuit, and our Council Members wish it to be resolved. My guess is that they felt they Gillmor, Santana, and Santana’s underlings were hindering this efforts. Gillmor appear quite content continuing to spending millions and millions of city dollars on lawyer fees. So, our Council Members saw the need to make direct contact with the 49ers to clear up this issue. In a similar situation, I may have done the same. Well, it did turn out to be successful, as the lawsuits were finally settled. For me, that is the end of the story. But Gillmor and associates were very upset, and decided to muddle up the issue. Why? Well, there is an election, and there are doubts whether Lisa will remain as Mayor. I regard this as something similar to Measure “C”. It’s a last minute effort for Lisa to remain in power. I do not know whether it would succeed or not, but obviously, my choice is Becker.
The Mercury News came out with their version today. I found some interesting contradictions. The 49ers claimed they were never contacted. Why? The Grand Jury said the company that manages the concerts and sporting events made little money or lost money. The 49ers said the stadium has paid more than 750 million to the city and stadium authority, including millions generated this year alone from four profitable sold-out concerts. Obviously, both statements can not be correct. One or the other is lying.
You need to understand what this could possibly refer and not take it at intended face value: “Chandhok said the stadium has paid more than $750 million to the city and stadium authority.”
It was a statement by the executive of a big corporation in the interests of that big corporation.
When there was a grand jury report that detailed all the ways that PG&E could have prevented the deadly and devastating Camp fire did you dismiss the whole thing after reading a public relations statement from PG&E?
There appears to be some major disagreements. The 49ers claim there were millions made this year alone from four profitable sold-out concerts. The Grand Jury states the concerts made little or lost money. These two statements contradict each other. So, which one is true? Also, isn’t strange the 49ers were not consulted? As for PG&E, perhaps we really need to speak with Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.
You wrote: “These two statements contradict each other.”
Not if they are not referring to the same time period.
You wrote: “Also, isn’t strange the 49ers were not consulted?”
What is there to consult on? What the grand jury would like to have would be notes or minutes or any records of the many dozens of private meetings the Forty Niner Five had with the Forty Niners.
They would also like to have detailed financial records for the stadium to know if the Forty Niners accounted for profits and losses accurately.
The Forty Niners would not give either to the civil grand jury. They would not give either even to the city of Santa Clara.
The lack of transparency with the Forty Niners is part of the problem.
Well, the 49ers specifically mentioned the time period as this year. What the heck time period do you believe the Grand Jury was considering? Two years ago?
Well if the 49ers had been consulted, they would clear up the some of the lies they are sprouting. Becker claims he was also not interviewed, but he found lots of inaccuracies in the report. Hardy was interviewed, but she said, “it was very obvious … they made up their minds already”.
The conclusion of this report was already decided, before it ever began.
All these comments, discussions, arguments, etc. are very interesting reading material.
I lived in Santa Clara since 1971, near the Stadium. I favored the built of the Stadium.
It brought a lots of good things to Santa Clara and neighboring Cities.
Increase in tax revenue, housing and employment and businesses, etc.
The drawback is traffic jams! But that’s expected !!! Small price to pay !
Santa Clara is a good City!
Very nice comments. You’re a real old timer. I’m only in my early 30s. But like you, I really enjoy this City, and am proud and happy to be a part of it. You live near the Great America Amusement Park. Are you a season member? For a little more than $80, you can enjoy free parking and free admission the whole year. Free admission to Gilroy Gardens is included. They also sell a drink and dinning package that is very nice. I enjoy their roller coasters. So, I go there often.
You only have to look at the makeup of the grand jury to see the truth. I’m general, If something makes a Liberal mad, then we are doing the right things. In todays times if ideologies don’t agree with Liberals then they cry and whine hard about getting their ways any way they can. Even by making false allegation to sway their opinions. This is called sophistry which will the liberals use constantly.
This election will be over soon. Our voters will decide and settle all issues. Liberals and Conservatives will rejoice. All the shouting and moaning will end.
Incidentally, the Mercury News has just announced their endorsements for our upcoming elections.
(1) Becker for Mayor
(2) Chahal for Council District 2
(3) Hardy for Council District 3
How many Gillmor and Years of Gillmor do we have to endure? This city has had over 60 years of Gillmor members in office
Why are they holding on so tight – what secrets are they hiding
How many messages from the “Mayors advisor” do we have to read?
Tired of the Gillmor narrative? the niners did us wrong – yeh they sure did and who helped bring them here? What promise did they not keep with that family. The general citizens of Santa Clara are sick of the Gillmor / York fight – Gillmor’s need to move away like many who brought the Niners here have done.
If she truly had the interest of the city at heart she would work with the Niners because she brought them here. But then again I suspect she has no interest in doing that because she is not a women of her word. Kevin Park said it best the other day “we don’t have time to go over all her lies”
Oh and yeh I’m a long time SC resident I don’t live in “District 7” nor do I import people from other cities to live here, Like O’niel and Gillmor have done in the past and still doing.
Hi. Appreciate and support your thoughts. I’ve only been living here for less than 8 years. But just like you, I think it’s time for a new mayor, and time to give Gillmor the boot.