A grand jury report that included damning allegations of corruption about five members of the Santa Clara City Council is being questioned for its impartiality.
The grand jury only spoke to two of the five people it leveled serious charges against. It did not speak to Santa Clara City Council Members Anthony Becker, Raj Chahal or Kevin Park. Nor did the grand jury speak to anybody from the 49ers, despite accusing the NFL team of political corruption.
Council Member Karen Hardy was one of just two people named in the report that was called to give sworn testimony to the grand jury. She says it seemed clear that the grand jury already determined their findings before conducting any investigation.
“From the tenor of their questions it was obvious they had an ax to grind,” said Hardy. “It was obvious who was feeding them information and they already had the report written in their heads.”
From Hardy’s account, it seems like the grand jury was trying to influence council action.
“At one point they wanted me to promise to vote a certain way,” she said. “They asked me about closed session material — more than once —and I responded, ‘That’s privileged information and I’m not going to say anything about it.’ And they were berating me, asking these questions repeatedly.”
What’s more, an attorney representing one of the witnesses, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said their client was not permitted by the grand jury to have a lawyer present during questioning.
“I was told that I can’t talk to my client about it [the investigation],” they said. “It boggles my mind that I can’t talk to my own client about a document that’s public. I asked to see the specific rule. So far, I haven’t heard anything from the District Attorney.”
For his part, Becker felt like the report went against what the justice system is supposed to stand for.
“If you’re doing an investigation you need to talk to the people that you are investigating,” said Becker who is challenging Lisa Gillmor for the mayor’s seat. “In this country, you are innocent until proven guilty, but this grand jury seems to assign guilt before they look for any proof.
“The timing is also suspect,” said Becker. “It is very political to time this right before ballots go out to voters.”