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Milestones (OPINION)

Has Santa Clara’s Mayor gone rogue?

From a public records request made to City Hall on October 2, the Santa Clara Weekly has learned Mayor Lisa Gilmor contracted and worked with a public relations firm months before the contract was approved.

In January 2017, at a goal-setting meeting, the Stadium Authority and City Council agreed they needed a public relations firm to handle issues specifically for the Stadium Authority on matters dealing with the SF 49ers and the stadium.

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In May, Banner Public Affairs was selected. The principle representative for Banner Public Affairs, Mr. Peter Hillan, charges $450 an hour (about double the two other bidders’ fees).

Documents from the City show the contract was approved on July 17, 2017, to be effective July 17 through December 31, 2017 and not to exceed $50,000. However, Mr. Hillan signed part of the contract on May 8, 2017 and invoiced the City thousands of dollars for work performed in May and June 2017, prior to the contract being approved.

This work included hours of coaching and prepping the Mayor for her public interview with the SF Chronicle, several TV appearances and drafting op-ed pieces that soft-peddled the lack of any meaningful results from the Harvey M. Rose $180,000 Stadium audit.

Coincidently, the Mercury News published a piece about Hillan’s hiring on October 6, 2017, two days after the Weekly’s public records request to City Hall and three months after his official hiring.

According to Hillan’s calendar, he spent hours talking with blogger Robert Haugh. Haugh has never had any official relationship with the the City of Santa Clara, yet taxpayers were billed thousands for Hillan’s numerous conversations with Haugh.

Hillan’s calendar details dozens of meeting hours with Mayor Gillmor, yet Gillmor’s Council calendar shows NO meetings with Hillan.

Based on these documents and calendars, we have strong reason to believe the series of “hit pieces” written by blogger Haugh may have come directly from the Mayor through Hillan.

There are more disturbing facts revealed by these documents. The contract states that Hillan was hired to work specifically on Stadium Authority issues and matters. The Mayor used Hillan on numerous occasions for work on other projects and other City issues outside the scope of his contracted duties. This work started two months before he was officially employed and two months before the contract was approved by the City Manager on July 17. The contract was drafted as a City contract, not a Stadium Authority contract, yet stating the focus would be on stadium issues. The invoices have been billed to the City.

It is obvious that using general fund money for Stadium Authority business would be, and is, a violation of Measure J.

Emails obtained in our records request indicate that using Hillan on the new International Swim Center project was also part the Mayor’s plan as early as June 2017. Yet, this was never reported publicly nor specified in the scope of contracted duties. Neither was this information disclosed to members of the Stadium Authority nor to the public.

Additional documents show Hillan billed the City for many stadium-related meetings, yet there were numerous meetings unrelated to the Stadium Authority including ones with blogger Haugh, Related lobbyist Jude Barry, and Project Finance Advisory, Limited (PFAL), a consulting company with a $650,000 contract for developing and promoting the swim center project.

All billed to Santa Clara taxpayers.

Misdirected use of general fund money for non-approved projects and personal political activities is absolutely rogue behavior.

You can view the available documents here.

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The Mlnarik Law Group, Inc.

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