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Police Chief Nikolai Asks District Attorney to Investigate

Santa Clara Police Chief Pat Nikolai has asked the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office to investigate the accusations made against a portion of the Santa Clara City Council by the Civil Grand Jury.

In a memo [Nikolai Memo to Rosen] issued on Monday evening, following the release of the report, Nikolai wrote, “The report was substantive and well-documented. It raises serious questions about the unethical conduct, state and city law violations, and potential corruption. The public should be grateful to the Civil Grand Jury members for their voluntary and selfless public service.”

Nikolai asked District Attorney Jeff Rosen to investigate Findings 1a, 1b, 1c to determine if there are potential violations of the Brown Act by the group called the “City Council Voting Bloc” in the Civil Grand Jury report. According to the report, the “Voting Bloc” consisted of Council Members Anthony Becker, Suds Jain, Karen Hardy, Raj Chahal and Kevin Park.

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He also asked the District Attorney to investigate Findings 3a, 3b, 3c, 3d.

“The Civil Grand Jury documents how the 49ers have been routinely uncooperative and at times belligerent with City staff, the City fire department, and auditors,” wrote Nikolai. “There is no reason to believe this behavior will substantially change if another financial audit is conducted without your assistance. It will require the investigative powers of your office to obtain financial information to determine if public funds have been misappropriated in any way as the report suggests.”

Nikolai focused in on Finding 5, the “Potential Violation of City’s Prohibition on Accepting Lobbyist Gifts.” This section of the report stemmed from a recent complaint filed with the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) involving a visit by Chahal and Hardy to Levi’s Stadium last year.

While the FPPC is considered an independent state body and has yet to rule on the complaint, Nikolai asked the District Attorney to step in.

“This is clearly a role for your office as your independence will be critical to discovering if our City gift ordinance was violated,” wrote Nikolai.

Finally, he asked that the District Attorney’s office investigate other incidents outlined in the report including the timing of the firing of former City Manager Deanna Santana, the allegations that members of the “City Council Voting Bloc” met with 49ers lobbyists off camera during City Council meetings and that members of the “Voting Bloc” directed City staff to terminate an independent investigation into possible violations.

Questions About Who Nikolai Represents

While Nikolai’s memo outlines serious concerns, it leaves a murky understanding of who Nikolai is speaking on behalf of.

The header of the memo states it is from “Office of the Chief of Police,” not the Santa Clara Police Department. In fact, nowhere in the memo does the phrase “Santa Clara Police Department” appear.

The issue of whose name is included on the header of City stationery was a recent topic of discussion at the Santa Clara City Council meeting. Council Member Anthony Becker called to question a letter from Mayor Lisa Gillmor to Governor Gavin Newsom that included the names of all Santa Clara City Council members on the letterhead. Becker was concerned that a letter with his name on it, that he had no prior knowledge of, was now released to the public.

To her point, Mayor Gillmor pointed out that she’s not even sure she has her own letterhead.

It is unclear whether there is specific City stationery for the “Office of the Chief of Police” separate from City stationery from the Santa Clara Police Department.

Additionally, Nikolai closes the memo in the first person.

“I believe your office must provide the investigative power that we currently don’t have in our City,” wrote Nikolai. “I offer to work with you and provide any police department resources that might be appropriate.”

Finally, Nikolai claimed to be in an independent position of authority.

“The 49ers are sending a disturbing message: if anyone challenges the team, they will be publicly attacked, including the Grand Jury,” said Nikolai. “These actions can discourage good people from speaking out against the 49ers or participating in our civic institutions. Therefore, it’s especially important for those of us who are in independent positions of authority to ignore the 49er’s public pressure and do our civic duty.”

However, Nikolai did not mention in his memo that he is an elected police chief. In 2020, he was backed by the Police Officers Association Political Action Committee (POA PAC). The POA PAC also funded campaigns against three of the five City Council members named in the Civil Grand Jury report – Becker, Jain and Park.

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18 Comments
  1. Davy L 2 months ago
    Reply

    Another last minute attempt by Lisa Gillmor and associates to influence the upcoming election. I hope District Attorney Jeff Rosen sees this for what it is, and promptly reject this request.

  2. Buchser Alum 2 months ago
    Reply

    Erika,

    You wrote: “However, Nikolai did not mention in his memo that he is an elected police chief. In 2020, he was backed by the Police Officers Association Political Action Committee (POA PAC). The POA PAC also funded campaigns against three of the five City Council members named in the Civil Grand Jury report – Becker, Jain and Park.”

    You did not mention in your article that Becker and Jain and Park are elected city councilpeople who had massively expensive campaigns funded for them by the Forty Niners.

    They also do not mention this every time they speak as city councilpeople. I doubt they mention this in their written correspondence.

    Most of your article again is factual and straight reporting. But turning it into a question of who Chief Nikolai is speaking for reads like editorializing through vague implications. What is there to question? When a CEO of a company writes a letter on company letterhead do you question who he is speaking for? What is the implication you are trying to make through your questioning of who he is speaking for? There is clearly something unsaid but implied. If you are going to editorialize you should just write your opinion and not just insinuate it so that people must infer your meaning.

    I am sincerely interested in your opinion in that regard as well as others. If there is a change to how our police chief is determined from being elected by the people to being appointed by the council do you think that Nikolai will be replaced by someone else by this council majority? And then do you expect that charges for use of SCPD resources for managing stadium security will go down or increase over time by less than would be expected?

    Have you or anyone at Silicon Valley Voice done any reporting on Chief Nikolai’s disagreement with the Forty Niners with regard to the Forty Niners covering the full cost of public safety that is actually employed to provide security at football events at the stadium?

    • Davy L 2 months ago
      Reply

      Erica,
      Please ignore all comments from “Buchser Alum”. Please don’t change your style and just be as you are. You are doing an excellent job and excellent reporting. This is a well written article.

      I expect a measure to be placed before our voters soon whether the Chief of Police should be appointed rather than elected. This item has been discussed before but always blocked by Gillmor. However, with the makeup of our current Council Members, I believe the timing is now. Our Chief of Police ought to be the best available, just like our City Manager and City Attorney, and not necessarily restricted to being a resident of our City.

      • Buchser Alum 2 months ago
        Reply

        Davy,

        I agree with you on this wholeheartedly. The Silicon Valley Voice cannot cater to readers such as yourself as well as readers such as myself. We are too far apart in what we expect from a news publication.

        And their choice of whose standard to see as an insightful guideline speaks volumes about what they want the Silicon Valley Voice to be.

        • Davy L 2 months ago
          Reply

          Great! That’s about our first agreement ever. Cheers! However, you may have to start up your own publication or blog, as I doubt you’ll find anything out there that’ll match all your demands. Of course, you may also discover not many readers would agree to support your new publication.

          • Buchser Alum 2 months ago

            Davy,

            It’s not very hard to strive to run a news publication with as little bias and partisanship as possible. And that is not an unreasonable thing to ask of a news publication.

            You should not sell the Silicon Valley Voice and its writers so short.

          • Davy L 2 months ago

            Sorry, but I guess we disagree again. I see no bias and partisanship in their reporting. I am not selling anybody “short”. I think their reporters are doing a great job. From reading all their news stories, I feel my knowledge and my appreciation of our City and our community has greatly increased.

  3. CSC 2 months ago
    Reply

    The letter format Nikolai used for his letter to the District Attorney looks very similar to the template Gillmor used for a press release in 2016 and Rod Diridon, Jr. used for his resignation in 2018
    • Gillmor https://www.santaclaraca.gov/Home/ShowDocument?id=47056
    • Diridon https://santaclaranews.org/2018/02/08/rod-diridon-jr-suddenly-resign/
    • Nikolai https://cdn.svvoice.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/11122446/Nikolai-Memo-to-Rosen.pdf
    Gillmor, today, may not be sure if she has her own letterhead but the 2016 Gillmor was certainly able to find a template to be used as one. Nice of her to share it with Nikolai.
    .
    Throughout the entire Civil Grand Jury “Unsportsmanlike Conduct” report, only once is there any suggestion of potential misdemeanor. On page 26, third paragraph, the word misdemeanor is used to describe an interaction where a member of the City Council allegedly gave an order to a subordinate of the City Manager. The Civil Grand Jury continues to note that an outside investigator was hired to investigate the complaint but acknowledges they don’t know if the accusation is true. Everything else noted in the report are just policy and practice recommendations which officials or agency heads are allowed 60 days to respond, governing bodies are allowed 90 days.
    .
    The State Attorney’s guidance on investigating potential abuses of government records and meetings laws is they are to be handled by private lawsuit in civil court, not criminal, unless there are “particularly flagrant” violations. She and Nikolai already know this. On page two, under “Finding 5”, in Nikolai’s letter to Rosen, he starts the paragraph acknowledging the California Fair Political Practices Commission is CURRENTLY investigating gift polices and then closes the same paragraph suggesting that the County District Attorney’s Office should also lend resources to an investigation already underway by a State Commission. It was certainly nice of Gillmor to share her letterhead template with Nikolai, she should have done him solid by sharing her editor with him as well.

    • Davy L 2 months ago
      Reply

      Thank you, CSC. I always look forward to seeing and reading your comments. They are always factual and contain a great deal of information. Like you, I know there will soon come a day when our Chief of Police will be appointed by our City Council. As for Lisa Gillmor, I’m hope her term ends next month.

      • CSC 2 months ago
        Reply

        Thank you. If everyone looks at historical records of the 12 law enforcement entities in Santa Clara County they’d notice there are two who consistently embroiled in controversial and political scandals – Santa Clara Police Department and Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office. Both SCPD and SCCSO are lead by elected cops with political debt to pay off, all the other entities (Campbell, Gilroy, Los Altos, Milpitas, Los Gatos/Monte Sereno, Morgan Hill, Palo Alto, San Jose, and Sunnyvale) are lead by a thoroughly scrutinized and highly qualified police chiefs. Significant change in this city is long overdue.

        • Buchser Alum 2 months ago
          Reply

          CSC,

          You should try doing an internet search for “san jose police department lawsuit” and note the number of distinct cases you see listed. Doing the same for other nearby departments yields a lot too. Also try the same for San Francisco and Oakland. Or many other departments throughout the region and state and country that have heads who are appointed not elected.

          I do not object to the effort to change election of the SCPD Chief to appointment by the council. I am concerned about this council’s consistency in consistently voting in the Forty Niners interests and I wonder what happens when the chief of police’s political debt is held by a few city councilpeople instead of all the residents of the city.

          Will the police chief who got his job due to the vote of the Forty Niners’ bloc start running public safety operations the way that the Forty Niners want him to do so and will they be charged what they shoudl be charged to offset the cost?

          I am no fan of the political influence of the SCPOA but they are small fries when compared to the Forty Niners in terms of spending ability and propensity to spend money to influence voting and elections.

          • CSC 2 months ago

            Buchser Alum, thanks for your polite reply. Over the years I have conducted internet searches of sustained police misconduct cases which is how I arrived at Santa Clara’s police department having the highest percentage of cops convicted of crimes or having sustained misconduct investigations against them *per capita of officers employed* which is to take the number of (a) peace officers convicted of crimes over a period of time divided by (b) the number of peace officers employed over that same period of time. Research allows one voice an opinion, with a good level of confidence, based upon such findings.
            .
            I share your concern about any potential business crimes and unscrupulous back-room dealings of any kind but to date I can only find accusations from some of the City Council, on SVV, on the Santa Clara News blog, the Mercury News, and the S.F. Chronicle. Nowhere have I seen hard evidence printed of wrongdoings or crimes committed between the 49ers organization and the City Council.
            .
            Regardless of being small or large PACs, business support of a candidate is legal and acceptable but influence to gain from that support personally and financially is unacceptable. The worst part about the SCPOA, or any POA, is how they pay to protect bad cops from serious policy violations and crimes.

  4. ByeByeGillmor 2 months ago
    Reply

    Nikolai wants to maintain the existing white power structure because it benefits him. He’s afraid he’ll lose his job if his position reports to the city manager.

    He should ask the DA to investigate the leak of these report from City Hall. Was it done by Gillmor? Watanabe? Nikolai?

  5. Davy L 2 months ago
    Reply

    Being a “minority” member myself, I wholehearted agree.

  6. SCFirst 2 months ago
    Reply

    We read in the “gossip column” they call a “blog” that people accused Suds of releasing the grand jury investigations. We find that a joke. Who gains to benefit from the release of that Grand Jury evidence just a few days before the ballots arrive? We know that answer. Poor Lisa lost her throne and is trying so hard to keep control. We hope she moves away like some of her other team that brought the Niners here, Kolstad, Matthews, Davis, Blair, etc etc. but not before she and her family is investigated. While the fingers are pointed at others maybe we as a City should be looking at little closer at the Gillmor family maybe some restitution needs to be done, how many people have they influenced to sell their homes or land ? How many schools were closed and downtowns were pulled down under the Gillmor advice? How many schools and properties are still paying rent to the Gillmor Family? What shelf companies does the family own? Whats the truth behind Related and the Gillmor family?

    if you have forgotten her involvement please enjoy the videos https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57F4_X2PIJU and remember the push for Yes on J https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhnNw2u4z8g or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5TfvZyaQy8

    What did the Niners promise the Gillmor Family but didn’t act on that we have this tug of war?

    • Davy L 2 months ago
      Reply

      Thanks for this interesting information. I wish more of our voters could have been made aware of your concerns.

  7. SCFirst 2 months ago
    Reply

    Further more the so called Ethics professional who called out the so called Five is a sham – he resigned over a cloud of ethics himself. Ask Mr Park more – Park put in many complaints to Shanks who ignored them. I had heard that same story from others who ran in the past, Shanks only favored complaints that came from the Gillmor or Matthews side. Its laughable that a so called “Advisor to the Mayor” who is a Dough Maker is teamed up with Shanks looking at the “ETHICS” of our city. Shouldn’t we be looking into these shady characters who use “ethics” as excuse to talk up the wonderful job Lisa is doing. Another example of how Lisa manipulates people.

    • Davy L 2 months ago
      Reply

      Thank you for your excellent comments. These comments should be expressly directed towards Kirk Vartan.

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