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.
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.