Last month, Santa Clara Councilmember Kevin Park came under fire in light of a records request that shows correspondences between him and a political consultant. But Park insists he did nothing wrong and that the request was a political tactic to make him “look bad.”
The records request, submitted by Richmond, CA resident and former South Bay politico James Rowen, shows a few email exchanges between consultant Jay Reed and Park. In one of the emails, Reed tells Park he solicited money from the 49ers on Park’s behalf.
Reed provided his political consulting services to Park during Park’s vie for the Council in 2020. However, Park said he has never met Reed in-person and had not spoken to him since his election prior to the April email exchange.
The exchange, beginning in April, was amid political tumult surrounding Councilmember Kathy Watanabe stymying Park — the Council’s first Korean American member — from speaking at a rally against anti-Asian bigotry. The move, which Park has said he believes to be personal and not racial, was a bad look for Watanabe, with many calling for the Council to reprimand her.
Park turned over the emails, saying he has nothing to hide. The City Clerk’s Office did not respond to inquiries as to what the law requires Councilmembers to turn over in a records request. But Park said he would have turned over the emails even if not required to do so.
“If I submit something, they are going to latch onto that. If I don’t submit something, they are going to latch onto that,” Park said. “The people who hate you, don’t need a reason to attack.”
One of “the people who hate” him is Robert Haugh. Haugh is former sports writer for this publication who started his own blog with strong ties to Mayor Lisa Gillmor after being fired. Haugh published a blog about the emails, echoing Rowen’s sentiments, despite Rowen’s distaste for Haugh.
Shortly after the rally where Watanabe barred Park from speaking, some accused Park of deliberately trying to disrupt it, a sentiment Rowen seems to share given his email to, among others, this publication, the City Clerk and City Council, where he states that the emails between Reed and Park show Park “admits he attended the event to disrupt it.”
In the first of the emails, Reed inquires whether Park is “ok” [sic], asking if he has “been getting any feedback” from the drama at the rally. Park’s response mirrors his previous sentiments about Watanabe’s “mistruths” surrounding the reason she waved him off at the rally.
“James [Rowen] starts with a conclusion and tries to find support for it. He is still going to state the conclusion,” Park said. “Rational people see evidence and reach a conclusion. That is not how he operates.”
Later, Reed tells Park he “didn’t have much luck getting the 49ers to fund efforts to help” Park.
In a text message, Reed categorized the exchange as “personal,” saying it had “NOTHING to do with city business nor was it related to his campaign.” When pressed for an explanation as to the comment’s context, although he said he was not “trying to be evasive,” Reed iterated that Park “sought [his] thoughts on a personal matter.”
Nothing in the emails indicates that Park contacted Reed first or sought his opinion on anything. Park said he never asked Reed to solicit money from the 49ers. However, Park also did not explain why he didn’t respond to Reed’s comment about securing money from the team.
“I didn’t ask for anything there,” he said. “I didn’t care whether they were going to help there.”
While Park said he has “no idea” what Reed meant by the comment, Rahul Chandhok, the 49ers Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs, told The Weekly he had no record of correspondence between Reed and the team regarding funding anything for Park, or anything else for that matter.
The emails show that Reed also put Park in contact with Pete Constant, a former San Jose City Council member with ties to the 49ers to act as a “mediator” between the team and the City and help “resolve the ongoing drama between the city and the 49ers.” Park said he never met with Constant.
Despite this, in his email, Rowen calls for City Manager Deanna Santana, now-fired City Attorney Brian Doyle and City Clerk Hosam Haggag to launch an investigation into the matter and bar Park from voting on 49ers matters, writing that Park “has declared financial incentives.”
Park maintains the request and subsequent hoopla surrounding it is little more than a political tactic wrapped in a shroud of concern about transparency. Park and others on the Council have repeatedly endured accusations that they are in bed with the team. Those accusations are due largely to the support political action committee funded by 49ers owner Jed York in previous elections. Candidates have no control over who a PAC supports.
“Thieves think everybody steals,” Park said. “If I am so close to the 49ers, why do I need Jay Reed to go to them? They don’t want communication. They are trying to break down communication.”