At its Sept. 21 meeting, California’s Fair Political Practices Commission is set to find that Council Members Debi Davis and Kathy Watanabe, and former Council candidate Tino Silva—as well as their respective campaign treasurers, Beverly Silva, Karl Watanabe and Dennis Azevedo—violated FPPC reporting regulations.
During the 2016 election the campaigns failed to provide timely reports of $4,000 campaign consulting fees paid to Foo Robertson Marketing in their three pre-election reporting statements, spanning July 1, 2016 through Oct. 28, 2016, according to the FPPC meeting agenda. The expenses were only reported in amended filings on Jan. 31, 2017. No campaign consulting expenditures were reported previously.
The three are tightly plugged into Santa Clara’s political and social circles.
Davis currently chairs the Council Ethics, ADA Committee, Downtown Revitalization and Marketing Committees. She’s a past president of the Sister Cities Association and President of the Mission Cities Community Fund Board.
Watanabe is also a member of the Ethics and Marketing Committees and a past President of the Sister Cities Association. Silva is currently a Parks and Recreation Commissioner, Chair of the ongoing Charter Review Committee and President of the Santa Clara Youth Soccer League (SCYSL).
The FPPC is expected to fine the three about $600 each.
Questions Raised Last Year
The three candidates didn’t report any campaign consulting expenditures during the campaign.
However, last October local attorney and one-time City Council candidate John Mlnarik filed complaints with the FPPC alleging that Davis, Silva and Watanabe were receiving unreported political and campaign consulting from Jude Barry.
Barry is a longtime South Bay political consultant, and a former political advisor to San José Mayors Ron Gonzalez and Sam Liccardo. He’s a registered lobbyist for Related Companies’ City Place Santa Clara development project and public relations consultant for the proposed International Swim Center, Community Center and Swim Hall of Fame. Barry also co-founded Voterpros, an online campaign-in-a-box service that integrates with the popular NationBuilder online campaign platform.
Mlnarik’s complaint said that the three had “informed numerous members of the public that Jude Barry is providing professional campaign advice.”
Barry did not return the Weekly’s request for comment, but dismissed the allegation in a conversation with the Silicon Valley Metro at the time. Then-SCYSL president Gabe Foo subsequently told the Metro that he, not Barry, was consulting for the campaigns but had “held off on billing them because they’re running grassroots campaigns.”
Who is Foo Robertson Marketing?
The California Secretary of State’s website shows San José-based Foo Robertson Marketing LLC was incorporated on Dec. 19, 2016. Foo Robertson has no website and no Santa Clara business license as of this writing.
The principal of Foo Robertson Marketing is SCYSL vice president and past president Gabe Foo. Foo and Silva have claimed in the past to be founders of the political advocacy group Stand Up for Santa Clara, which appeared online following a dispute over the Santa Clara Youth Soccer Park in 2014. Stand Up is not registered with the California Secretary of State as a business, non-profit or political committee as of this writing. Foo appears to operate the group’s website.
FPPC reports can be found at www.fppc.ca.gov.
As of press time neither Council Members Davis nor Watanabe have returned the Weekly’s calls for comment.
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Over my 30 plus years of living and voting in the City of Santa Clara, I’ve see “ethics” stressed as a basis for good government. “Ethics” is often stated by elected officials running for office, or when making an appointment to a City function, or hiring someone to a city position. “Ethics” is even mentioned on the City’s website. You would think that “ethics” is good. Well before the current soccer field – Levi’s Stadium – San Francisco 49ers – Mayor “what’s her name” (it’s forgettable) – controversy, there were chuckles when an elected official’s name was mentioned (I’ve know a few). That chuckle has degenerated into disgust, even contempt. What happened? Who got conned? Who got a payoff (rhetorically)?
The bottom line is if you stress “ethics”, it’s a sign you have none.
From the Neglected North Side