Did Santa Clara Weekly Publisher Miles Barber Violate the Lobbyist Ordinance? (Opinion)

Did Santa Clara Weekly Publisher Miles Barber Violate the Lobbyist Ordinance? (Opinion)

By Robert Haugh

We may need to start going to the Ethics Committee meetings.

Santa Clara resident Howard Myers showed up to raise some questions during public presentation about Miles Barber.

As we’ve reported, Barber was a registered lobbyist for the Mariani Trust who is the group proposing the massive Mariani development project on El Camino Real.

Myers is one of the neighborhood leaders opposed to the development, as currently proposed.

Barber is publisher of the Santa Clara Weekly and it may have gotten him in some trouble with the lobbyist ordinance. Myers raised three interesting issues to the Ethics Committee.

Question #1: Was Mr. Barber an expenditure lobbyist in addition to being a contract lobbyist?

According to the lobbyist ordinance, there are different kinds of lobbyist. A “contract lobbyist” is hired to meet with City Hall officials. Myers documents Barber’s multiple meetings with Councilwoman Teresa O’Neill. Barber also met once with Mayor Lisa Gillmor and once with Councilman Dominic Caserta to discuss the massive Mariani development project.

An “expenditure lobbyist” is a person who supports the project through public relations or advertising or “similar activities.” Did Barber do that through the Weekly when he and his staff wrote positive stories about the project and not report it? As we’ve reported, the Weekly has never told it’s readers that the Publisher was working for the Mariani Trust. That’s a violation of journalistic ethics.

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Question #2: Did Mr. Barber through the Santa Clara Weekly indirectly violate the Lobbyist Ordinance?

Here’s how the lobbyist ordinance defines “indirect violations:”

Indirect Violations. Attempting to evade the requirements of this chapter through indirect efforts or through the use of agents, associates, intermediaries or employees.

The Weekly writers are employees of Barber. Were they directed to write stories or report favorably about the Mariani project?

Question #3: Did Mr. Barber act as an unregistered lobbyist?

This question seems to us more speculative. Barber terminated as the Mariani lobbyist in January, 2017.

However, Barber continued to meet with O’Neill multiple times after January. Myers suggests that since all previous meetings were regarding the Mariani project, it is reasonable to ask if they were talking about the development at those. If so, was he, as the lobbyist ordinance prohibits: “acting as a lobbyist in the City without having registered in compliance with this chapter …”?

The City Attorney’s office will research and report back on these three questions. We may need to attend the next Ethics Committee meeting. If Myers and Barber show up, it’ll be like if “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka met up after Piper slammed a coconut over Snuka’s head.

 

15 comments

  1. The Mariani family has been a class family in Santa Clara for many years and their property,s have out lived there life. They should be given the right to develop there property,s the same as other developments on the El Camino and near there location. It will all fit in with the new moonlight center you cant stop progress.and you can,t make ever one happy.

    • James, this has nothing to do with the Mariani family or any family. It has to do with wanting to shove a 96 unit per acre development where it is zoned for 37. Regarding other developments on El Camino near this location this would be the worst. Not just the most dense and highest but the traffic would dump right into the neighborhood. NONE of the other developments have that feature. You can see this graphically on a 3 min video. https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=youtube+mariani+maddness&view=detail&mid=CA73BBE2341A650282FFCA73BBE2341A650282FF&FORM=VIRE
      The article is whether Miles crosses the lobbyist line, but you brought up the development so I felt compelled to clarify.

      • What are,the lined? I can really understand how a newspaper publisher should not lobby. I also can appreciate the development issue. Country Lane had a bowling alley that was torn down for too many houses. So I get this. Going back I see lobbying is a new issue in Santa Clara definitions. A former mayor is directed to register. I really support that. But in reading other things, I note one council member vacationed at that lobbyists home in Montana. Well, that is a line, isn’t It? Another article suggests a lobbyist is running a campaign. Service offering cut rate deals for candidates they lobby. A line, isn’t It? I really want to support playing fair and support this site calling for that. But when others skirt around, it does defeat it all.

      • Sorry, I meant lines. What are they? This IPhone makes it hard to reply. Now I really want Miles to get out of this issue. But in following all of these things I notice a lot of meetings with some guru in New York with council members. This is very under the radar.

      • mrhmyers – is there a petition to oppose over-developing the Mariani property? I purposely chose the word “over-develop”, because I am not opposed to “development”, as some people will probably quickly accuse/assume. I just want it to be sensible for the surrounding neighborhood. Doing so would benefit the surrounding community and city, and probably get the project approved much faster to boot!

      • SC Res, there isn’t an active petition but we have been working to get him to downsize for 3 1/2 years and that involved a lot of activity.
        So far he has gone from 54 units/acre to 96 units/acre on a parcel zoned for 37 units/acre.
        You could sign up for the email list at http://www.sc4sg.com. (Santa Clara for Smart Growth)
        If you want the Marinai list specifically please indicate this.

  2. I would say that council members meeting with journalists is ok with respect to elected officials. On line bloggers qualify. Miles should clarify. No argument. Citizens and activists also are excused. However people meeting in a triangle, lobbyist, council member, individual do not get excuses. Council members vacationing with lobbyists do not get excuses ,accepting gifts from lobbyists do not excuses. Lobbyists who are also campaign consultants or who were get a pass. But meeting lobbyists has to be fully explained pads or not.

    • Diane, an elected official taking favors etc. is illegal and was before SC had a lobbyist ordinance. The ordinance is intended to control the activities of the lobbyist, the elected officials have been governed by many laws for a long time. Not that they always comply, but the laws are there.
      Anything as blatant as you and others describe should be looked into, I would think.

      • Thank you. So you would agree that if a council member received room and board at a home in the mountains from a person who has declare themselves a lobbyist, even acknowledged publicly he or she was doing so, it would unethical? You seem to be quite ethical. If a council member met with a registered lobbyist, under the calendar law, but obscured the reason, you would possibly have issues with that, or if a council member engaged
        In social activities with a lobbyist. I am just trying to understand. I see on Facebook that some council members even took junkets with someone who meets with lobbyists as a go between, what are the lines? Thanks

  3. Thanks for explaining Howard. They may not have done anything wrong but should be interviewed because they can tell us what’s going on.

  4. don’t think city attorney can do this. he’s part of the city hall. ask the da to look into it. focus on meetings. why so many with O’Neill? focus on articles. why so many?

  5. Howard Myers is raising good questions. This is important to keep corruption out of city hall. I hope the city attorney interviews Miles Barber, his employees, the Mayor, Teresa O’Neill, Dominic Caserta, and the Mariani Trust to get to the bottom of this.

    • Jerry, I have seen nothing to suggest the elected officials did anything wrong. They filled out their calendar as required or we could not know what we know.
      In fact the law is new and it make take some better understanding of it. There are already ordinances covering the behavior of public officials, this is about lobbyists.
      This is one reason I hesitated to file the letter of inquiry, i don’t want to paint with a wide brush.

  6. I can’t imagine miles is very effective as a lobbyist. With a newspaper that rots on most people’s porch and surly personality he may still have a little credibility with the weak Chamber of Commerce.
    It doesn’t seem like he’s done much for the Mariani project. I’m sure he still gets his Hefty fee, although now Lou has to go for yet another’s set of plans. These plans can’t be cheap. If Myles had any credibility he would kick back his fee for all the damages caused to Lou and the family.

  7. Well let’s hope it doesn’t come to that last scenario. Although Miles Barber has personally threatened to crucify me. However, I did not take that in the physical sense.

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