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.
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.