Mercury News Story and 49er Supporters Falsely Accuses Mayor Lisa Gillmor of Charter Violations

By Robert Haugh

I’ve always liked Ramona Giwargis of the Mercury News. She’s done some good reporting. Unfortunately, her latest story is full of major errors. She uses false accusations that are not supported by facts.

Giwargis writes that Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor has been accused of violating the city charter by using Banner Public Affairs, a PR firm the city hired, to help her to communicate publicly on 49er issues, like the team’s intentional curfew violations and their opposition to an audit.

I covered the story last week. So I know it well. Here are the major problems with the Giwargis story:

1. There’s no violation of the City Charter. The city council unanimously hired the PR firm to help the Mayor and the city communicate on 49ers issues. And the City Charter says the Mayor is the spokesperson for the city.

2. The people who are responsible for enforcing the charter, the City Attorney and the City Manager, don’t think there’s a violation.

3. The two people who do, Vice Mayor Dominic Caserta and Councilwoman Patty Mahan, are political enemies of Gillmor and major 49ers supporters.


The real problem may be that Giwargis is a San Jose City Hall reporter. She occasionally writes about Santa Clara. When she does, she gets stuff wrong because she doesn’t know the Mission City. And, like her paper, she has a San Jose bias. That’s not unusual. That’s been the case for decades with Mercury News reporters and editorial writers.

But this story was particularly bad. We got to see it evolve when it was changed online. It shows how misleading the reporting is.

Here’s how Giwargis reported about Interim City Attorney Brian Doyle’s take on this controversy — three different times!

On Friday, November 18, the story said:

“Santa Clara’s interim City Attorney Brian Doyle said Friday that he did not authorize the mayor to speak directly with Hillan and didn’t discuss the contract with her.”

That sounds pretty bad and makes Gillmor look guilty as sin.

Then on Saturday, November 19, the story was modified:

“Santa Clara’s interim City Attorney Brian Doyle said Saturday that he never advised Gillmor about the contract and was never asked to do so. He said it was up to the city manager to decide ‘whether it’s appropriate to have contact — and as to whether they gave permission or not.’”

Now, it sounds like Doyle was out of the loop, even though he’s the guy in charge of watching out for charter violations like this.

Then on Monday, November 20, the story was changed again, adding a line:

However, on Monday, after this story appeared online, Doyle wrote to the city council to cast doubt on whether Gillmor’s interactions with Hillan (Banner) were in violation of the city charter.”

Huh? Doyle had to actually write to the city council to correct his statements and her errors, even after three revisions. Not good.

In Doyle’s memo, he didn’t just “cast doubt,” as Giwargis wrote. He was pretty clear: “In conclusion, I am not aware of any facts that a violation of the Charter had occurred.  If [Interim City Manager] Mr. [Rajeev] Batra had so found, he had an obligation to surface them immediately and I believe he would have brought them to my attention.”

Wow! The whole story and accusation of wrongdoing falls apart when the city’s legal expert says it’s false. What’s left?  Pro-49er councilmembers attacking Gillmor who’s standing up for the residents of Santa Clara.

We reached out to Giwargis: “I stand by the story and my reporting,” was her sole comment.

Like many of you, I hope the Mayor keeps speaking out regardless of what the Mercury News or the Santa Clara Weekly or 49ers supporters say.

Editor’s Note: Tonight’s City Council meeting will address this issue. I’ll try and live tweet it. You can follow me on Twitter: @RobertHaugh




  1. Patty has more class than all the rest she look,s out us.And for John hes gone now but did a lot of good for this city how dare you talk about some that has pass. The only hypocrite is one that hides behind a key board

  2. If this gets reviewed tonight, I think Mr. Doyle will have to clarify that “appear to cross the line” statement. (I hope.) I don’t think you can write something like that on official letterhead and leave it up to interpretation by the citizens as to what he’s talking about.

  3. Patty and Dominic are accusing Lisa of council-manic interference? Are you even kidding me right now?

    Those 2 (Patty and Dominic) are the biggest offenders of council-manic interference! They boss city staff around like it’s nobody’s business. This is COMMON knowledge around city hall and among staff…..

    Even City Attorney Doyle alludes to this in his line:
    “And some that I’m aware of appear to cross the line as both outside the consent of the City Manager and as an attempt to order staff.”

    He was just too polite to literally call out Patty and Dominic as the biggest offenders.

    Hypocrisy at its finest, ladies and gentlemen. Patty and Dominic are the 2 most disgraceful councilmembers in Santa Clara’s history. I guess Patty is following in her father’s footsteps – on the brink of a recall!

  4. Robert, thanks for all the digging. Did Giwargis clarify which article she stands by? Looks like multiple choice.
    Good job exposing the shabby reporting. She should wait until she has the facts, she wouldn’t have to make so many corrections.

  5. Being a Santa Clara resident it is difficult to see Council Members voting against what is good for our city, and there are three. Supporting the 49ers in these situations hurts the city financially and publicly. Sellouts!

    That’s why it is very easy for me to support Lisa Gillmor for Mayor… Lisa and her supporting Council Members are our only chance to not let the 49ers and Manco take over the stadium and enforce what is currently owed to us.

    The 49ers are a bunch thugs with a high power legal team. It takes a lot of strength to fight these people. It is very important to have Lisa in there on our behalf.

  6. Richard may be right about BluPac. Can you check to see if they’ve made any contributions to the Mercury News or Ramona Giwargis directly?

  7. I don’t read the Mercury News. It’s not considered a good paper. except for some of their sports writing. I don’t know Ramona Giwargis. But if she’s they’re government reporter, she can’t be very good.

    If fact, these days, with economic pressure, most papers are unreliable. It’s ironic that local blogs, like yours, and Patch are more reliable because you don’t rely on or bow to dollars. The 49ers spend money on the Mercury News and the Santa Clara Weekly and other Bay Area media. So it’s no surprise that they slant their coverage.

    That’s why I rely on first hand sources as much as possible. Thank you for posting the City Attorneys memo. That’s the most compelling info to me. It’s also telling that the Mercury News did not reprint or accurately report the City Attorney’s memo.

  8. We should all thank Mayor Gillmor and the other councilmembers who are brave enough to represent our city against a greedy NFL team and a biased newspaper.

  9. We knew about Caserta and Mahan but now the Mercury News is influenced by the blu pack?

    Only non Santa Clarans can support Caserta and Mahan. It’s so obvious these two are out for themselves and their pack. Why vote for something then whine about it, oh yeah a bigger paycheck.

Leave a Reply