City Council Recap – Mount Caserta Erupts Again; Police Chief Gets Salary Increase on 4-3 Vote

By Robert Haugh

Councilman Dominic Caserta was not happy last night. He was not courteous. And he erupted. Again. This is getting to be regular thing for him. Maybe we should call him Mount Caserta.

Dominic Caserta
Councilman Dominic Caserta

His eruption occurred during discussion of wage increases for Unit 9. That’s the management bargaining unit for the City. These are relatively routine items. The only reason this was agendized is because City Manager Deanna Santana’s contract correlates with Unit 9. Caserta, who voted against Santana’s salary, was unhappy about the 2017 and 2018 four percent increases she’s getting. He even went on a tirade asking why HR Director Liz Brown wasn’t present. Caserta frequently cut off City Attorney Brian Doyle who he also voted against. It was not pretty or professional. But ultimately Caserta lost. The council approved the employment agreements 6-1 with Caserta unhappily opposed. Caserta called the wage increases obnoxious. The texts we were getting last night used the word “obnoxious” too. But mostly to describe Caserta.

You can see for yourself. Caserta’s comments start at approximately 1:24:43.

Police Chief and City Clerk Salaries

As we reported the last two days, Police Chief Mike Sellers has requested substantial salary increases. The increases would boost his salary by a lot. His salary was increased by approximately $35,000 per year to $329,377 annually, before benefits. The compaction rate is approximately 16 percent over the Assistant Police Chief.

Mike Sellers
Santa Clara Police Chief Mike Sellers

The motion passed 4-3 with Caserta, Councilman Pat Kolstad and Councilwomen Patty Mahan and Teresa O’Neill supporting. They believe Sellers is owed the raise because that’s the way it’s always been done. They really missed an opportunity to send a signal that things will operate differently. Or maybe they don’t want things to be different.

The irony is that hours earlier, Caserta erupted over a similar salary increase for Santana.  Can you say “double standard?”

The Council voted unanimously to have staff bring back salary setting policies for the clerk and chief at a future study session, with options including Charter amendment, ordinance adoption and using the Charter’s salary setting commission.

Mayor Lisa Gillmor opposed Sellers’ raise, saying that what they did was technically illega. “This doesn’t fix our problem. It’s just a Band-Aid.”

An important theme of the meeting was the significant need to implement more effective and legal policies at City Hall. Santana and Doyle are trying to clean up a mess created by former city manager Julio Fuentes, acting city manager Rajeev Batra, and HR director Brown. We wish the majority of the council would help them.

Other items

  • A study session was held on City Place.  City staff provided updates on the new “uptown” in the Northside. Phase 1 construction could begin in 2019 or 2020. The 240-acre project will include: residential, retail, commercial, hotels, new parks and open space and infrastructure improvements. Fire station 10 will be relocated. Gillmor said it will be “one of the biggest and best developments in Silicon Valley history.”
  • The Council unanimously approved a $10,000 allocation for a rain barrel rebate program.
  • In closed session, the Council unanimously approved $280,000 toward three workers compensation claims.


  1. Can councilman Caserta explain why he so blithely approved the Police Chief (yet another) salary increase, but had a full-blown, meltdown, hissy fit over increasing salaries for unelected city management staff?

    As I see it, the current managers have been left with the nasty job of cleaning up the gargantuan mess that Caserta and his fellow 49er lapdogs (current and former city council/city management) left behind when they either ran for cover or were finally booted out for their failure to look out for Santa Clara citizens best interest.

  2. Cant believe that four of seven on Santa Clara council voted to pension-spike the police chief’s salary. This is one of the worst problems with public pensions in CA. I’m disgusted – shame on Kolstad, O’Neill, Mahan and Caserta.

  3. A lousy police chief who runs a troubled department just got a raise? Santa Clara is a joke.

  4. Just saw the Dominic Caserta segment referenced in the article above. A tantrum by an overgrown toddler – embarrassing to watch. His behavior was petulant, rude, whiny, argumentative and disrespectful to both fellow councilors and the city’s staff. It’s a pity that the city hall doesn’t have a “naughty corner” where he can be made to go sit and reflect on his bad behavior. Scenes like these only confirm my doubt about his ability to serve at the county of Santa Clara supervisors.

  5. Santana leads the Unit 9 negotiations on behalf of the city and by virtue negotiates her own percentage raise.

    Robert – you say she is cleaning up the mess Batra left?? You will rethink this by next year IMO. Batra was the disaster clean-up CM after Hurricane Julio blew out of town.

  6. Caserta has no integrity. Apparently, his cronies O’Neill, Mahan, and Kolstad don’t either. This cabal should be paying the chief out of their own sleazy pockets. This is what everyone hates about politics and politicians. They scratch each other’s backs for favors and money.

    Could someone who knows Santa Clara politics please connect the dots on who supports who and who owes who favors? It would be good to know.

  7. Thank you Lisa Gilmor and Kathy Watanabey and Debbie Davis for doing the right thing and having some real integrity.

    The pension problem in every city in California is a ticking time bomb. The pensions are sky high especially for police. They do a dangerous job and there are a lot of good officers in Santa Clara.

    But the ones who spike their salaries right before retirement are scum. Next election, let’s vote in a council who will hold the line on this.

  8. Shame on the city council. The city staff tried to do the right thing and they were undermined by the politicians. We all have to pay for this. Shame. Shame. Shame.

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