Council Preview: Will Caserta Be Admonished, Censured, or Resign? Council Review: Sellers Denied Benefits Increase, Watanabe Hip Checks Mahan

By Robert Haugh

Council Preview

The big item on the agenda will be about Santa Clara City Councilman Dominic Caserta, the most talked about man in town. And not in a good way.

Dominic Caserta
City Councilman Dominic Caserta

City Attorney Brian Doyle wrote a report that says the City Council may informally admonish Caserta tomorrow night because that action “does not require formal notice or a hearing.”

But a formal censure of Caserta would “require notice and a hearing.” In a censure resolution, the City Council could ask for Caserta to resign.

The odds of Caserta showing up tomorrow don’t look good, even though he told news reporters last week that he would do so to clear his name. Caserta skipped two candidate forums this weekend. Caserta has not appeared in public since he learned that four criminal complaints were filed against him recently with the police department.

But a lot of other people will be showing up, including alleged victims based on what we hear in the community and what we read online.

Stand Up for Santa Clara, a grassroots group that was started to protect the Youth Soccer Park from being taken over by the 49ers, started a petition this weekend. Late Sunday, it had almost 300 signers. Wow. We think they’ll pack the room.

Other items on the agenda:

  • Selection of a Parks and Rec Commissioner;
  • Selection of a Planning Commissioner; and
  • A decision about what to do with the Chamber of Commerce Management fee that no one seems to know what the purpose is.

Council Review (from May 8th meeting)

The council meeting last Tuesday ran late so we didn’t cover all the items in last week’s review. So here are some interesting things that happened after midnight.

Police Chief Mike Sellers was denied his request for increased benefits. In March, Sellers got a major retroactive pay increase that many people think is an attempt to spike his pension.  It was 4-3 council vote that gave it to him. Sellers is one of the highest paid police chiefs in California with a total salary and benefits of approximately $465,000 annually with a vacation buyout of about $500,000.

Mike Sellers
Santa Clara Police Chief Mike Sellers

But Sellers came back for more.  Sellers wanted the same increase given to the Unclassified Police Management Association (Unit 9A) for healthcare, dental and vision — an increase of about $900 per month.  Plus Sellers wanted an additional week of management leave.

This was rejected on 4-2 vote. Mayor Lisa Gillmor, Councilwomen Debi Davis, Teresa O’Neill and Kathy Watanabe were in the majority. Councilwoman O’Neill voted in March vote to give Sellers his raise. But on this vote she flipped to deny him.

Then Councilmembers Patty Mahan and Pat Kolstad tried to another tact. They proposed giving Sellers the increased benefits, but not the extra management leave. O’Neill flipped again and sided with them. But the motion failed in a 3-3 deadlock. (Caserta was absent).

Lastly, the end of the meeting had an interesting exchange between Watanabe and Mahan. Earlier in the meeting, Mahan made a big deal about how she would not support the council’s endorsements of Measure A. That’s the measure to create two districts in Santa Clara. Mahan said the council should not tell people how to vote.

But Watanabe pointed out that Mahan supported telling people how to vote for Measure J — the 2010 stadium measure.  Watanabe even read from on online source to prove her point.

Since it’s hockey playoff season, we think Watanabe gave Mahan a pretty good hip check into the boards.  You can watch the last five minutes of the meeting for the exchange.

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