By Robert Haugh
The Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce lost their $150,000 management fee, as we predicted yesterday. No one could explain how it got so large and what they actually do to earn it.
The fee was suspended by a 5-1 vote. Councilwoman Patty Mahan was the lone vote against. She’s on the losing end a lot these days.
Councilwoman Teresa O’Neill made the motion. It was watered down version of her memo co-authored with Mayor Lisa Gillmor. She asked City staff to gather more info, do an audit, and discuss a term sheet with the Chamber if they want to get back their management fee. Confusing? It’s like saying you’re fired but you can come back and get your salary if you rewrite your job description.
During this debate, Mahan and Councilman Pat Kolstad tried to save the Chamber. Then, Kolstad decided to vote with the majority when it was clear the Chamber did not have the votes.
We learned some interesting things. The Chamber apparently had access to City general funds and could write their own checks. Wow. It went unaudited. Wow.
City manager Deanna Santana said the City hasn’t received conflict of interest forms from several Chamber Board members. City attorney BrianDoyle mentioned self-dealing is an issue.
Chamber representatives including current Chamber board president Joe Siecinski and incoming president Chris Boyd tried making their case. Siecinski shot himself in the foot when he tried to argue that Councilwoman Debi Davis and Gillmor entered into an “oral contract” with the Chamber for the fee increase during a meeting years ago. Davis strongly told him he was wrong and Doyle said regardless of what was said in a meeting, it’s not a contract. Oops.
The Chamber made some other dumb mistakes. They had the controversial Santa Clara Weekly Publisher Miles Barber speak for them. He’s the one who publicly attacked female councilmembers in a personal and Trumpian way in his columns. Barber also led the Chamber PAC to unsuccessfully oppose council incumbents in 2016. Oops.
Chamber Interim CEO Nick Kaspar tried to say that the Chamber and PAC are different organizations, even though it’s obvious that they’re not.
Vacant Council Seat
The Council was given options for filling disgraced former councilmember Dominic Caserta’s vacant seat. Mahan initially tried to stop an appointment and made a motion to fill the seat with an election. That failed 4-2 with Mahan and Kolstad in the minority.
Davis pointed out how Mahan voted to fill a council vacancy by appointment in 2010. Watanabe and Gillmor pointed out that about 80 percent of voters made a charter amendment in 2016 to allow the council to appoint if 4/5th of the council agree on a person. That would be 5 of 6 remaining council members.
The Council then voted 4-2 to start the appointment process. Mahan and Kolstad opposed. The Application process will open on May 24 and be due on June 5. Council will interview applicants on June 12. If no applicant gets 5 of 6 votes, the seat remains vacant until the November election.
- Anthony Becker was appointed to the Planning Commission on a 4-2 vote with Davis and Vice Mayor Kathy Watanabe voting against. This was a surprise. Becker made negative comments about Gillmor in the past. And she still voted for him. Kolstad switched his vote to support Becker, too.
- During public presentations, HosamHaggag referred to comments made last week by Tamara Pantic about Caserta boasting about his relationship with the 49ers. Haggag asked the City and/or the DA to investigate any financial relationship(s) between the 49ers and Caserta, Mahan, Pat Kolstad, JerryMarsalli and JamieMatthews. Mahan responded that she’s received campaign contributions and one free ticket from the 49ers but nothing else. She was very angry — not Mount Caserta angry. But almost.
- The Moonlite Lanes project received unanimous approval for a general plan amendment.
- I was busy with my daughter, so I couldn’t cover the council’s study session on the budget that happened at 6 p.m. But unlike Mahan, I wasn’t posting on Instagram during the meeting.