Chamber Loses Control of Convention and Visitors Bureau Because of Mismanagement and Malfeasance

By Robert Haugh

Last night’s Council meeting seemed like WWE Smackdown at times — there was a lot going on. And it didn’t end until after 1:30 a.m.

But we’ll focus on how the Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce lost their $1.5 million management contract of the Santa Clara Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB).

After hours of discussion, the Council did not extend the CVB contract which expires this month. Instead, they approved funding CVB salaries for the next 60 days while City staff and existing consultant Jones Lang Lasalle (JLL) work on finding a new Convention Center management company or come up with other options.  So the employees get more time. But the Chamber management is done.

How the Chamber Blew It

City manager Deanna Santana said the City asked the Chamber for a lot of “basic” information in April. But they wouldn’t cooperate. Some of the major issues concerned financial transactions, asset inventory, self-dealing, fee waivers and conflict of interest policies.

An important document wasn’t provided to the City until 4:40 p.m. on Tuesday. Seriously. The staff presentation said, “response appears to illustrate a incomplete understanding of the complexities of managing public funds and facilities, possible conflicts of interests.”

Last night confirmed what we already reported: the Chamber shoots it self in the foot. As we said yesterday, the Chamber simply shouldn’t be in the business of managing any taxpayer funds.

New, Damaging Info

A multitude of issues came up during the City presentation including the Santa Clara Chamber PAC using the Convention Center for political events, the use of CVB funds and resources for Chamber PAC advertisements in a Board member’s publication and emails.

We learned that over the years, 30 to 75 events were likely given free or drastically reduced rental fees at the Convention Center – including for the Chamber PAC, Hyatt Hotel, 49ers Foundation, Mission City Community Fund and weddings and graduations for CVB staff. Wow.

City Attorney Brian Doyle says uncovered details are “very serious matters” and there is a huge issue with use of public funds with possible political use and self-dealing.

During the discussion, Councilwoman Teresa O’Neill spanked Santa Clara Weekly Publisher/Lobbyist Miles Barber for his recent claims that Mayor Lisa Gillmor led efforts in the past for a $100,000 Chamber and CVB audit. That audit never happened. Busted! Barber was conspicuously absent from the chambers last night. We’re guessing he wasn’t in the control booth either.

Other items

  • Another smackdown happened during public presentations when several speakers verbally lambasted Councilwoman Patty Mahan and Councilman Pat Kolstad for failing to appoint a Councilmember two weeks ago even though a lot of qualified and diverse candidates applied. Former Councilwoman Keri Procuncier McLain, Dorothy Rosa, Hosam Haggag, Teresa Sulcer and others blasted both Councilmembers. More on that in another column.
  • Mission Town Center (575 Benton) was continued to the July 17 meeting over concerns about the Franklin Street easement, which contracts have yet to be completed yet, and the developer, Prometheus Real Estate Group mentioned the easement at a recent Planning Commission meeting.
  • The City won a competitive bid process to purchase the North South Parking Parcel at 4911 Great America Parkway. The City’s $7,468,500 bid was higher than the only other bidder, Jamestown LLC, an affiliate of the 49ers. Kudos to Gillmor for catching this item as the City’s rep on the Successor Agency. The price is approximately $700,000 per acre. Properties in the area are going for $8 to $12 million per acre. Wow! Gillmor’s real estate background really came in handy.
  • The Council voted unanimously  in closed session to appeal a Court order regarding a California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) lawsuit. Judge Thomas Kuhnle ordered the City to hold two community meetings next week, draw district maps and hold two additional meetings. We aren’t kidding. Kuhnle doesn’t seem to understand Santa Clara, elections or the process for community input.
  • A four-unit development proposal at 1075 Pomeroy was approved by a 5-1 a vote. Mahan opposed.
  • The Council held a study session on the Tasman East Specific Plan.

Santa Clara Chamber and CVB

9 comments

  1. Henry, you’re right on target. I can’t wait for Deborah’s street light to go in. A true Santa Claran.

  2. It’s great to see the professionalism of Mayor Lisa Gillmor, and Councilwomen Debi Davis, Teresa O’Neill, and Kathy Wantanabe for putting their differences aside and continue to work with the two obstructionists, Patty Mahan and Pat Kolstad.

    It’s comforting that the city is in good hands with these for strong women leaders.

  3. Hey you #@$%!

    I was #$@#%ing busy writing my $!@#%ing column. And I couldn’t find my $#@%ing thesaurus.

  4. Too bad, so sad that the City and City staff hadn’t been listening to citizen Deborah Bress for all these years! She has been telling you all over and over that the Chamber was operating with “malfeasance” and misusing public money … especially in regard to their PAC. Shame on all of you for not listening to a bright citizen who’s only goal was doing what was right for her fellow citizens! Too bad. How sad. And shame on you all — hope you have finally learned your lesson to listen instead of judge and shutdown good old common sense.

    Go hang your heads — you all should be ashamed of yourselves and should finally start firing some of the other crooked city staff too. What Is it gonna take to,have you all wake up are realize you are the ones who just don’t get it?

  5. Clean up is one thing …. yet at the expense of front line long time, honest employees, with jobs on the line without notice, at 1 am in the morning is another thing. This should never have gone this far. And, I was in the chambers watching this time. Communication is needed. Sad in Santa Clara.

  6. It is almost embarrassing for the Chamber. It seems they thought turning the documents over would be worse than being lambasted for not turning them over. I suspect they may be right.

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