By Robert Haugh
Last week, we found out that Mayor Lisa Gillmor won a lawsuit against her that claimed she didn’t disclose all her income on a required state form.
“It was clearly frivolous and the timing was political. That should have been clear to anyone who looked at the facts,” said Gillmor in a phone interview.
Gillmor was on the ballot last November. The lawsuit was filed just two weeks before election day.
Brian Exline, a Santa Clara University law student, was the plaintiff in the lawsuit. He’s a St. Mary’s College grad. He said that Gillmor did not report all her income on her Form 700.
But Gillmor did. Exline’s law firm sent a complaint to the Santa Clara District Attorney’s office. They got a letter back on September 27, 2018, saying the DA’s office looked into it and Gillmor had filled out the Form 700 correctly. Exline knew this two months before he filed his lawsuit. Yup — before he filed the lawsuit. It makes us wonder if Exline was sleeping during his law school classes. Or maybe he didn’t take an ethics course.
Superior Court Judge Mark H. Pierce agreed with the DA’s office. He issued his ruling on April 10, 2019.
Gillmor said that she used Crosby and Crosby, a San Jose law firm. They filed an anti-SLAPP motion. That’s a “strategic lawsuit against public participation.” Regular readers of this site know all about it.
The law firm representing Exline was McManis Faulkner. Last year, they represented Vice Mayor Patty Mahan when she and Councilman Pat Kolstad became the first councilmembers in Santa Clara history to be officially admonished by a City Council.
Mahan also has close ties to the 49ers. And she has been Gillmor’s major critic on the Council. Community leaders have been speculating that the 49ers may have funded Exline’s lawsuit. No one believes that a law school student could afford an expensive firm like McManis Faulkner. Lawyers estimate that their work in this case could have topped $100,000 easy. Wow.
City Hall sources believe that if the 49ers or another company doing business in Santa Clara are behind Exline, it could be a big problem. It would be a violation of the Dark Money Ordinance. That law says companies can’t engage in political activity for or against a candidate in the Mission City without publicly disclosing it.
Ironically, McManis Faulkner attorney Ann Ravel was working on this case.
Ravel was the former California Fair Political Practices Commission chair who cracked down on dark money. In 2013, she fined two non-profits $1 million. Wow.
Ravel is now running for California State Senate. Her website highlights her crack down on dark money. She did not return emails for this story.
We’ll continue to follow this story as it develops.