Candidate Suds Jain Falsely Claims He Has No Conflict of Interests on Downtown Votes

By Robert Haugh

At the League of Women Voters (LOWV) forum on October 5, Suds Jain said the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) changed the threshold for conflict of interest.

Because of that, Jain said that he can vote on important downtown developments. 

When we asked him about it last week, Jain wrote “I think you can and should do your own research.”

Okay. So we did. Thanks to the help of FPPC staff we sorted it out.

We learned that Jain’s claim is false and he knew it was false three days before he made it.

Jain’s Conflict of Interest

The FPPC has a rule that government decision makers can’t vote on issues if they have a conflict of interest. 

The FPPC told Jain in August that he could not vote on downtown issues because his home is located downtown.

The FPPC met on September 17 and changed a formula they use to figure out how many people in a city or district might have a conflict of interest. 

The current law says that if a development or decision could have a “material financial effect” on more than 25 percent of residences in a city or district, then there’s really no conflict for any individual decision maker. 

That’s because a “significant segment” of the public, not just a few people, could potentially benefit from a development or a decision.

On September 17, the FPPC lowered the threshold for “significant segment” from 25 to 15 percent.

Jain Makes False Claim

This rule change prompted Jain to make the following statement in his closing remarks at the LOWV October 5 forum:

“As a result I now plan to vote for and advocate for a new downtown as a City Councilmember.”

After doing more research, we learned that Jain is wrong. He still has a conflict of interest. 

The number of properties that might see a “material financial effect” from downtown development is 14.7 percent. Jain’s house is one of them.

We also learned that Jain himself knew he did not meet the threshold when he falsely claimed at the LOWV forum that he no longer had a conflict.

On October 2, three days before the LOWV forum, Jain wrote the following email to City Attorney Alexander Abbe:

“I know staff had calculated 14.7% for D5 which means we still don’t meet the 15% number.”

City staff has not completed a recount at Jain’s request.

Neither City staff nor the FPPC has told Jain that he is free to vote on downtown issues. 

Both still consider him to have a conflict and Jain is unable to vote on downtown issues even though he publicly said he could.

12 comments

  1. What does a 1.4 million dollar press conference look like?
    Was there any important information?
    Did you learn anything?
    Were you impressed?
    Did you watch?😂😅🤣

  2. When I read the headline I assumed that Mr. Jain said something misleading of which Mr. Haugh took issue. Then I read Mr. Jain’s email and listened to the video of his closing statement.

    Now, I believe Mr. Haugh is being too diplomatic in his story. Mr. Jain simply lied to the public. Mr. Jain knew he had a conflict of interest days before he publicly claimed he did not.

  3. Suds, as an engineer you would not round without knowing the parameters. Try giving a cashier $14 if the bill is $14.40, because you ’rounded down’.
    I can understand your wanting to provide your own rules for rounding in this case. If you can get the FPPC to agree with you, you are all set.
    Until then you should not claim something you cannot support.
    On the bright side, maybe you can get Jed York to donate to the FPPC.

    • Howard, I suggest you do some research on the well known concept of “significant digits”. If the bill is $14.40 then I know that there are two significant digits so I would round to 2 decimal places which is $14.40. Look it up.

      • Mr. Jain
        I saw that you suggest that Howard do some research on the “well known concept” of Significant Digits.
        I must admit that I had never heard of this “Well known concept” either. So I looked it up.

        What are significant digits?
        There are three rules on determining how many significant figures are in a number: Non-zero digits are always significant. Any zeros between two significant digits are significant. A final zero or trailing zeros in the decimal portion ONLY are significant.

        As I stated about a week ago in another post, this reminds me of the time when President Clinton was trying to explain to the the Grand Jury why he wasn’t lying, as he tried to explain what the meaning of “Is” is.

        This is exactly what President Clinton said.
        “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is. If the—if he—if ‘is’ means is and never has been, that is not—that is one thing. If it means there is none, that was a completely true statement. … Now, if someone had asked me on that day, are you having any kind of sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky, that is, asked me a question in the present tense, I would have said no. And it would have been completely true.”

        I bet Mr. Clinton was aware of the ‘Well known concept” of Significant Digits.

        Call me simple, but if the threshold is 15%, it’s 15%. Significant Digits or not. You knew when you made your statements that you currently did not meet that criteria. What do you call that? There are many “Well known words” to describe this, but let’s keep it simple, you made a mistake.
        I learned a long time ago from a very wise man. He asked me, “What do you do when you find yourself in a hole”? I told him I didn’t know.

        He told me, “First thing you do is stop digging”.

        Own your mistakes, move on. Don’t try to confuse us with your intellect. It’s a bad look.

        Burt Field

      • Suds, I appreciate that you think you can give me lessons in math. But not today.
        If you want permission to round you need to get it from the FPPC.
        And even if you had permission to round up you would have to round up past 15.0. Because the guideline is as I see it is ‘more than 15 percent’. Even with the way you present your case you can’t very well round up past the next whole number.
        And when the rule is ‘greater than’, there is a world of difference between 15 and 15.0001. One is clearly greater than and one is not.
        Just saying….

  4. Does this mean that Lisa Gillmor can vote on downtown projects? It seems like this stretching the boundaries of the facts—stretching the truth.

  5. I see Suds is practicing to be a politician. It sounds like the decision has been made that says cannot vote, but Suds is working a loophole. Although suds seems very comfortable saying he can vote, he cannot. Welcome to politics, I’m sure the 49ers will have their way with you.

  6. I’m an engineer so I’m used to rounding numbers in my calculations. If you round 14.7 to the nearest integer number you get 15. The FPPC statute uses integer numbers.

    Second the FPPC never ruled on my status as a Councilmember. They ruled only on my status as a Planning Commissioner so there is yet no definite ruling of what I could do as a councilmember. They refused to weigh in on a hypothetical.

    Third, I believe the City made an error in its calculation by counting “residentially-zoned properties” rather than “residential real property”. I have submitted a letter to the City to that effect and I firmly believe that will push the number up.

    Finally, while rounding gets me to 15%, I figured there would be people who wouldn’t buy the rounding argument which is why I asked for the recount. Just put 14.7 into Excel with zero decimal places and see what it gives you.

    • Wow. How do you even start to deconstruct this…

      1) What engineer rounds numbers just because it suits them? I’m glad you were not working on any space shuttle launches or medical devices that people’s lives depend on. On the other hand, as a council member your decisions will have an impact on people’s daily lives. Who can afford to have their council member “round” numbers when it suits them?!
      2) You clearly have little to no legislative or lawmaking experience (even with your many years as a planning commissioner). Rules are rules. If the rules state that you cant participate unless it is 15% minimum, then if it’s EXPLICITLY not 15% or greater, then you cannot participate. 14.7% is NOT 15% or greater – no matter how much you try to justify this with “rounding”.
      3) Even with a recount, the latest decision by the FPPC explicitly states you cannot participate. So why are you going around stating that you can? A decision was made and until that decision is changed you simply cannot go around definitively stating that you can participate.
      4) Saying that the FPPC’s decision was limited to your participation as a planning commissioner and not as a council member is a ridiculous statement – the rules apply equally to both positions and you know that very well.
      5) No matter how much you say that you can participate doesn’t change the fact that as of now, you cant. No amount of Anthony Becker lying on your behalf all over Facebook and in the candidate forums will change it either (interesting that you donated $630 out of his $730 raised so far – now we know why he’s defending you so fervently!)
      6) The tactic of dropping down a percentage threshold to favor a 49er-friendly candidate/issue is not new. Dropping the acceptable percentage from 25% to 15% is reminiscent of the CVRA Judge dropping the widely accepted threshold for “racially polarized voting” to make Santa Clara fit the description. Sounds like the solution to not meeting legal mathematical formulas is to just “round numbers” or simply change the formula till you get you what you want.

      I don’t even live in your district but I have to say – you’re a smart guy Suds, an MIT graduate even. You knew all 6 points I make above yet you chose to lie about your ability to participate. I think the residents of District 5 have a right to know the truth.

      You said it in your first candidate forum by the San Jose Spotlight “it’s not important if I can vote on downtown or not because the rest of the council will vote yes for it anyways” – so what are you there for on council if you cant advocate, fight and vote for a downtown? Now, because you got survey data from the 49ers that say that the downtown is a big deal for District 5 residents, you are lying about your ability to participate. In that same candidate forum you said you were definitely willing to relax the curfew for the 49ers. Now we know why they are spending more than $300k for your race alone (and $1.4M across the board) to help get you elected. Screw residents in other districts, and not even be able to represent the residents of your own district. Useless.

      It also raises some eyebrows that the FPPC issued this rule change just days before the election. And somehow you knew about it mere days after they made the change. Do you watch FPPC legislative ZOOM meetings in your spare time? It also raises questions as to how much influence your 49er buddies have at the FPPC to push for this rule change or tip you off that the change was made…. too bad they didn’t drop it down to 14%. Guess then it would have been way too suspicious.

      Santa Clara deserves better than liars on our council. You lying about this. Anthony Becker lying about this on your behalf, and carpetbagging District 6. And Harbir Bhatia lying about her association to developers and her ties to the 49ers via the Chamber of Commerce. Who are you really going to represent? Residents or your financial backers?

      • Awesome answer. I wish I had read your first. You would have saved me another 30 min. On the plus side, I now know more about Significant Digits, or better referred to as this “Well know concept”. On top of that I now know more about the definition of the word “Is” is.
        I am so excited to be learning so much.
        Burt Field

      • On #4 the fppc sometimes refuses to take a formal written position on theoretical matters, rather than real matters. Theoretically this saves the fppc time. It is probably false economy in this specific case, because the answer might influence whether a candidate runs at all. That is not to say that if they had to actually rule, they would likely treat a planning commissioner differently than a city council member in this case. They simply have apparently not formally addressed the specific case for Suds yet because he is currently only a candidate.

        Someone asked if this changes anything for Lisa. That is a harder question because there are multiple types of conflicts of interest, not just where someone lives. Being OK in one category is not a free pass on the others. The fppc or city attorney would presumably have to look at the issue as a whole before making a decision. Even if legal, a council member is often wise to recuse to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.

        As for significant digits, i doubt the fppc would buy that argument. Maybe if Suds wins by only a tiny amount we should revisit that concept and see how he feels about rounding then.

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