By Bob O’Keefe
At the City Council meeting on May 4, 2021, during the discussion of censure for Councilmember Kathy Watanabe and admonishment of Mayor Lisa Gillmor, Councilmember Karen Hardy publicly stated that she had retained an outside attorney and had that attorney prepare a resolution of censure for Councilmember Watanabe and a resolution of admonishment for Mayor Gillmor.
Later in the discussion, Councilmember Hardy read those resolutions publicly, thus entering the content of those resolutions into the permanent record of the meeting. Based on the information and specific charges contained in those documents, several actions were then taken by the city council: a motion, a second to a motion, and a vote to move forward and place the matter of censure for Councilmember Watanabe and the admonishment of Mayor Gillmor on a future council agenda.
On review of the Santa Clara City Charter, Councilmember Hardy, while acting in her official capacity as a Councilmember violated at least one provision of the Santa Clara City Charter. In simple terms, she broke the law!
Specifically, Councilmember Hardy committed two violations of the Santa Clara City Charter:
- Section 908(e): “The City Attorney shall prepare any and all proposed ordinances and resolutions for the City and amendments thereto.”
Councilmember Hardy violated this provision by reading two proposed resolutions that she had prepared by an outside private attorney, not by the City Attorney, into the public record of the council meeting of May 4th 2021.
In our City’s Charter, Section 1801 states “The violation of any provision of the Charter shall be deemed a misdemeanor.” That makes these violations criminal in nature.
And Section 908(f) requires the City Attorney to prosecute on behalf of the people all criminal cases for violation of the charter.
Public officials must be held to the highest standard. Per the Charter, the City Attorney must initiate an investigation for the prosecution of Councilmember Hardy for the aforementioned violations of the Santa Clara City Charter.
Also, Councilmember Hardy, by her actions, has shown a predetermined bias and must be required to recuse herself from any further participation in the separate but related matter of the censure of Councilmember Watanabe and the admonishment of Mayor Gillmor.
Why This is An Important Precedent
If we do not enforce this violation of the law, think about the precedent it would set, it would be okay for any developer, corporation, even the San Francisco 49ers to have their attorneys draw up an ordinance or resolution to give it to a sympathetic council member.
That councilmember could bring it to the dais. It could be voted on and passed by other sympathetic council members. That developer, corporation or football team, just wrote law in the City of Santa Clara.
Please don’t just laugh it off and say that can’t happen, because it just very well might be happening right now!
Editor’s Note: Bob O’Keefe is a Santa Clara community leader in the Old Quad who ran for City Clerk and City Council.