Top Ethicist Says 49er Five’s Unethical Behavior Worst He’s Seen in Decades, Could Lead to Political Corruption

By Robert Haugh

Dr. Tom Shanks worked with the City of Santa Clara from 1998 to 2015 to develop ethics programs for City Hall and our political campaigns. He was also a former executive director of Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.

He wrote an opinion piece in the Mercury News yesterday that was scathing about Santa Clara and the 49er Five.

“Today in the city, I see the most egregious collapse of ethics of any institution I’ve worked with in three decades,” Shanks wrote.


Shanks is a top national ethicist. Many of his Santa Clara programs won awards. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, he’s writing an ethics case study on Santa Clara.

Shanks traces the decline of ethics to 2010 “when the San Francisco 49ers won a campaign to build a new stadium and started their dominance of Santa Clara politics,” he wrote.

“In 2020, 49ers CEO Jed York spent nearly $3 million to elect a City Council majority through an independent expenditure for Anthony Becker, Suds Jain, and Kevin Park. The independent expenditure was legal. The impact was destructive.”

Double Wow.

The 49er Five are called out for their most recent decisions. Shanks wrote:

The most dramatic example of Santa Clara’s decline happened last month when the City Council majority accepted a legal settlement offer in a closed-door meeting after rejecting the numerous requests for a public discussion and for an independent financial analysis. Ethical leaders would have embraced the opportunities, not shut them down.

Equally egregious was the decision of Councilmembers Raj Chahal and Karen Hardy to participate in the decision. Chahal was absent for the final settlement vote, but he was involved in the initial deliberations. Both councilmembers are currently under investigation by a state agency for allegedly accepting gifts from the 49ers. Yet, they would not recuse themselves from voting on the team’s settlement offer despite numerous requests. Ethical leaders would have done so to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

Triple Wow.

That’s some pretty strong language. But Shanks thinks the situation could be even worse. He writes that Santa Clara could be headed in the same direction as the City of Bell. 

Bell elected officials actually went to prison a decade ago. Shanks called it the “largest local government scandal in California history.”

“It would be disastrous and sad if Santa Clara became the Bell of Northern California,” wrote Shanks. 

For that statement, Shanks gets Santa Clara News Online’s first-ever Quadruple Wow.


    • What the hell do you care?
      You don’t even live here.
      49ers bought you a house
      In SJ to shut your trap.

    • Hey Byron F. Fleck aren’t you the same person who told Suds Jain to fire the City attorney on August 31, 2021? So when will you be indicted?

  1. I believe this is a better link to the City of Santa Clara website with campaign disclosure forms filed with the city, and the portal link to search different dates, names and parameters.

    Here is just one example, of many, found searching “Debartolo”:

    “”Frustrated Santa Clarans Opposing Gillmor for Mayor 2022″. Sponsored by DeBartolo Corp. & Affiliated Entities, including 49ers Football Company, LLC”

    See how much the 49ers have donated just since September 1st alone under these misleading bogus names.

    The 49ers are flooding social media with their ads in numbers that can’t be matched by other grassroots candidates for the Santa Clara City Council, having a pittance to spend on their own campaigns from local donations compared to the unlimited resources of the 49ers.

    • What’s more despicable is the timing.
      One day after the 49er 5 give Jed what
      he wants- settlement of the lawsuits that the
      49ers filed against the City – these campaign accounts are created and money and television ads
      are all over the place and on FB!
      Crap! Tell me this wasn’t all a plan!
      How could tv commercials on cnn msnbc
      And YouTubeTV be on the air without a
      Plan! Now I have to watch Becker and
      Chahal all day long. I thought I was going to
      throw up my cookies the first time!
      I could just cancel everything until after
      the election I guess.

  2. The entitlement of these bozo 5 is incredulous. Read Spotlight article about Gillmor’s state of city speech yesterday. Spotlight is another bought off 49er propaganda machine and today’s hit piece doesn’t disappoint. These bozos are complaining they didn’t get to speak. It was all about the mayor. Does anyone really want to listen to these bozos after they sold out the city so they could get their payola and attacked the mayor in the process? I hope police were present to make sure things stayed calm! These guys are bad bad bad.

  3. It appears that the voters in Santa clara county are either clueless, non involved in politics, or are too busy to see that their pockets are being picked. Being a sport fan does not mean giving in to blind alligence to a team that wishes to buy their way into power. Shame on the voters of santa clara.

  4. Wow, a collapse of ethics, that’s not good. And Jed’s council members will become a case study? Wow, that won’t look good you can be sure. I remember case studies in business school at Santa Clara, and some were epic. This will be particularly relevant being in Santa Clara. Would love to read it when completed.
    He is on target saying it started in 2010.

    • Larry Monti, it is probably not your intent to insult all Santa Clara voters but you are painting with a wide brush.
      Many of us actively fought against the stadium in 2010 and against Jed’s flunkies in the last election. I know I had several ‘No on J’ signs walk off at night in 2010.
      Too many decry the voter turn out and say we need a larger turn out. It is my believe that we need more informed voters. The city does not benefit from a lot of uninformed votes. JMHO.

  5. Another voice of reason.
    Voters need to read this.
    Santa Clara is the next Bell, CA.
    Corruption, bribery and lies.
    This is not the Santa Clara way.

Leave a Reply