By Robert Haugh
At the Aug. 30 Council meeting, Vice Mayor Suds Jain proposed changing the elected Police chief and City Clerk positions to appointed roles.
In the City Charter, voters are given the right to elect both positions.
Jain claims that they’re few qualified Santa Clara residents for the Police Chief position and that the Clerk is a part time role that only handles election duties.
“Santa Clara is the only City with an elected Police Chief and among only 20 precent of Cities with elected City Clerks.” Jain claims only 12 of 153 sworn SCPD officers live in Santa Clara.
He also claims the Clerk position would be better handled by an appointed professional who answers to the Council and City staff.
That same evening, Police Chief Pat Nikolai and City Clerk Hosam Haggag testified and rebutted Jain’s proposal..
Nikolai brought up the fact that interim City manager Rajeev Batra repeatedly says City staff is stretched thin with increased staff workloads exacerbated by the Current Council’s demands.
He adds that to begin a change, a Charter Review Committee would need to be formed which would only add to the City staff’s workload.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
The DEI task force studied the issue of elected vs. appointed Chief and concluded that an elected Chief best served Santa Clara’s needs.
“What is more transparent than an election and being held accountable to residents,” said Nikolai.
Nikolai added that 7 of 8 Silicon valley cities hired their Police Chief from within their department.
“It seems arrogant and flies in the face of democracy,” said Haggag.
Haggag says Jain’s claim of ‘no accountability’ isn’t accurate – “The pinnacle of democracy is being held accountable by residents – the same accountability for Councilmembers.”
“I’m not interested in taking power away from the voters,” said Mayor Lisa Gillmor.
Councilmember Kathy Watanabe says a POA poll of Santa Clara voters indicates an overwhelming preference for an elected Police Chief.
The vote was 4-2 to support Jain’s proposal. Councilmembers Anthony Becker, Karen Hardy, and Kevin Park voted yes. Gillmor and Watanabe opposed.
The item will return to Council at a later date. This is a developing story.