Santa Clara Needs an Ethics Commission to Respond to Grand Jury, Not the “49er Five”

By Debbie Algieri and Dana Caldwell

The Civil Grand Jury has issued a significant report that sheds a bright light on the difficult relationship between the City of Santa Clara and the 49ers football organization.

We commend the Grand Jurors for the thoroughness of their investigation. They have documented in a 61-page report how the City Council majority: “puts the 49ers’ interests ahead of the City’s interests” and “has effectively breached its duty to the City.” 

We also acknowledge that grand jurors deserve applause for their courage. As Police Chief Pat Nikolai pointed out in his recent letter to District Attorney Jeff Rosen, people who criticize the 49ers frequently become the subject of attacks by the team. Targets have included the Mayor, Councilmembers, residents, commissioners, and now grand jurors.

We are concerned that the City Council majority has also attacked the grand jury. It’s clearly their right to disagree with their report. However, the personal nature of their public criticism mirrors how the team attacks anyone who questions their actions. 

Therefore, we believe the City Council majority cannot objectively and adequately oversee the City’s response to the Civil Grand Jury.  Furthermore, much of the report focuses its criticism on them and we are concerned that the City’s response will simply be a defense of the City Council majority’s action rather than a thoughtful response that seeks to improve the ethics and behavior we see at City Hall.

We suggest that an independent Ethics Commission be created within the next 30 days to work with City staff on the official response to the Civil Grand Jury report which is due in 90 days. 

The appointments to the Ethics Commission would be similar to the way that the City Council has appointed Redistricting and Charter Review Commissioners.

Should City staff need assistance with an Ethics Commission, we recommend engaging Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics as they may be willing to help us with this critically important task.

Debbie Algieri and Dana Caldwell have lived in Santa Clara for a combined 80+ years.

Editor’s Note: The 49er Five are Councilmembers Anthony Becker, Raj Chahal, Suds Jain, Karen Hardy and Kevin Park.

Jed York spent $3 million in November 2020 to elect Becker, Jain and Park. They were previously 0-6 in Santa Clara elections. Chahal and Hardy have received gifts from the team recently without reporting them and have received approximately $1 million for their elections this November.

The 49er Five meet with the team on an almost weekly basis and have voted to help the team win millions of dollars in concessions from the City since December 2020.


  1. The other day a young man was going door to door polling my neighborhood asking registered voters by first name what candidate for mayor they were voting for and why. Who is bankrolling this? Who has all this money to throw around our city?

    One candidate’s primary backing clearly does not want ANY third party oversight into our joint stadium affairs it certainly seems. Why is one front of this major join operation with the City of Santa Clara operating in such a high level of secrecy (as if it were some secret government defense contract)? Why all the ruffled feathers any time third party oversight is proposed to cut through what seems like stonewalling?

  2. The Editors note claims things which are not proven. This article is nothing more than pro-Gillmor propaganda. Let’s have some due process before you make claims. The Grand Jury said there might, may, or could be things. They didn’t prove anything. What happened to innocent until proven guilty?

    • So when a criminal investigation is filed by the DA it will be based on all these findings by the civil grand jury. That’s not based on might May or could. It’s damning!

  3. Let’s see how Rosen follows up on the request. If he declines to move forward with an investigation, the report looks less impressive.

    Gillmor initially welcomed the 49ers and was key in negotiating the deal with the 49ers that was not so good for the citizens of Santa Clara. My understanding is that her husband was involved with the soccer fields located near the stadium and the 49ers did not work well with the city on issues related to the fields. After that it seems that Gillmor’s antipathy towards the 49ers has not worked well for her or Santa Clara.

    We need elected officials who can work well with the 49ers, but who do not have apparent conflicts of interest that make it appear that they work for the 49ers. Not sure which of the candidates fits that description.

  4. Let me be very clear. I support diversity on an ethics commission or any commission for that matter. Our comment is simply that the selection process would be similar. Of course it would be volunteers who express a desire to be on the commission. If they are qualified, then they should be considered. I don’t believe in checking a box when selecting any commission. I don’t think that serves any government well.
    What I do believe is that based on comments of the council and their past actions is that they will simply repeat their past behaviors by simply attacking those they don’t agree with and making themselves out to be the victim. That has to stop, they need to be accountable, open and transparent. They are none of those.
    Also, if you’re going to be critical, put an actual name behind it. Don’t hide, be a responsible adult.

  5. “The appointments to the Ethics Commission would be similar to the way that the City Council has appointed Redistricting and Charter Review Commissioners.”

    Despite Santa Clara’s population being 62% ethnic minorities, the previous Redistricting and Charter Review Commission was made up of mostly White residents who voted to keep the previous flawed city voting in place despite losing the CVRA lawsuit and a court order to implement district voting. Thankfully, 78.7% of voters in Santa Clara sent a thundering message to the old guard and Redistricting and Charter Review Commission that the people wanted diversity. The senseless and desperate grasp of centralized power, by the former City Council, cost the city $4.5mm, let’s not repeat that again.

    California law clearly states the standing governing body is allowed 90 days to respond to Civil Grand Jury reports, it appears Algieri and Caldwell are simply seeking to silence the voice of Park, Jain, Hardy, Becker, and Chahal. All Santa Clarans who favor an open government and equal representation should be ashamed of anyone who suggests stripping away the voice of the people and duly elected representatives.

  6. An ethics commission is a waste of time. Our only recourse is voting them out of office.

    Watch the accountability tonight. The “ownership” of this issue. There won’t be any. There will be a lot of distraction, a lot of attacking the messenger, but no admission of any wrong doing whatsoever.

    Maybe in their obfuscation they can point out another example of two parties in litigation that met repeatedly without their attorneys. Or maybe our JV legal counselor can talk about that. When that would be appropriate, and has he ever advised or encourage his clients to meet with other parties to a lawsuit without him present. If their will was to fire Mr. Doyle, fine, but hire someone that knows what they are doing to represent you. I’d guess the numbers (if we ever see them) will prove that our City got taken to the cleaners on this one.

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