By Robert Haugh
At last night’s Santa Clara City Council meeting, the 49er Five were not happy campers about the Civil Grand Jury Report.
They spent the evening mostly attacking the Grand Jury and Mayor Lisa Gillmor and Councilmember Kathy Watanabe.
“I’m ready to say that this is a political jury, said Councilman Raj Chahal. “Full of lies, misrepresentations are the hallmark of this grand jury report.”
Councilmember Anthony Becker also called the grand jury a “political jury.” He criticized them for not interviewing him. (Note to Grand Jury: You should).
Becker also criticized Police Chief Pat Nikolai for sending a letter to District Attorney Jeff Rosen asking for an investigation.
But within seconds of that statement, Becker said the opposite.
“Maybe the district attorney should look into this and see that there was a lot of improper methodology,” said Becker. “That Councilmembers were not interviewed, that in order to make a decision, you have to do the proper methodology.”
Watanabe proposed a citizens Ethics Commission to help respond to the Grand Jury report. She said it was needed since the Council majority is named in the report and has a conflict of interest.
Watanabe said it was the best way “to move forward and gain back the trust of the residents of this City.”
“Nobody’s really talking about the facts in the report,” said Gillmor. “That’s why I really want I do not believe we can police ourselves … We vote against our investigations of ourselves (the Grand Jury reported).”
“It’s going to be the same thing here if we don’t have an independent body looking at us independently and giving objective feedback to both the council and staff.”
Planning Commissioner Nancy Biagini wrote a comment that was read at the meeting: “I strongly support an independent commission (with) names drawn from a hat of those that apply. The alternative, having a committee stacked with those names on the grand jury report (the 49er Five), is keeping the politics in. An independent commission takes the politics out.”
But the 49er Five rejected the idea of an independent Ethics Commission helping craft the response to the Grand Jury. They want to control the City’s response to the Grand Jury.
The Council will have a series of special meetings, to give City staff direction on how to respond to the Grand Jury reports findings.
Chahal and Becker said an Ethics Commission could be formed sometime in the future.
The Council meeting discussion was pretty intense. The only light moment came when Councilmember Karen Hardy thought that the Grand Jury report was a draft.
Interim City Attorney Steve Ngo had to tell her that it was final.