Santa Clara City Council Majority Accused of Political Vengeance and Silencing Free Speech of a Commissioner

By Robert Haugh

On May 23, indicted Councilmember Anthony Becker led the effort to remove Burt Field from the Parks and Recreation Commission.

Becker singled out Field from the list of nine commission appointments that night. These re-appointments happen routinely. 

After the eight other commissioners were reappointed, Becker made a motion to reject Field’s appointment. When Mayor Lisa Gillmor asked him why he opposed Field, Becker repeatedly shook his head and wouldn’t speak.

On Tuesday night, over a dozen people asked the City Council to reconsider their earlier decision.

Again, Becker was silent.

The speakers touted Field for his service to the community and commission.

Some accused the 49er Five of acting out of political vengeance and trying to suppress Field’s right to free speech.

Field started a recall effort against Becker, and Councilmembers Suds Jain and Kevin Park last year and has been outspoken about his opposition to the 49er Five.

At this Tuesday’s Council meeting, Councilmember Karen Hardy responded to the accusations of political vengeance with a confusing answer. She said she studied the Commission agendas and noted that Field recused himself from a few votes.

Gillmor and Councilmember Kathy Watanabe pointed out that Field’s recusals are a sign of his integrity and desire to avoid the appearance of any conflict of interest.

Parks and Recreation Commission Vice Chair Dana Caldwell suggested that the Council was punishing Field for his outspokenness.

“Everyone talks about the importance of free speech,” said Caldwell. “It is very easy to tell us how you support free speech until someone says something you don’t agree with. Your reaction to hearing someone say something you don’t agree with speaks volumes to your ethical and moral compass.”

But the vote was unchanged from last month.

Councilmember Raj Chahal abstained again and did not say why. In the past, when Chahal has abstained on issues, he has publicly stated his reasons.

According to a former City employee, the Council was likely told by city attorneys that they could face a strong freedom-of-speech lawsuit and any comments they make now will hurt them.


  1. Did Anthony Becker Follow the City's Policy and Procedures to Remove A Commissioner? says:

    Looked under City’s policy and procedures section about removing commissioners that have had complaints filed against them. As far as I can see, Becker filed the 030 policy request to put this on an agenda and showed Burt Field the door without any of procedures done per the procedures according to the “REVIEW OF CONCERNS/COMPLAINTS REGARDING CITY
    BOARD/COMMISSIONS”. Come to think of it, Ron Patrick was dismissed in the same way with no regard to the policy and procedures put in place to work with commissioners. This is really an injustice to these commissioners and an abuse of power by Anthony Becker. Where was the oversight on this??!!!

    The City of Santa Clara believes that “decision-makers must be
    independent, impartial, and accountable to the people they serve.”

    The City’s Code of Ethics and Values lists the ethics and values-based standards
    the City has agreed will guide the decisions and conduct of everyone who
    participates in the City’s government. Because we seek public confidence
    in the City’s services and public trust of its decision-makers, we hold
    ourselves accountable to “meet the most demanding ethical standards and
    demonstrate the highest levels of achievement in following this code.”
    Although the City Charter allows the Council to remove a Commissioner
    with no cause, the Council has created the following process, which
    provides guidelines the Council may choose to use to resolve a
    problem/complaint. The policy is based on a recommendation from the
    Ethics Ordinance Committee. It is consistent with the Code of Ethics and
    Values, in terms of fairness and respect towards the individual. It preserves
    the Council-granted Charter authority of removal, but also provides
    optional courses of action.

    PROCEDURE The Charter of the City of Santa Clara provides for the removal of a City
    Commissioner by a vote of four City Council members. No cause has to be
    given. The action to remove a Commissioner would be an agendized City
    Council action item.

    When a concern/complaint is received regarding a City Board
    Member/Commissioner, it is referred to the City Manager for review and
    follow-up. If possible, it is preferable to resolve a concern through open
    communication channels at the staff level. Complainants are encouraged to
    solve the problem informally prior to registering a formal complaint.
    The City Manager has several options for handling a concern/complaint:

    1. The first step is to verify the information. If not verified, the complainant
    is informed and no further action taken. If initially verified, the City
    Manager conducts an investigation/review of situation in consultation
    with the City Attorney, where appropriate. The individual who is the
    subject of the complaint will be notified unless criminal or legal nature
    precludes notification. Issues that relate to the jurisdiction of the Fair
    Political Practices Commission (FPPC) are not covered by this policy.
    City Attorney has existing procedures to handle FPPC and Election
    Code issues.
    2. The following options are available for resolving complaints:
    ♦ The City Manager can choose to handle concern/complaint directly,
    or consult with the Mayor.
    ♦ The City Manager can choose to conduct further research; provide
    information and discussion of alternatives with Mayor.
    ♦ Consult with Santa Clara University Markkula Center for Applied
    Ethics, or outside ethics experts.
    ♦ Refer the issue/complaint to the Mayor and/or City Council.
    ♦ Refer the concern/complaint to the Chairperson of the specific
    Board/Commission with the Chair reporting back to the City
    ♦ Refer the issue/complaint to the City Council Commission Review
    ♦ If legal issues are involved, the concern/complaint is referred to City
    3. Depending on nature of concern/complaint, and factual information,
    range of actions/options are available including any one (or
    combination of) these actions:
    ♦ No action based on unsubstantiated/Unfounded complaint;
    ♦ Discussion between Mayor and Commissioner; City Manager and
    Commissioner or discussion between Commission Chair and
    ♦ Verbal counseling by Mayor with Commissioner;
    ♦ Letter to Commissioner from Mayor;
    ♦ Refer issue to Commission Review Committee; Committee meets
    and reviews facts; may make advisory recommendation to Council,
    or refer to City Manager and City Attorney for follow-up; and
    City of Santa Clara
    ♦ Refer to Mayor and/or City Council.
    ♦ City Council may take action ranging from note and file to removal
    from Commission. (See attached memorandum to the Commission
    Review Committee from the City Attorney dated December 15,
    4. Follow-up response to complainant indicating City has taken
    appropriate action.

    • Thank you for for posting this, this is really a nice write up.
      If everything goes right, just think, I might be lucky enough to work for free once again!!!
      All kidding aside, the bigger picture here, this is exactly what I needed to see and hear.
      My complaint, was never about me, it was all about who was going to follow me.
      I didn’t wake up one day and think, how do I become a “Political Martyr”. Let’s not mention that as a Volunteer Parks and Recreation Commissioner, I really don’t even know if I would even qualify for that title…but if you want to abuse your Elected Power, you just made a Volunteer Commissioner… “That guy”.
      So really who is at fault here. The person who thought this whole mess up, or…. any of the other four who failed to ask just four simple questions.
      1. Is this a smart move?
      2. Is this going to help us get to where we want to be?
      3. Is this a good use of our time?
      4. What is the possible negative fall out, if any?
      I’m sure hopeful it just wasn’t to show how powerful you were? Seriously what you did to me, not once, but now twice was flat out ugly. Almost as painful as watching a 6th grader beat up a Kindergartener.
      My guess is none of you read the book by Michael Masterson, “Ready, Fire, Aim”, Zero to $100 Million is No Time Flat. It’s a really good book. First published in Dec 2007.
      By the way the title can be a little confusing. But you guys are smart enough to understand that.
      Now is the opportunity to go back and fix an error.
      Everyone makes a mistake. It really comes down to how you handle those times that set’s you apart.
      When I make a mistake, the first thing I do is own it, then I ask for forgiveness.
      I am blow away at how people react when you admit you made an error. That said it’s telling when you fail to own it, and try to blame others, or point fingers.
      It’s time to start to heal our City and move forward.
      Our City is not in a healthy place right now, and getting anything done has just gotten that much more difficult.
      We are all better than this.
      As they say…”The ball is in your court”.

      Burt Field

    • This is a really good response and very through. I read it 3 times and did not see a “we don’t like him” clause.
      Thank you for the time you put into this.

      Dana Caldwell
      Vice Chair
      Parks & Rec commission

  2. “Who is Burt Field” said Kevin Park, “I don’t even know who he is” But you’ll vote out a guy you don’t even know? Maybe that mask he wears is to keep us from seeing his nose grow when he lies.

  3. There are reasons to disagree with Burt Field on some issues. Big Deal. BURT FIELD outstanding coach, outstanding commissioner. An elected official with ethics, would shrug, vote to reappont Burt and MOVE ON. Every commissioner deserves two terms. Field helps hundreds of kids. I would show the kids, I have a soul. Vote to reappoint him, if we disageee on other issues, that is for another day. A person with a soul would reappoint him. BECKER, JAIN, PARK. Souless trolls.

  4. Mr. Haugh…
    How is it even possible that Anthony Becker is still allowed to sit and make any recommendation, comments, or vote on anything that deals with our City?
    It would be in everyone’s, and that includes Anthony Becker best interest to stand down and spend his free time to work on his defense on his impending case.
    Needless to say, not even his greatest supporters…., wait, wasn’t it just the 49ers and his Mom who just threw him under the bus? Didn’t the 49ers release every bit of evidence that will seal his fate, and what they missed, didn’t his Mom sweep the floor and hand that over to the Grand Jury as well?
    Soooooo maybe his second / third tier supporters…. wait, I don’t see anyone else, outside of Raj, Karen, Suds… and who is that other guy in the mask?
    Yeah “Who is Kevin Park”, that’s how stupid your little comment sounded.
    Anyways enough of me being petty and small minded.
    Becker, if you think being an “Ignorant pain in the butt” is a form of being relevant, you may want to rethink what your lasting impression will be on our City.
    Just go away, your other “49er 4” still have control of our City. Your 5-2 or 4-3 vote, can now just be 4-2.
    No one needs you any longer. You are Irrelevant. The only thing that will sound better to me is when I hear you referred to as Inmate #1234.
    I can only imagine, how quickly you will make playmates in jail.
    Also…Love the comment from Hardy…
    Isn’t she a Teacher of some kind? In a super embarrassing night for our City, I guess it was expected to hear some really stupid comments.

    Burt Field
    Former Volunteer Parks and Recreation Commissioner

    • “How is it even possible that Anthony Becker is still allowed to sit and make any recommendation, comments, or vote on anything that deals with our City? It would be in everyone’s, and that includes Anthony Becker best interest to stand down and spend his free time to work on his defense on his impending case.”

      If mere accusations are reason to void an elected official’s duty to represent his/her constituents every local, state and Federal representative wouldn’t be able to do the job they were voted into office for. That’s like saying Patrick Nikolai should have quit as police chief when former sergeant, Jacob Malae, accused him and SCPD of systemic racism. Your question and statement is one of pure emotion and undiluted bias, very undemocratic.

  5. The council majority continues to abuse their power to hurt good people as part of their personal agendas and doing the dirty work of Jed York. Shame on them. They make cities around Santa Clara look good. Santa Clara deserves better. Vote for democracy! Not like Raj Chahal and abstain from doing the right thing. That’s the coward’s way out.

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