By Robert Haugh
According to multiple sources, the Silicon Valley Central Chamber has selected controversial former City Council candidate Harbir Bhatia as their new CEO.
She will replace Christian Malesic who left in January to become the Executive Director of the Building Owners and Managers Association of Greater Dallas, TX.
Bhatia was not the Chamber’s first choice.
According to former Chamber Board Chair John Elwood, the Chamber made an offer to a candidate in February. But the candidate and organization could not agree on terms.
The Chamber’s search turned up other potential candidates, according to multiple sources before settling on Bhatia.
Bhatia is a controversial Santa Clara figure.
In 2020, Jed York spent millions of dollars to support Bhatia, Anthony Becker, Kevin Park and Suds Jain for City Council.
Bhatia was the only one to lose as she was defeated by the incumbent Councilmember Kathy Watanabe.
In that campaign, she was blasted for her work for Silicon Sage Construction, a company that engaged in wage theft.
Numerous nonprofit leaders have told Santa Clara News Online that Bhatia would promise major sponsorship dollars for events from Silicon Sage. But the checks never arrived even after the company was given credit at events.
After the campaign, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged SiliconSage Builders with defrauding investors. Hundreds of investors may have lost $119 million in a Ponzi scheme.
Bhatia has also been controversial on social media. She was also kicked off NextDoor for using abusive language with Santa Clarans online. (So was Becker).
Bhatia also used abusive language and bullying tactics in text messages with City Clerk Hosam Haggag during the campaign.
Bhatia has served on Santa Clara boards and commissions and local nonprofits, frequently stepping down before her term ends.
She’s also taken some high-profile positions on some local measures.
In 2018, Bhatia campaigned for Measure A to create new multi-member City Council districts in Santa Clara. Then two years later as a City Council candidate, she flip flopped and supported single-member districts. That’s something the 49ers were pushing and had all their financially supported candidates support.
Tonight at the Santa Clara City Council meeting, the Silicon Valley Central Chamber of Commerce will introduce Bhatia and other new board members to the community.