By Robert Haugh
After attacking the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury on numerous occasions, the Santa Clara City Council adopted one of their recommendations. But only sort of.
The new policy put together by City staff allows Councilmembers to each attend two private tours of Levi’s Stadium or the Convention Center annually.
Current City Manager Javon Grogan even suggested in the policy that Councilmembers be allowed to invite guests to games or concerts. Wow.
In the past, under former City Manager Deanna Santana, the tours were considered a public event, not a private tour, and subject to the Brown Act.
The Grogan recommendation was controversial and split the Council, with some saying it was weak and had loopholes.
“It smells, said Mayor Lisa Gillmor. “We want to be above all of this. And be transparent, open, ethical, reasonable, and show our public how we’re doing our business.”
Last October 2022, the Grand Jury issued a blockbuster report. It concluded that the 49er Five were selling out the Mission City to the 49ers.
One of the recommendations focused on how City Councilmembers Raj Chahal and Karen Hardy received free tickets from the 49ers. They claimed they were on a private “operational tour.”
The Chahal and Hardy visit was different than the one organized by former City Manager Santana.
Former City Attorney Brian Doyle documented how Chahal and Hardy violated a Santa Clara law that prohibits lobbyists, like the 49er execs, from giving any gifts of any value to any Councilmember.
Doyle also documented how they violated Santa Clara’s Council gift policy. But the Council refused to discuss the topic, even though there was physical evidence that Hardy attempted to cover up (literally, no kidding).
Last night, the Council adopted the City Staff recommendation on a split vote, 4-3.
Indicted Councilmember Anthony Becker voted yes. He was joined by Councilmembers Chahal, Hardy, and Suds Jain.
Gillmor, Councilmembers Kevin Park, and Kathy Watanabe voted no.
Watanabe said that the previous plan put together by Santana worked because Councilmembers got information at the same time and the process was open and transparent.
According to Watanabe, the policy that Grogan proposed “does nothing more than validate (private) meetings and visits to the stadium.”