City Clerk Appointment Vs. Election Not a New Conversation

By Carolyn Schuk

The Feb. 13 Santa Clara City Council meeting wasn’t the first time the question of electing the clerk and police chief has been discussed in the last 12 months.

At several meetings of the 2017 Charter Review Committee it re-appeared so many times on the agenda, despite stated Committee member disinterest in the subject, that Committee Member Saskia Faein hinted at a meeting last fall she was beginning to suspect behind-the-scenes agendas at work.

That wasn’t the first hint of outside direction. At a June 26, 2017 Committee meeting Chair Tino Silva indicated that he had privately discussed the Committee’s activities with some Council Members.

“When I talked to a couple of Council Members, they were quite broad in what they directed …there was discussion of other things we might want to do,” he told the Committee, without supplying details as to who these Council Members were or what they directed. City Council calendars show no meetings with Silva.

However, Silva voted unanimously with the rest of the Committee against recommending changes to the city clerk and police chief positions.

At the Oct. 4 meeting of the Committee, City Attorney Brian Doyle expressed his private opinion of the City’s traditional practice. “As a resident I think you’re making a terrible mistake” in not recommending the City abandon its selected police chief and city clerk, he told the Committee. “The average citizen has no idea how these jobs are performed.”

As a former chair of the Civil Service Commission, Doyle said he could speak from experience that the Commission “is the only group that has any idea of how the police chief does his job. And that’s only on disciplinary matters. There’s absolutely no citizen oversight. [And] the City Clerk oversees the same elections he runs in.

“You’re not getting any expert opinion whatsoever,” concluded Doyle.

Doyle has been a supporter of Silva’s political online group Stand Up For Santa Clara, as well as personal associate of O’Neill’s. The two attend the same church, she told the Mercury News when Doyle was appointed in Jan. 2017. “She called him a friendn … and often turned to him for advice, even though he wasn’t the city’s attorney,” the Mercury wrote.

“I know he cares a lot about the city and the issues we are facing,” the story quoted O’Neill saying.  “We would talk about all the various things going on and we’d bounce ideas off each other because of his expertise. He has a lot of integrity and I respect his community involvement.”

An email received by the Weekly as part of a PRA request, shows that O’Neill wrote another friend and a pro-Gillmor blogger, Robert Haugh, that perhaps the acrimony of the 2016 police chief election and the recount would push residents to ‘get rid of” the elected police chief. Visit https://www.santaclaraweekly.com/2018/issue-9-2018/santa-claras-toxic-politics-at-play-in-city-clerk-dispute/ to view email.

 

Question Raised Half A Century Ago

The last time the question of appointing the City Clerk came up in Santa Clara was in 1971, and one of the principal advocates of this change was Mayor Gary Gillmor, the present Mayor’s father.

Some today might echo community activist Airi Kulpa’s 1971 accusation that the mayor was “trying to change our city government in essence from a City Manager managed form of government to a mayor-controlled political machine.”

The question never made it to the voters. Gary Gillmor was Santa Clara’s first elected Mayor. Previously the City Council appointed one of its members as Mayor.

To find out more about the council discussion, refer to our story https://www.santaclaraweekly.com/2018/issue-9-2018/santa-claras-toxic-politics-at-play-in-city-clerk-dispute/

 

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