Judge Arthur Weisbrodt asked about corruption, dishonesty and backroom deals in a candidate’s debate two weeks ago. Oddly, he posed the question to Teresa Alvarado for not “taking on Cindy Chavez aggressively,” rather than ask Chavez directly. This allowed Chavez to ignore the question and Alvarado to draw applause by grandstanding that she was taking the high road by not demonizing her opponent.
Ducking questions is something Chavez is good at. During the 2006 Grand Jury investigation into the Norcal trash deal, she answered “I don’t know,” “I don’t recall,” or “I don’t remember” more than 75 times. (Read the transcript here.) She refuses to answer questions from this news organization and throws its writers out of events. Her campaign lawyer sued the County of Santa Clara in May in an unsuccessful attempt to keep it from releasing public documents about Chavez’s participation in the diversion of funds raised for low income children’s health care premiums to political campaigns.
The San Jose Mercury News—once a newspaper that asked tough questions—has yet to write about Chavez’s machinations within the Santa Clara Family Health Foundation that Metro and San Jose Inside uncovered earlier this year, the court ruling against the foundation or the documents that were released.
Debates with timed answers are too superficial to probe questions about complex financial relationships. So with one newspaper with its head in the sand, the other unable to get answers and an election opponent who avoided confrontation, the public has remained in the dark.
Here are just a few of the questions that should have been asked:
Can you provide work product to show what services you provided in exchange for the $79,000 you received from the East Side Union High School District during George Shirakawa Jr.’s chairmanship, to set up a foundation?
During your tenure as chair of Team San Jose’s executive committee in 2010, the convention and cultural facilities experienced a record $8.5 million annual loss. What steps did you take to correct the mismanagement and poor financial performance?
As a public official, will you provide access and information to all media, or will you continue to refuse to refuse to answer questions from media you consider unfriendly?
Will you publish your calendar to the web and document all meetings and contacts with anyone involved in discussions of any matters involving the expenditure of public funds?
Will you conduct public business on private email accounts and via text messages that are effectively exempt from public review or disclosure?
Will you support a Sunshine Ordinance for the County of Santa Clara?
Three of your political allies have been convicted of crimes while on the public payroll, and at least two have been or are currently being investigated. Have any organizations you’ve led paid any of their legal fees or personal expenses while or after they were investigated or prosecuted? Do you have knowledge of any payments towards their legal fees or expenses? If so, please detail.
Will you enable inspection of Working Partnership USA and South Bay Labor Council books to allay concerns that funds raised for charitable purposes were used for political campaigns — and how funds from five county contracts with WPUSA were spent?
Will you provide tax records to document which portion of your income came from the South Bay Labor Council and which came from Working Partnernships USA? Will you do the same with other shared employees of the two organizations?
We’re not holding our breath that these questions will be asked, answered or investigated. Sometimes, however, the questions that evaded are instructive as well.
And if Cindy Chavez is elected county supervisor in today’s election, it will be the beginning, not the end of the questions.