More Ethics Complaints Filed in Santa Clara City Council Races

Santa Clara voters are under siege. Each week a new accusation of campaign impropriety crops up. Former Mayor Patricia Mahan, again running for a council seat, was called out for failing to register as a lobbyist. Two weeks ago, nonprofit Stand Up for Santa Clara accused the San Francisco 49ers of using shadow group BluePAC to spend tens of thousands of “dark money” against candidates who have criticized the team. Now attorney John Mlnarik has apparently filed six complaints with the state’s political watchdog, the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC). Mlnarik accused candidates Debi Davis, Kathy Watanabe, Teresa O’Neill and Tino Silva of failing to report payments for voter info, campaign websites and advice from Jude Barry, a political consultant for Related Companies, which is building the $6.5 billion retail project City Place next to Levi’s Stadium. Barry is cozy with current Mayor Lisa Gillmor, who has also been critical of the 49ers and endorsed the candidates Mlnarik referred to the FPPC. Mlnarik says he deployed his own law firm’s resources to investigate the candidates without any outside compensation (see 49ers), which is kind of ironic considering his 2012 council campaign was investigated by the FPPC for unfairly using his law firm’s resources. The FPPC said there was “insufficient evidence” to substantiate that complaint. Barry called Mlnarik’s accusations “bullshit,” adding that he is not working on any of the campaigns “in any way shape or form.” It’s also worth noting Mlnarik has contributed money to opponents of the same candidates he’s trying to tattle on. As it turns out, the real consultant to Davis, Silva and Watanabe is actually Gabe Foo, who tells Fly he has held off on billing them because they’re running “grassroots” campaigns. Mlnarik says he also filed complaints against the city’s police union and Stand Up for Santa Clara, but those two couldn’t be confirmed by the FPPC. Santa Clara voters—and, really, all of us—would be wise to remember: three more weeks, three more weeks, three more weeks.

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10 Comments

  1. It’s very unfortunate that Mr. Mlnarik and the candidates he is is supporting are willing to act as stooges for the 49ers in their efforts to bilk Santa Clara taxpayers by not paying for city services used in Stadium operations.

  2. Filing ethics complaints in a one party system, LOL, you might as well handout free speeding tickets at the Indy 500.

  3. > Santa Clara voters—and, really, all of us—would be wise to remember: three more weeks, three more weeks, three more weeks.

    Total hypocritical BS, Fly.

    You and other progs simply can’t get enough politics. You eat, sleep, drink, and crap politics.

    When this election is over, you’ll be trolling for issues and candidates for the next election. There is ALWAYS a “next election”.

    So, no more phony “can’t wait til it’s over” baloney.

  4. This article begins with:

    Santa Clara voters are under siege.

    We’re always under seige. But not like the author supposes.

    Special interests are constantly eyeing our wallets. What can we do to defend our savings and earnings? Cali already has about the highest income taxes in the nation, and they shoot up at a very progressive rate: it doesn’t take earning all that much to hit the top tax brackets.

    Then there’s the sales tax, which is incredibly high at almost 10%.

    And if it weren’t for Prop 13, the greedy bastids would have already raised our property taxes — several times, at least. Many other states tax homeowners at triple or more our state’s property taxes, on homes that sell for a quarter of what houses sell for in this valley. There are plenty of local and state bureaucrats who salivate over those other states, comparing our NorCal house prices to theirs.

    Next, ask yourself: How much better off are we now, than we were before all these taxes reached their current stratospheric levels?

    Answer: We’re not only no better off, but there are plenty of ways we’re much worse off.

    The total failure of raising more taxes to fix things simply means that more money doesn’t solve problems! (Can I have a ‘DUH?’)

    So the answer is crystal clear: Do not give the government any more tax money!

    They will waste it, giving themselves and their pals pay raises — while we still can’t get them to fix the pot holes in our roads.

    So, please vote NO on every bond measure and spending proposal. The electeds are shirking their duty by not prioritizing spending. If they did, our essential services would be funded — but unnecessary special interests would have to take their fingers out of our wallets, because there’s only so much money available.

    But by not prioritizing spending, every new “crisis” becomes an excuse to raise our taxes again.

    Our response should be simple and straightforward: Live within your means, like the rest of us do.

    Vote NO! on all new bonds and spending. The electeds need to do their job for a change.

  5. Every educated voter in Santa Clara knows Mlnarik is a shill for the 49ers and outside developers who want to put in more mega high density housing in Santa Clara. Every candidate or group Mlnarik lists in his complaint is for auditing and exposing the 49ers, and they are also for more sensible growth and building that blend in with the community. The 49ers and outside developers have funded the BluPac group and they are spending millions in advertising and robocalls to try and defeat the candidates in their way. They have run a smear campaign against these candidates, spreading blatant lies and half truths.Debi Davis, Kathy Watanabe, Teresa O’Neill and Tino Silva are the candidates questioning both the 49ers and the mega developments.

  6. If the Niners team and coaches were as skilled at football as the Niners front office and lobbyists are at fooling and manipulating the public and the City of Santa Clara, the Niners would have won the last five Super Bowls.

    • Mr. O’Connor – bless you for your post! I haven’t laughed this hard in weeks!

  7. Mlnarik’s complaint is full of errors. Example – He assumes that Davis is using web hosting services with text messaging option, just because there is a check box on her website to opt-in for text messages. Being a NationBuilder user myself, I can definitely say the “cheap” $29/mon option includes the option to allow users to opt-in for text messaging, even without the “texting” feature. Expenses under $100 are not required to be itemized, just like donations under $100, but he accuses her hiding these small expenses. His credibility as a lawyer is really questionable.

  8. OBSERVING FROM THE SIDELINES is correct about the “not required to be itemized” explanation. I know for an absolute fact that this is the honest explanation for one of the accused candidates, and would not be at all surprised if it were true for others. The voter list was purchased completely legally and accounted for completely legally in campaign form 460 filings. But because the amount was under $100, it wasn’t itemized. It WAS included in unitemized expenses. 100% ethical, legal and customary, no matter how much the form 460 filing is scrutinized.

    John Mlnarik seems to repeatedly fall into the trap of assuming that if a sequence of events could have happened in a certain way that it did happen that way. We all know what happens when you assume. Such sloppy research (or worse) from a former county bar association president does not at all favorably impress me with regard to either his competence or his ethics.

    For example, there is no requirement that a candidate EVER purchase voter lists before precinct walking. It might be sensible. It might be more efficient and therefore customary. But it is certainly not required. Candidates for local office working with very limited budgets might very well decide to spend their money in other ways.

    Likewise, the FPPC manual is quite clear that even if the allegations of help from Jude Barry were true (and I don’t have any reason to believe they are), they would in many circumstances be completely legal without being disclosed at all. Jude would be completely within his rights to volunteer reasonable amounts of his time to campaign(s), just as any other uncompensated campaign volunteer might. Quoting directly from the Fair Political Practices Commission manual:

    http://www.fppc.ca.gov/content/dam/fppc/NS-Documents/TAD/Campaign%20Manuals/Manual_2/Final_Manual_2_Entire_Manual.pdf

    “Volunteer Personal Services: If an individual donates his or
    her personal or professional services to a campaign (including a
    volunteer’s travel expenses), no contribution has been made or
    received as long as there is no understanding of reimbursement.

    However, if an employer donates employee services to a campaign,
    and any employee spends more than 10 percent of his or her
    compensated time in a calendar month performing campaign activity
    for one or more campaigns, the employer has made a nonmonetary
    contribution to the committee. Determine the contribution amount by
    allocating the gross salary to the time spent on campaign activity. See
    “Employee Time” later in this chapter for additional information.”

    Spirited debate on policy questions is healthy. I would have no problem at all if John said he disagreed with the positions these candidates took on specific issues, but I’m really disgusted that he would stoop so low as to make public allegations like this without credible proof. That tarnishes the reputation of his profession, in addition to his own personal and professional reputation. It also unfairly tarnishes the reputations of the candidates in question and the many good people who volunteer for them. A former county bar association president should know – and act – better.