Santa Clara enacted a new lobbyist ordinance earlier this year, and the first violation has created what appear to be additional conflicts of interest. Patricia Mahan, a former mayor and councilwoman, violated the city’s ordinance by failing to register as a lobbyist, according to a report by outside investigator Joan Borger. But thanks to some vague fine print, Mahan—once again running for a seat on the City Council—isn’t expected to get in any trouble, because she says she didn’t know she was acting like a lobbyist. Mahan argues that billboard company AllVision hired her to work as an attorney, which would make her exempt from the new rules. However, rather than being a simple paper-pusher, she began scheduling meetings with most of the council members and Mayor Lisa Gillmor to discuss a two-sided digital billboard off of Highway 101. Borger’s report notes that Mahan often “discussed the potential benefits of the proposal for the city,” which sure sounds like lobbying. Councilwoman Debi Davis told Fly that she thought Mahan “absolutely” was a lobbyist, because “she wanted me to approve a project.” But according to Borger’s report, “enforcement of the ordinance requires a ‘knowing’ violation of the ordinance,” and Mahan thought she was exempt because she was hired as an attorney—nevermind the fact that she is an estate planning attorney. Mahan will likely go unpunished, but City Attorney Ren Nosky might have some explaining to do. After a complaint on Mahan’s lobbyist activity came in from City Clerk candidate Deborah Bress, Nosky recused himself from the investigation because he had previously given Mahan an unspoken go-ahead to continue her meetings. Nosky then hired Borger, but it’s not known if he disclosed their relationship. Davis tells Fly that Nosky admitted Borger “is a friend of mine” from her time working for the city of Sunnyvale, in addition to saying he thought Mahan did nothing wrong. After initially declining comment, Nosky confirmed in an email exchange Tuesday evening he had multiple conversations with Mahan about the investigation, but he added that “virtually all of these contacts” occurred before the complaint.