When Cupertino canned its city attorney, Randolph Hom, without notice or explanation this past summer, local watchdogs had a feeling there was something sketchy afoot. It looks like they were onto something.
Hom is gearing up for a wrongful termination lawsuit, claiming the city fired him so it could force through the $3 billion Vallco development despite concerns that it violates state law and the city’s blueprint for future growth.
The Sand Hill Property Company’s Vallco proposal, which would transform an aging shopping mall into an urban hub of 2,400 housing units and 2.2 million square feet of office and retail space, has become an important test for a new state law (SB 35) that fast-tracks certain residential development to east the affordability crisis.
But Hom told the city in April that it didn’t pass muster.
According to a pre-litigation filing, Councilman Barry Chang threw a fit, making verbally abusive comments—including one about a colleague, Councilman Rod Sinks, purportedly hating Hom because he’s Chinese—and sending a slew of text messages telling the embattled attorney to shut up and get in line with the city’s efforts to greenlight the project.
Chang also allegedly called Hom an “obstructionist” and told him that if he continued to oppose the Vallco plans, he’d have no choice but to oust him.
Hom, however, said he refused to comply with what he believed to be unlawful orders and sounded the alarm about city officials’ improper discussions with Sand Hill about its SB 35 application.
“These discussions occurred during the sensitive time period between submission of the application and the deadline upon which the city would approve it,” Hom’s claim states. “But more than that, the friendly relationship between the [developer and the city] has flourished for over a decade.”
Cupertino spokesman Brian Babcock said the city is aware of the tort claim, but that he can’t comment on pending litigation.