Personal and political tensions between Milpitas Mayor Rich Tran and Councilwoman Karina Dominguez have boiled over again on social media.
This past week, the two colleagues riled each other into a heated debate on Tran’s public Facebook page over their voting records, some alleged backroom deals and the mayor revoking Dominguez’s vice mayorship.
The pair’s working relationship first started showing signs of strain late last year when Tran suggested cutting Dominguez’s vice mayorship short to promote “shared leadership” on the City Council. But at the time, Dominguez was only halfway through her two-year term as the council’s second-in-command.
The decision, which culminated in January with the council appointing Bob Nuñez as the new vice mayor, sparked accusations from Dominguez that Tran was being sexist and a bully. The mayor refuted those claims on numerous occasions.
That feud appeared to have started up once again in the comments of a July 1 Facebook post in which Tran mentions his re-election campaign.
“Hands-down most transparent mayor in the history of Milpitas,” supporter Daniel Le Gend wrote. “I’ve learned more about my city with you in office than I have my entire life living here. Keep pushing to make this city one of the best places to live in the Bay Area!”
But not everyone agreed with Le Gend.
“You mean how he handled dumping the vice mayor?” Molly Current asked.
Then, Dominguez chimed in, saying that reappointing a new vice mayor was “not even an option.” She also alluded to the fact that she and the mayor are not on speaking terms. “A leader doesn’t give silent treatments,” she wrote, “when they get told ‘no’ they bridge and try to understand the ‘no.’”
Tran responded to say that he stands by his votes and that he wants Dominguez to email him. In turn, she said that she already had reached out to him and that his response was “unprofessional.” Dominguez then went on to say that her vote was “not for sale or available for backdoor deals.”
Tran shot back, telling his colleague, “I think you’re the one that made a deal with real estate developers granting them an exception to not build affordable housing for our local families.” The mayor was referencing a decision made by the council last fall to exempt developers from having to build affordable housing as part of a 40-unit condominium project near the BART station. The decision from the council was unanimous—Tran, however, was absent from the vote because of his service with the National Guard.
“My voting record is 100 percent for affordable housing for our community,” he continued. “Your record, not the same.”
Dominguez told San Jose Inside that her comment about her vote not being for sale was in reference to a quid-pro-quo that Tran offered her last summer. The councilwoman claims that he asked her to be an unconditional vote for him in exchange for her remaining vice mayor. Tran, however, called the allegation a “silly proposition” and Dominguez a “novice council member.”
“I will always take a stand in public or virtually when any member of the council or any politician in Milpitas puts forward false information,” he said. “It’s disheartening and sad that the council member would accuse me of different issues that have been voted on in Milpitas when every time I respond with an article with facts.”
Tran added that he was proud of the council’s “effort to really collaborate as a whole” amid the coronavirus pandemic. “The council’s not made up of two people,” he said. “I think we’ve all done a part to move the city forward.”
But that’s not how Dominguez sees it.
The councilwoman said she’s been asking to meet with Tran for a year now in an effort to smooth things over, but that the mayor has yet to take her up on the offer.
“We need a true team,” she said in a phone call. “People are dying. People can’t make the rent. People can’t afford food. I feel I have a great relationship with the other members of the council. His behavior has been consistent and so I felt it was important for me to call it out…I feel ready that we should have this discussion and so when he’s available and when he’s ready my door will always be open.”