Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor’s FPPC Docs Missing Thousands in Income

UPDATE: This article has been updated, 10:30am April 13.

In her most recent filing with California’s Fair Political Practices Commission, Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor failed to include nearly $400,000 in real estate commissions and fees her company received in 2021.

An examination of Gillmor’s Form 700 filings in 2021 and 2020 also revealed that the mayor under-reported her company’s income from real estate commissions paid by the Union School District in San Jose by $30,000 per year for three years.

The FPPC’s Form 700 requires public officials each year to list all income, investments, loans and assets of themselves and any business entities, to identify potential conflicts of interest.

Gillmor filed for re-election on Wednesday, Aug. 9, and was listed on the city clerk's elections page the next day as a qualified candidate.

The mayor is the daughter of real estate magnate Gary Gillmor, himself a former Santa Clara mayor. In 2017 she consolidated the family’s real estate enterprises under her control. Her business interests and potential conflicts have been issues in past campaigns.

A licensed real estate broker, she previously served as a councilmember from 1992-2000 and again from 2012-2016. In 2016, the city council appointed her mayor after former Mayor Jamie Matthews resigned. Gillmor later won the mayoral election in 2018.

Pandemic relief

Gillmor and Associates also applied for and received a $33,367 federal pandemic relief loan in April 2020, and $33,833 was forgiven in the following year. In the application for a Paycheck Protection Program Loan, ProPublica reported that Gillmor and Associates had filed as a “new business, two years or less,” when in fact the company was a reorganized version of the 40-year-old family real estate enterprise.

During the period of the pandemic loan, Gillmor and Associates appeared to have a steady stream of business, unaffected by the Covid pandemic.

The company’s Form 700 filings and statements by school district clients showed $525,062 in income from commissions to Gillmor and Associates subsidiary Public Properties Advisors in 2020-21, plus income of more than $100,000 per year in property management fees and more than $10,000 per year in retail leases.

Companies and nonprofit organizations that received Paycheck Protection Program loans had their loans forgiven if they met certain criteria, including not laying off employees during the defined period covered by the loan. Applicants had to say in their application that the loans were necessary for the continuing operation of the business.

In the Form 700 filings covering the years 2019, 2020 and 2021 filed in the year following each income year, Gillmor filed FPPC public disclosures reporting that Public Property Advisors received $10,000-$100,000 in income from the Union School District, when in fact the district reported it paid the firm $130,000 each year.

The 2022 Form 700 report filed by Gillmor in April stated that properties owned by various Gillmor entities had fair market values in 2021 exceeding $6 million.

No mention of $400k

In the Form 700 report filed this year, for 2021, there was no mention of $395,062 in commissions paid to Public Property Advisors by the Union School District in San Jose from the leases on three former San Jose elementary school properties—Athenour Elementary ($117,906) and a real estate commission in connection with the former Ross Elementary property totalling $122.173, plus a commission for the lease of the former Cinnabar Elementary ($7,942) and an unnamed real estate commission of $147,041.

Any recourse to possible inaccuracies or omissions on Gilmor’s Form 700s is up to the Fair Political Practices Commission – and Santa Clara voters – and not via lawsuits.

Last fall, Gillmor won a high-profile “anti-SLAPP” lawsuit at the California Court of Appeal, which unanimously threw out a claim by former Santa Clara University law student (and now a Fresno County Assistant District Attorney) Brian Exline that the mayor had failed to properly report her sources of income prior to 2018, as required by state law.

In its decision, the appeals court gave Gillmor – and any other politician – a free pass against lawsuits challenging any information in the Form 700 filings required by the Fair Political Practices Commission. The filings, said the court, are protected by the First Amendment.

The court affirmed Gillmor’s contention that information she filed on her Form 700s to the Fair Political Practices Commission prior to the 2018 mayoral election, was “political work,” and therefore should be afforded “free speech” protections.

Court: Form 700s are ‘free speech’

In November 2021 the California Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal.

In those earlier Form 700s filings, Gillmor had included none of the commission income for her Public Property Advisers. She argued that the income had been included as income to Gillmor and Associates, and that Public Property Advisers was a wholly owned subsidiary of her real estate firm.

SLAPPs are Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, often brought against public comments on government actions, used to silence and harass critics by forcing them to spend money to defend baseless suits. They have been castigated as chilling free speech and healthy public debate by targeting those who communicate with their government or speak out on issues of public interest.

The decision in the Gillmor case in effect stood this concern on its head, preventing the public from suing public officials for omissions or inaccuracies on FPPC Form 700s.

Exline was required to pay both his and Gillmor’s legal bills in the nearly three-year legal battle. He never disclosed how he could afford the legal fees, or identified a source of funds to pay the legal bills, as rumors swirled among Santa Clara politicians that the San Francisco 49ers had underwritten the suit.

UPDATE: Lisa Gillmor commented (below) on this article at 10:39pm Aug. 12, after declining since mid-day Friday to return a phone call or respond to a series of written questions sent to her work and personal emails.

Here is the Lisa Gillmor Public Property Advisors Schedule C Aoril 2022 ,  for her company Public Policy Advisors, a subsidiary of Gillmor and Associates, as it is posted on the Santa Clara City Clerk website and also on the Fair Political Practices Commission website. In the form, she stated income from the Union School District as “10,000 to 100,000.”

 

Three decades of journalism experience, as a writer and editor with Gannett, Knight-Ridder and Lee newspapers, as a business journal editor and publisher and as a weekly newspaper editor in Scotts Valley and Gilroy; with Weeklys Publishing since 2017. Recipient of several first-place writing and editing awards, California News Publishers Association.

14 Comments

  1. Unfortunately, this story is full of major errors.

    You report that I failed to include nearly $400K in real estate commissions from 2021. That’s completely wrong. It’s reported on Schedule C in form 700, Union School District.

    You write that I under-reported income from Union School District by 30K per year for 3 years. That’s also wrong. The income is reported on every Form 700 for the last 3 years. I have a business partner who shares commissions, so my reporting is accurate.

    You report that in Form 700 filed this year, for 2021 there was no mention of $395K in commissions paid to PPA from various leases. Again, that’s completely wrong. It’s on Schedule C of Form 700 dated April 2022.

    You report that GGA filed as a new business, 2 years or less when in fact the company was a reorganized version of the family real estate enterprise. No. The company was not reorganized. I purchased the business and took over operations making a new business.

    You write that my business interests and potential conflicts have been issues in past campaigns. This lacks honest context. I was sued a couple of weeks before the last 2018 Mayoral election, an “October surprise.” The DA publicly stated that I filed my Form 700s correctly, which you did not report. I prevailed in the Superior Court and the Court of Appeal, as you correctly reported. It was an issue only because a political opponent made it one.

    Finally, Barry sent me an email at 12:39 pm. He left a voicemail after 1 pm. He said I could contact him later today but did not say anything about a deadline.

    This story was posted at 3:45 pm before I had a chance to respond.

  2. No of mention this in her response.
    “Gillmor and Associates also applied for and received a $33,367 federal pandemic relief loan in April 2020, and $33,833 was forgiven in the following year. In the application for a Paycheck Protection Program Loan”
    “During the period of the pandemic loan, Gillmor and Associates appeared to have a steady stream of business, unaffected by the Covid pandemic.”

    There were so many business that were devastated from Covid and her taking money, only took that much more away from a small business that really needed it.

  3. Santa Clara City Council member Kevin Park failed to disclose his income for two years as required by state law. If you are going to do an article on one santa clara elected official’s FPPC filings, might as well do them all.

    Where’s the article on him?

  4. As a Santa Clara voter, I’d like to see reporting about what the candidates think of the ISSUES facing the city and how that correlates to their previous voting records. Development issues, budgets, quality of life, etc. Articles like this incomplete look at a Form 700 do nothing to address the real issues.

    For what it’s worth, I looked up a couple years of Form 700’s on the City Clerk’s website – it seems to be in order, and of course the business has other partners and expenses, so it is logical that the mayor’s income as president of the company is going to be less than what the Union School District paid to the entire company.

    I am not convinced that Mr Becker has the depth of experience needed to lead the city after only a little over a year on the council. My belief is that most Santa Clara residents are happy with the current Mayor and the direction of the city, minus the outsize influence of the 49ers. I don’t see how the current Mayor having a successful business, which this article actually highlights, should change that view, especially since Santa Clara’s mayor is practically unpaid volunteer work (vs cities like San Jose where it is a six-figure job). It seems like we will have a choice of a successful business person with longtime roots in the city as mayor vs someone who is in a filmaker/content moderator and relatively inexperienced. I hope my neighbors take this into consideration.

  5. @Jean – a lot of businesses received PPP funds. I have relatives that also applied and received funds. I’m not sure what your point is. A responsible small business owner would apply if they qualify, just as a city (with council direction) should apply for federal program funds if it qualifies to supplement it’s budget. To me this is actually a plus that her company, a local entity, did apply, qualify, and receive the funds. I also don’t think, amongst the billions of dollars handed out by the feds, $33K in funds going to her business meant that another business was short-changed.

  6. This reads more like a lengthy press release of a political opponent’s campaign than as an article of journalism.

    When you try to depict the $33 thousand PPP loan as if it’s some kind of smoking gun for dishonesty, your own honesty comes under question. Especially since you seem to be making the argument that it’s problematic mostly due to the question of whether the company was new or with a long history. That’s irrelevant, $33K is a tiny amount in the context of PPP loans, and you do not apparently have any idea whether or not Gillmor and Associates lost revenue and profit during the pandemic.

    You state: “During the period of the pandemic loan, Gillmor and Associates appeared to have a steady stream of business, unaffected by the Covid pandemic.”

    Based on what did you make that conclusion? It is apparently just a product of your uninformed judgment, because there is zero explanation or substantiation for that assertion.

    You seem to also be underinformed about what reporting obligations Gillmor has, specifically with regard to income thresholds and how that relates to her holdings being owned in partnership with others. You do not seem to have done the research or reporting necessary to make a judgment, much less allegations, regarding what Gillmor should report on her disclosure forms.

    And pretending as if it’s reasonable to require an official response within 3 hours of inviting one, comes across as disingenuous.

    You seem to have been in an unnecessary rush to publish your unsubstantiated, underinformed, and unexplained insinuations and allegations.

    You seem to have the very clear intention of raising questions as to Gillmor’s basic level of honesty and integrity. The manner in which you have done this raises questions about your own honesty and integrity.

  7. Some very strong comments against your hack journalism. Becker can’t win on the issues so he will rely on an attempt to smear the current Mayor. If you want to report actual facts, maybe you should take a look at how the “49er five” have continually voted to benefit the 49ers and Jed York much to the detriment of Santa Clara. If you are truly a journalist you’d look at that. But I’m guessing you won’t because it doesn’t fit the narrative Jed has paid you to create.

  8. I’m not usually into “politics”, but it seems like this “article” is being “published” to be “cited” on campaign mailers in a few months. I wouldn’t be surprised to see campaign mailers from a 49er’s-backed pro-Becker PAC in a couple months!

  9. the article and Ms. Gilmor’s response are too filled with facts to be interesting – yawn tldr

    what we need is more Ms. Arenas beating the racism narrative

  10. Allen Arthur makes some excellent points. I’m a native Santa Claran. I find it interesting how much the San Jose media is backing pro-Jed folks campaign talking points, some under investigation themselves. Yet you fail to report about their investigations. They are all part of the gang that Jed York & his agents spent $3M in 2020 to elect to our Council. No doubt a similar, or more, will be spent on 2 Council seats & the Mayor’s race this year. While SJ media may not know this, many Santa Clarans remember York saying he could get what he wanted (after the stadium was built) because he had the money.
    Please do not expect me to believe York & gang won’t expect a “return on investment.” That’s insulting.
    I’m beginning to wonder how much financial assistance York & his agents are spending in San Jose and on the San Jose media.
    I suppose they consider those extreme sums of money a ‘cost of doing business.’ It seems to be working. Please be a responsible journalist. You are not doing so now. There are two sides to every “story.”

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