San Jose Council Candidate Jim Zito Loses Support Over Abuse Claims, Which He Denies

San Jose City Council Candidate Jim Zito lost a few major endorsements today after a political hit publicized old divorce records involving claims of abuse by his ex-wife.

Zito, however, flatly denies the charges.

The Evergreen School District trustee is also threatening to take legal action against the union-funded PAC that weaponized the allegations and a local news outlet that wrote about them in what he called an “irresponsible, defamatory manner.”

The backlash against Zito stems from an online attack ad paid for by the San Jose Police Officers’ Association PAC. The website, which went live on Tuesday, selectively cites Zito’s 2007 divorce case by excerpting records describing how his ex accused him of domestic violence and excessively controlling behavior.

A day after the site was made public, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, Councilwoman Pam Foley and the Silicon Valley Organization (SVO) PAC all pulled their support for Zito, a business-aligned candidate who’s trying to unseat labor-backed Councilwoman Sylvia Arenas in District 8. In a Wednesday afternoon press release, the SVO condemned all forms of violence expressed solidarity with victims and survivors.

“Like many of you, we were stunned by the news we heard yesterday about someone we have worked with for a long time,” SVO Executive Vice President Madison Nguyen said. “Speaking personally, and as a former elected official, I must withdraw my endorsement of Jim Zito. The allegations describe a deeply traumatic situation that far too many women experience, often in silence.”

Liccardo followed suit, announcing that he, too, was pulling his endorsement. “While I understand that these allegations were made in the contentious environment of a political campaign by Mr. Zito’s opponents, they are sufficiently troubling to cause me to withdraw my endorsement,” he wrote in a tweet.

Zito, for his part, said the divorce records published by the POA PAC failed to mention some pretty important details about the case. For example, he said the website excluded records showing how the court required counseling for both Zito and his ex-wife and how a judge ultimately dismissed his ex’s claims and granted the pair equal custody.

“All the allegations of abuse ... she fabricated them,” he said. “They may have been how she felt. She says she stands behind them, but the court didn’t buy it, OK? If any of that stuff was true, they would have taken custody away from me.”

The D8 challenger said it’s “unfortunate” that the POA resorted to “bullying tactics.”

“I was accused of being a bully, but the fact is that the POA has been doing this for years to a number of candidates, all for the purpose of buying votes on the council,” he said.

Below is a copy of Zito’s response to the claims.

San Jose Spotlight and POA Get the Facts Wrong, Intentionally—Zito Filing Complaints and Calling for Immediate Retractions and Public Apologies

Thirteen years ago, I was involved in a contentious, unpleasant divorce. The proceedings are public record and anyone is able to read them. Instead, the San Jose Spotlight and the local labor unions chose to misrepresent the divorce records, and publish an article and a campaign “hit website” out of context. These are the simple facts:

  • At no time did the court order me to attend any anger management class. Instead, our judge-ordered child custody agreement stated that mother and father had to attend co-parent counseling and continue with individual counseling. The court dismissed mother’s allegations of domestic violence and [psychologist] Mr. [Raphael] Padilla’s recommendations. The judge acknowledged the need for parents to work together to co-parent.
  • The court dismissed all the mother’s allegations, and instead I was granted my petition for full joint and legal custody and a 50/50 custodial timeshare.
  • The fact is that  I’ve been a loving, proud father, and lived up to all of my familial and financial obligations, and in the toughest of circumstances.
  • The final custody agreement dated July 2008 is posted on our campaign website and available for all to read. VoteJimZito.com.

It’s a public disgrace that the San Jose Spotlight (a newspaper subsidized by local unions, including the POA) and the San Jose POA have published such one-sided misrepresentations in such an irresponsible, defamatory manner. I call upon both organizations to retract their material and apologize.

I will be filing complaints with the San Jose Board of Fair Campaign and Political Practices, the California Fair Political Practices Commission, and am currently in legal discussions with my attorney about civil complaints involving the organizations and individuals directly involved in these activities.

Further, I call on candidate Sylvia Arenas to reject, condemn and denounce this action by the SJ Police Union and the Spotlight. I strongly urge Sylvia Arenas to give back any monies she may have received from SJ POA due to their blatant show of disregard for the basic tenants of truth, fairness and decency, and the Code of Fair Campaign Practices.

This article has been updated to include additional statements from Jim Zito. 

Grace Hase is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @grace_hase. Or, click here to sign up for text updates about what she’s working on.

8 Comments

  1. Now I get why you were carpet bombing this Zito guy who can’t win anyway, you wanted to humiliate Mayor Liccardo. I get it now.

  2. Let me get this straight. Jenny Higgins Bradanini ran over a man and yet still has the endorsement of half the city council, politicians at the state level and so on, Jim Zito gets caught for asking his wife not to put onions in his salad 15+ years ago and everyone loses their minds. Can we just have a functioning city council that solves the homelessness problem?

    • Bradanini was endorsed by Ash Kalra who is the direct financial connection to google and other big pocket supporters. The supervisors and Sam do what this guy and big donors want. Khanna is another big player. D.V. Offenders tend to minimize their acts and to blame the victims. He deserves to be out and Bradanini too.

  3. > “While I understand that these allegations were made in the contentious environment of a political campaign by Mr. Zito’s opponents, they are sufficiently troubling to cause me to withdraw my endorsement,” he said.

    I’m withdrawing my support for Mayor Sam because of all the troubling allegations against him.

    I’m particularly concerned about his known history of weaponizing bicycles against innocent SUV’s.

  4. Not surprisingly, POA issues another POS hit piece, not based in facts. According to the article both parties were sent to relationship counselling.
    It would be refreshing to see the positive accomplishments of the candidates compared instead of juvenile cartoons.

  5. SVO is no longer backing Zito. Really? Why hasn’t Zito taken down their endorsements from his website? Why are the pictures of him with Sam Liccardo and Madison Nguyen still on the site. Why didn’t they call for him to quit the race?Fake indignation. The SVO is still helping Zito because they want the seat. It’s too bad that labor chose to highlight a contentious divorce rather than Zito’s appalling leadership of the once great Evergreen School District. Get the influence of labor and the SVO out of our elections. Then maybe our City government will start working for we the people.

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