Open Letter to City Attorney Richard Doyle

Dear Mr. Doyle:

Several weeks ago, it was reported that the old City Hall property site will be turned over to the Santa Clara County Government as part of a negotiated debt settlement between the San Jose Redevelopment Agency and the Santa Clara County Government.

In 1996, San Jose voters approved a ballot measure that allowed for the construction of a new downtown City Hall.  The language of 1996 Measure I read as follows:

“Without imposing additional taxes or taking money from other city programs, shall Ordinance No. 14224.1 be amended to permit the relocation and consolidation of civic offices in the downtown so long as the costs are paid by using the proceeds from the sale or lease of the old civic complex and other land, savings from elimination of leased office space, and consolidation of city facilities and services?”

Would you please provide the citizens of San Jose with an explanation as to how this property exchange satisfies the legal requirements of Measure I?  Doesn’t the $10 million valuation (assigned to the old city hall site) belong to the City of San Jose? 

Shouldn’t the $10 million go to the City’s General Fund to be used to pay down the bonds issued to finance the construction of the new city hall?


  1. Pete,
    I hope you or some other attorney files a court injunction to buy some time to look into the legalities of this deal. This was rushed through and not thoroughly examined. A deal of this magnitude deserves more than a few airings at a city council meeting.

    • It is sad that Al Ruffo dropped his lawsuit before any substantive rulings were made.  I wish I knew why he did so.  Maybe Jim McManis can enlighten us in that regard.

      Basically, the key promises of Measure “I” not only were broken, they were broken before the measure was actuall voted on.

      We were told that the design would accomodate all city employees at the time, with a cushion of empty space for future hires.  FALSE WHEN CLAIMED, AND THEY KNEW IT WHEN THEY SAID IT!  Unfortunately the voters did not know it was a false claim before we voted.

      We were told that the savings from no longer leasing space would pay for the new edifice over time. FALSE WHEN CLAIMED AND THEY KNEW IT WHEN THEY SAID IT! Unfortunately the voters did not know it was a false claim before we voted.

      “Without imposing additional taxes or taking money from other city programs…”  That promise has been broken repeatedly.

      Rick Doyle and his employees do not work for the people of San Jose.  They work for the Mayor and the City Council.  Mr. Doyle’s so-called litigators are afraid to take most cases to trial, especially bogus ones against cops, instead he settles for millions.  And when they do take one to trial, they lose an awful lot of the time.  But the people of San Jose are not their clients, so we cannot fire him or any of his staff.

      THe only hope for SJ is to file for bankruptcy, void all existing agreements which are unsustainable, and start over.

      • It was our bad fortune that Al was in his 90’s and passed away shortly after the big ripoff occurred.

        Gonzo and his puppet, Chavez, the two primary dirtbags behind the scheme, had no ethical challenges with the Measure… what a surprise!

        Doyle and his crack staff are a financial black hole, losing case after case, with millions being awarded to SC County and others.

      • “THe only hope for SJ is to file for bankruptcy, void all existing agreements which are unsustainable, and start over.”

        Here we go again. I wonder how many posts you have put this in? Is that what you are wishing for San Jose? Karma baby. Bad luck’s gonna be tapping you on your shoulder. Remember all of this.

  2. Here is the way around this. The city sells the complex to Santa Clara County for 10 million. The city then turns around and gives the 10 million back to Santa Clara County as part of the RDA lawsuit settlement. It is stupid to waste additional time crying about this transaction. Lawsuits will only cost the taxpayers more money. Let it go.

    • So they screw us out of our own money, then we let it go so they can do it again and again and again. RDA money is worshiped as ‘untouchable’, but suddenly it comes into play with a stroke of the pen.

      Each day, I’m losing more and more trust in this Council as they cry for us residents to suffer with less services while they stuff tens of millions of dollars into the pockets of developers and supporters. At the end of their terms, they’ll go on to jobs that are payback for their political influence, and us residents will be left holding a pile of bills from a bankrupt city.

      I won’t let it go because its happening over and over, and it is *my* money, not theirs! I work hard for my money, they have been elected to properly direct the city… and that ain’t happening.

  3. Please, somebody please file legal proceedings to challenge this and force our elected officials to follow the law – not twist it to their personal wishes.

    By vote, we, the people, permitted the construction of a massive City hall with no disclosure that the old City Hall would be sold for pennies ($10M vs. $500M for the new City Hall).

    Then they twist and manipulate the rules to use the money to somehow get intertwined with the redevelopment agency.

    Its just like the convention center. We, the people, voted NO. And our elected officials went around our wishes and did it anyway. Then I find their “advisor” openly BRAGS about how they used legal tactics to make it happen:

    “SAG was the financial advisor for the renovation and expansion of the San Jose Convention Center, representing the facility manager, convention and visitors bureau, and hotel community. Following a failed voter referendum (by 2%) to fund the project, SAG created an alternative financing strategy that combined a unique Mello-Roos District with downtown redevelopment area tax increment financing.”

    For the City Hall, they said “so long as the costs are paid by using the proceeds from the sale or lease of the old civic complex and other land, savings from elimination of leased office space, and consolidation of city facilities and services.”

    Can the City demonstrate that its City Hall office space costs (interest, maintenance, furniture, etc. etc.) are being covered 100% by those items? I think not! Instead, they are cutting the services to our community – my services. Saying I have to now pay to maintain the trees they planted along the street. Saying they are going to turn off the street lights. Saying they are going to reduce my library hours, police patrols, fire stations, community centers.

    Is there no legally knowledgeable resident of this community who can rescue us from our own elected officials?

  4. man does anyone know this guys record in wining cases.  either this guy is a horrible attorney or he should look at working for people that do not get them selves in to legal situations that are so undependable.

  5. They lie to you and do what they want to do. Just as they lie to us. We have a contract. They don’t care. Seems like contracts, to them, are made to be broken. This is all BS and someone needs to put a stop to it. I think they are getting too big for their britches and need to be brought down a peg or two.

  6. So aren’t measures just legislation passed by the public instead of the council?  Doing a referendum is one way to get an ordinance or measure passed, especially if the council is looking for political cover. 

    That said, the power to make, amend and revoke ordinances lies primarily with the city council.  Future councils can ignore and over-rule anything that past councils or referendums enacted by a majority vote.  The only way to kind of enshrine things semi-permanently is the city charter, which is already pretty cluttered with selfish amendments, but its not nearly as bad as the state constitution.

    So long story, short – the measure did not legally bind future councils and if a majority voted to dispose of the property in this way, its probably legal.  Read the fine print and most of the ballot measures are really shell games full of broken promises (lottery money, benefit assessment district, etc.) 

    Just to keep good faith, however, I suggest the council put a line item in to pay down the bonds by 10 million and then give themselves 10 years to accomplish this.

    • Sorry to disagree Blair. Unless that measure was somehow unconstitutional I don’t see how the city council can unilaterally ignore it.

    • “Future councils can ignore and over-rule anything that past councils or referendums enacted by a majority vote.”

      If that were a true statement, then the current mayor and council could overrule whatever decisions were made that requires the city to put aside $200MILLION to pay just under 4900 pensioners this year alone.

      Sam Liccardo emailed me to say that could not be done, since courts would consider those pension promises to be vested property rights of the pensioners. Those 4900 folks are bleeding the rest of us dry.  4900 pensioners account for less than .0052% of city residents, yet their PENSIONS ALONE account for just over 21% of the entire city operating budget this year.

      The mayor and council are proposing that the remaining 940,000 of us suffer cuts in police, fire, libraries, road maintenence, etc, just to keep the promises to those 4900 pensioners.  Does that make sense to anyone except those 4900, and the few hundred soon to follow?

      • > 4900 pensioners account for less than .0052% of city residents, yet their PENSIONS ALONE account for just over 21% of the entire city operating budget this year.

        Hmmmm.  I believe that would be a problem.

        I’m sure our elected public officials will notice the problem and do something about it.

      • Please find a brain. The City does not pay pensions. The Retirement System Department does. They are not City employees. The return on investment is the primary source of revenue. What percentage of your income pays for overseas military action, and what pays for non-uniformed City employees. If you knew, you what just shut up. Yes, the City doles out 45% of salary for cops, ridiculous. So fix that, but don’t crap on the rest.

        The single most dominant reason for liability is the COUNCIL went on a hiring spree in the 90’s, then cut back. There are less working to pay the retired. Are current workers to blame? This is why workers and the City pay twice as much of base pay now as 2004, for the pension. The formula 2.5% per year never changed. 50% after 20 years. Now, average retirement life, less than 10 years. Then the spouse gets half of that. I call it a “death penalty”. So, isn’t it grand.

        What you are about to “suffer” is the lamest most incompetent workforce in the Bay Area. Congrats.

  7. ” It is stupid to waste additional time crying about this transaction. Lawsuits will only cost the taxpayers more money. Let it go. “

    This ” Let it go. ” attitude is how San Jose wasted billions of RDA taxes on insider deals to political cronies, gives away more millions each year as payback for political contributors or ” volunteers ” to get them elected and does not provide adequate city services to residents

    Time to draw the line and hold City Council, City Attorney and City Hall administrators accountable

    ” The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  which is what Bill suggests in his ” Let it go ” comment

    ” The true danger is when liberty is nibbled away, for expedients, and by parts.”  as well as not holding government accountable

  8. Keep digging to this story guys! This needs to come out! The city redevelopment agency gave this land cheap quickly to the county because the county was going to whistle blow about some of the corrupt deals the agency has done! The redevelopment agency then quickly gave this as “hush money”!

        • Im sorry I cant mention more but if I did, I would be put at risk of being exposed which will cost me my job. City Manager Figone is head hunting all departments in city hall to make her “layoff” list smaller by firing people so she looks good by appearing that she is preventing layoffs. The unethical behavior is happening. You wont have the Mercury News leading the charge to investigate it or even rporting it. I told you before why. The Mayor meets with the Mercury News Editors once a week to discuss the Mayors “game plan”! And the Mercury News has to Obey! All I can say is to keep beating the grass to startle the snakes!

        • I understand. I also figured the head hunting would start. I figured they would start looking for any minute reason to start firing people. Well, one way to get it out in the open is when something unethical happens, report it here for everybody to see and know about. Start keeping book.

  9. Pete, you should know better by now than to ask the San Jose city leaders to follow any previous deal.  Unions, here are your contract conditions.  Oops, sorry unions we need to take everything away.  Citizens, here are your options on this bond issue.  Oops, sorry citizens times have changed and your vote has been nullified in light of a new paradigm.  The list is long and pathetic of how many promises, deals, contracts, negotiations, etc. that the city has abandoned when it either serves a new purpose or new players enter the arena.

  10. Let it go?  or Let it continue?

    *The city (the citizens) has “loaned” millions to the RDA already and now they give them another $10 million. 

    *The RDA in turn “loans” Tom McEnery millions who in turns hires Barry Swenson. 

    *Let us not forget about giving $500k to campaign contributors like SUNPOWER.

    *THEN the RDA pays millions for land for ballpark land. 

    Come on people, connect the dots. This is money laundering at the citizens expense. And you say, “Let it go”.

    Make it stop!

    • “Let It Go” = “Let It Continue”

      Whoever said “let it go” is on the gravy train and doesn’t want the payola cut off.

      Well, that payola is coming from MY taxes, from MY home value.

      Since our supposed independent city auditor has her agenda set by the same people she is supposed to audit, what can we do. Is this a place for the Santa Clara county civil grand jury? Or is that another toothless political machine as well?

  11. Like the Robert Duvall character in ‘The Godfather’, consigliere Doyle is simply doing his crooked bosses’ bidding.
    In effect he’s saying to the citizens, “Yeah? We’re ignoring the law. So whaddya gonna do about it?”

  12. The insanity of the Mercury News never fails to fascinate.  Today, Sunday on page B3, snarky and sophomoric critical comments are reported about the use of “peon” by the mayor of Milpitas, a true gentleman and an able leader.

    But when it comes to a story on the same page and same writers, persons interested in having San Jose’s city government live up to its 1996 promises about the new city hall are labeled “gadflies” which tells us (in the first definition given) is “a fly that bites livestock: a fly that irritates livestock by biting them and sucking their blood. Horseflies are a type of gadfly.”

    Let’s see.  An innocent use of “peon” versus a malignant, dehumanizing use of “gadfly.”  One is condemned, and one is embraced by the Mercury News.  Insanity.

  13. With all the calls for recalls and grand jury investigations, you’d think there was a mob with pitchforks marching down Santa Clara St. I guess we’ll see if something actually comes of this (which would at least be good political theater) or if, yet again, message board complaints result in little-to-no real action.

    • To:  Let’s see what happens

      Something important did happen in this discussion.

      We have all learned through this real example that the short paragraph in your voter information guide on ballot measures does not determine what will happen.  This is a very big deal.  I discovered it first with my local school district in the late nineties.  What matters is the actual language in the 3 to 4 page resolution by the agency board to put a measure on the ballot.

      Even our all-wise newspapers don’t bother to dig into the actual resolution, and mislead us based on the short paragraph in the voter information pamphlet.

      Sounds paranoid, yet here is a genuine example of how what was in the voter information pamphlet is swept aside by language claimed to be in the actual 3-4 page resolution and generally unavailable to the voters.

      Read the resolution, not the voter information pamphlet.  Don’t be fooled again.

  14. Knowledgeable residents, taxpayers, community and neighborhood leaders have learned the hard way that


    City Manager, City Attorney and Redevelopment Director who were involved in sale of old City Hall to county are paid very well and will get multi- million dollar pensions to tell public whatever is necessary to get their jobs done which includes

    1) not telling public the whole truth or sometimes most of the truth about controversial issues, projects and ballot measures,

    2) routinely leaving out important information that misleads public, voters and taxpayers to get positive public opinion and vote approvals

    3) almost always overestimating the benefits, under estimating costs while down playing negatives or future problems that could of easily been seen but were purposely omitted or down played for public projects and ballot measures

    4) purposely writing ballot measure, environmental impact reports, project justifications and policies that can be interpreted many different ways causing much confusion until truth comes out with   public upset about being deceived again

    5) frequently using words that are not the commonly used definition Example: Core city services normally mean: police fire , planning, sewers, streets etc but San Jose uses “core city services” to mean all city services and don’t tell you that the meaning is different that common usage

    6) when confronted by knowledge well informed residents, community and neighborhood leaders City Hall restricts public speaking to 1 minute and frequently says the knowledegable people who speak at City Hall don’t represent the majority of residents meaning that:

    average San Jose resident does not have time to check out what city is telling us so believes the many false and misleading City Hall statements which is what they want

    7) the most disturbing City Hall illegal Brown Act practice is the “deal is done” meaning that presentations are rehearsed many times, votes to pass are counted, Council only has to listen for 1 minute to each speaker and then have Council say their prepared political speeches and vote as they have indicated they will before required public meeting started

  15. When I read this, I just about threw up my lunch. This deal smacks of corruption between the City and the County. Plus, the last time I checked, the old City Hall was being used as our still one and only Police Station and office building. Where are the Police going to go when the County takes it over? It will certainly cost more than $10 million to build a new Police HQ, unless the plan is to make the newly built, but unoccupied Substation building in South San Jose on Great Oaks Parkway near Blossom Hill and Monterey Highway the new one-and-only address for the Police.

    Is that the plan?????

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