Musical Chairs in Milpitas

At a July meeting of the Milpitas Planning Commission, Mark Tiernan, the recently ousted chair, was heard hissing at fellow commissioner Noella Tabladillo, telling her (and anyone within earshot) that she couldn’t be trusted. Tiernan is convinced that Tabladillo was part of a “coup” that forced him out three weeks ago, and that Mayor Jose Esteves orchestrated the whole thing.

Tabladillo’s measured response included a reminder that Milpitas is not a third-world country, and a calm suggestion that Tiernan stop being such a “self-absorbed asshole.” Tiernan immediately filed a complaint with City Manager Tom Williams. The new commission chair, Sundhir Mandal, told Fly he will look into Tiernan’s dispute with Tabladillo, and then spent five minutes talking about his childhood in India—where people apparently get along much better than they do in Milpitas.

Tiernan, a famously gruff political consultant, has a history of rubbing people all kinds of wrong. After he ran Dave Cortese’s successful bid for a seat on the Board of Supervisors in 2008, nobody involved in the campaign was surprised when Tiernan did not receive a sweetheart job in return. Then, when he was slated to become Rose Herrera’s chief of staff later that year, Tiernan was abruptly fired following a power struggle with fellow aide Jennifer Malutta.

And last year, Tiernan alienated fellow staffers while helping five-time Milpitas mayor Pete McHugh lose a race to get his old job back. That campaign left Tiernan with enemies on all sides, including Esteves, whom the former chair now accuses of strong-arming commissioner Gurdev Sandhu into changing his vote at the 11th hour.

Tiernan’s combative six-month stint chairing the commission stands in stark contrast to his modest predecessor, Cliff Williams. But the Lincoln Law School graduate says he isn’t about to rest his case. Tiernan says he is determined to someday be an attorney, and a Milpitas City Council member.

The Fly is the valley’s longest running political column, written by Metro Silicon Valley staff, to provide a behind-the-scenes look at local politics. Fly accepts anonymous tips.


  1. Mark Tiernan has no business being on the Planning Commission anyway.

    Tiernan claims to be a consultant in Milpitas who raises money for council candidates.

    By all definitions, Tiernan is a lobbyist who obviously is out to peddle on influence.  He should be thankful the FPPC is not sending him an advice/warning letter right now.  If it lobbies like a duck, raises money like a duck, and peddles on influence, it is a Tiernan.

    “Lobbyist” means a person or business entity that receives $250 or more in a calendar year for communicating, using any means, with City officials or employees to influence current or future City legislation, administrative decisions, or City Council elections or local initiative measures. Officials or employees of other government agencies shall not be deemed lobbyists for purposes of this ordinance when communicating with City officials or employees on behalf of such other government agency.”

    • Sounds like Tiernan studied at the Campos School for Political Ethics.  SJ has former City Council woman Nora Campos whose mother Rose Campos used to sit on the city funding agency that funded many of the MACSA programs.  You remember MACSA the agency where the Xavier “I’m not a crook, I’m just incompetent” Campos was COO while millions of those city awarded dollars were lost under his tenure.  Campos then went on to serve on the Planning Commission (helped in appointment by sister Nora) married to Neil Struthers the Trades Lobby guy who gets the benefit of baby brother in law recommending funding via Planning Commish to sister/wife combo Nora. 

      Talk about corruption and self interest.  Don’t look to the test scores in the East side schools to point out there is no brain trust going on just look at the naivete of the people as they keep reelecting this family of corrupt, self serving, arrogant Campos losers.

      Lets hope there will be an end to it soon with the redistricted east side that might be able to now run a viable candidate against Nora in Assembly and that the D.A. will soon file charges holding Xavier accountable for his role in the MACSA embezzlement and pension theft.

  2. Who knew there was room in the marketplace for political consultants with little to no political experience and who have no record of success? We can hardly credit this novice with getting Dave Cortese elected to the Board of Supes – Dave walked in to that seat.

    I suppose every election cycle offers promise for a whole host of second and third tier candidates with no real hope of winning. And now I see they have a political consultant ready to serve them – one who has spent his entire career preparing to help them lose, but not before taking as much of their money as he can get his grubby little hands on.

    Well done, Mark. It’s a noble little niche you’ve carved out for yourself.

  3. What is Mr. Tiernan’s day job?  I don’t believe a person of his caliber can make a living via lobbying activities.  A good lobbyist needs to be good mannered, sophisticated and diplomatic.  Mr. Tiernan is anything but.  Mr. Tiernan should focus more on passing the bar (which appears to be a distant dream for him) and finding a good day job.  We don’t need full time politicians, at least at the local level.

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