Questions of Conflicts of Interest Loom Over Santa Clara County Redistricting

The only historically conservative seat on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors could vanish in 2022.

Former San Jose City Councilmember Johnny Khamis and Los Gatos Vice Mayor Rob Rennie are sweating over one proposed redistricting map that cleverly excluded the two announced candidates’ homes from District 1, which stretches across South County, from south San Jose, Gilroy and A​​lmaden Valley to Los Gatos and Monte Sereno.

But while waiting to learn if they’re even eligible to run for the district they’re campaigning to represent—along with Morgan Hill Mayor Rich Constantine and Santa Clara County Office of Education President Claudia Rossi—another concern has emerged before a decision is made by Dec. 7.

Should all five supervisors ethically be allowed to approve a map, choosing from the Advisory Redistricting Commission’s "Yellow," "Purple" and "Equal and Equitable 2.0" models?

Supervisor Susan Ellenberg endorsed Rossi and Supervisor Cindy Chavez hosted a fundraiser for Constantine on Oct. 30, meaning two of the people voting aren’t exactly impartial decision makers.

Additionally, Chavez was previously the executive officer of the South Bay Labor Council and director of Working Partnerships—two groups that helped craft the Yellow "Unity" map.

Elected officials regularly abstain from votes that even remotely impact their lives outside of their jobs—whether involving family members, personal investments or non-financial interests.

Average voters rarely get worked up over these wonky skirmishes. Still, it doesn’t take a political scientist to see there’s at minimum an appearance of conflict in voting on a redistricting that determines the futures of candidates they’ve endorsed in a race that’s already underway—and whose winner could support a supervisor’s future legislation or next election.

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. The mere appearance of a conflict of interest is an absolutely serious charge, especially when its an obvious conflict of interest, especially when both Cindy and Susan already voted last week to include the so-called “Unity Map” (Yellow Map) for final consideration, and not recuse themselves from THAT vote. The law-breaking damage has already been done. For Cindy, being the founder and former leader of Working Partnerships this is an especially egregious lapse of judgment. The absolute arrogance of the coalition group that prepared and submitted the so-called “Unity Map” in an effort to dilute many areas of the county, and was done under the guise of “Unity”, is disturbingly appalling, and clearly demonstrates an attempted power grab.

  2. So the BoS gets to vote on boundaries of supervisorial districts. They have the authority. Is it a conflict that a sitting supervisor wants to get re-elected? (If only retiring supervisors were able to decide, there might not even be a quorum.) Why is it a conflict for electeds to promote their agenda by helping supporters and discouraging opponents? Is the argument that they should cede that authority to some sort of citizen’s commission, as at the state level?

    Same goes for city council districts and school board trustee districts, etc.

  3. This shameful scheming by Ellenberg and Chavez goes beyond dirty tricks and political shenanigans. There are serious legal and ethical concerns surrounding this attempt to–let’s call it what it is–deny Khamis’ and Rennie’s Rights to Candidacy. For a pair of progressives that hypocritically robe themselves in language of suffrage and inclusion, there is a shocking amount of suppression,,segregation, and exclusion in their wardrobe. County residents should not let Ellenberg and Chavez glide away from this misbehavior: they are unfurling their true intentions, and there’s more than a whiff of Woke tyranny about it.

  4. In the case of conflict of interest, they are still suppose to recuse themselves, period. There is no exception.

  5. The point is VV, Chavez voted on a map by prepared by and submitted by Working Partnerships USA, an organization she founded and led for several years. This is about the most basic and simplistic conflict of interest that can happen. It’s stunning that she didn’t think it through and recuse herself. This was nothing short of a progressive power grab, even though the BOS has voted mostly the same way on literally everything. Voters are sick of this now.

  6. Progressives want power, period! They don’t care about appearances because they are supported by a Leftist media who will cover for them.

    Every time I read about the BoS, I feel like I need a shower. ?

  7. So Rossi, Constantine and their supporters Ellenberg and Chavez are so scared of Johnny Khamis winning that their labor unions try to gerrymander him out of the election? This is shameful and exposes what cowards they are. Hopefully Chavez and Ellenberg lose their next elections because of this.

  8. The Communist’s that run this valley have a lock on power here in the peoples utopia, why would they let one last hold out area survive absolute destruction? Soon the last of the tycoons of innovation will have left for Texas, and your house will flood with 3rd world migrants and others looking for a free ride.
    Keep voting that one party system to death and soon you will be living the Chicago dream!

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