Santa Clara City Manager Deanna Santana just can’t seem to escape charges of cronyism.
To help pick up the slack as development in the Mission City picks back up post-pandemic, Santana announced this month the city is creating a new position: Assistant Director of the Community Development Department, which deals with planning, zoning, housing and development.
Santana said she plans to “move quickly on this so that we can continue to stabilize this department,” which will soon have two of three managerial positions vacant below Director Andrew Crabtree, and 15 vacant budgeted positions as of April 21.
But when pressed about her expeditious timeline and efforts to attract talent to Santa Clara, Santana wouldn’t commit to making the search for the $188,462 to $245,000 salaried gig an open recruitment process, saying she hasn’t “made those decisions yet.”
The curt retort raised eyebrows, given her well-publicized, speckled history of hiring outside professionals from other cities and personal pals into high-paying roles, what some have dubbed “bringing in of the ‘friendlies.’”
The Silicon Valley Voice reported in January 2020 five of the 10 highest salaried positions were Santana’s former colleagues—hired within her first two years at the city’s helm. Additionally, 22 of the 42 people newly hired in management gigs from 2017 to 2019 worked with Santana or her employees.
Santana said internal staff are allowed to provide feedback on applicants, but defended her yearslong, charter-given right to personally vet and have the final say.
“I am concerned about council interference within the appointment process of which, under the city charter, is a duty that I'm responsible for,” Santana said, eliciting a deep nod from Mayor Lisa Gillmor. “I am not concerned about recruiting or appointing for this position.