Santa Clara Investigates its own City Attorney—to his Surprise

How does a city council schedule a closed-door meeting about the city attorney’s performance without tipping him off to a months-long investigation into his actions? Santa Clara’s electeds clearly haven’t figured that out yet.

The seven-member council convened last week for City Attorney Brian Doyle’s job review. Councilwoman Kathy Watanabe’s loose lips set the ship off course by asking about an investigation during the public meeting—much to Doyle’s visible surprise.

Voyeurs tracking Santa Clara City Hall’s perennial drama know Doyle’s accused of blowing a chance to settle a California Voters Right Act lawsuit against the city. The settlement could have saved taxpayers $1 million and now some residents want to throw Doyle overboard.

The job review was scuttled after Mayor Lisa Gillmor treated her colleagues to an hour-long dissection of the technicalities of the process, parsing the verbiage and legalese that led to the meeting and ultimately arguing rules hadn’t been followed.

The requirement and timelines for public meetings can be daunting even for experienced officials, which is why they often seek advice from their in-house counsel. That’s tricker when rookie reps occupy nearly half the dias and the city attorney is bypassed due to competency questions.

City Manager Deanna Santana said her staff knowingly violated no laws in facilitating the meeting, though that didn't assuage conspiracy theories. Eventually, Jenica Maldonado of Rennie Public Law, the city’s outside legal counsel, advised the electeds to reconsider the issue another day to ensure they didn’t violate any transparency laws.

But the damage was done in exposing the confidential investigation to residents and Doyle, who now must wonder in slow motion how secure his $300,000 a year job really is.

Send a tip to The Fly

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. Brian Doyle is one of the most ridiculous figures in the history of the Mission City. He is not only stupid, arrogant, and a complete fool, but he is a dangerous, petty little man. His patron, Teresa ONeill is another petty stupid person. Doyle needs to go.

  2. The other angle to this story is the fact that so much of Santa Clara politics revolves around the relationship between the City and the 49ers. The 49ers have basically been trying to run city politics since coming in, particularly for the purpose of minimizing their tax liabilities to the city. Doyle has basically been the guy fighting for the residents of Santa Clara against the interests of the 49ers, and CM Suds Jain, who was part of the slate of candidates who were recently elected with millions in support from the 49ers, recently admitted in a council meeting that the 49ers have approached him about seeing Doyle removed from his post. Anonymous commenters (admittedly, I am one, as well) throwing out hyberbolic attacks against the man, accusing him of being “ridiculous,” “stupid,” “arrogant,” “a complete fool,” “dangerous,” and “petty” without offering any explanation for their hatred may simply resent Doyle for standing in the way of 49er business interests, particularly those who, in their history of commenting on this site, have consistently supported 49er-backed candidates.

  3. I got it
    The 49ers are smuggling in Asians hidden in their cargo planes and Doyle, who in reality is the Green Lantern, is leading the fight.

  4. York put these new members on the council to get his way. It’s not about anything else other than he wants to rule Santa Clara. These new City council members are not representing there districts at all. There will be more information coming out tonight or tomorrow as these new members are not on the up and up and we will all pay the price if the 49ers get there way. It’s time to recall these guys as they said on record they are meeting with the 49ers and the City Attorney has not been notified of these meeting the new members will not say what they talked about other than the 49ers don’t want Doyle. Doyle knows what he is doing.

  5. For losing the city 5 million I wish doyle did not know what he was doing. Ps, the Judge made that ruling. Is Debbie York seducing the judge?

  6. “IT WILL STAY WHITE IN SANTA CLARA” is none other than disgraced blogger James Rowen who was found guilty of libel and defamation and ordered to pay $400k in damages in his case and to delete his pathetic excuse of a blog. He’s commenting under an anonymous pseudonym here (as well as on other news sites) so as to not be violate the judge’s order in his case. Pay no heed to this cretin that lives off political “consulting” from bottom of the barrel politicos.

  7. No such order in any defamation case against Rowen. John Mlnarik, whom I presume is “Not James Rowen,” obtained the defamation judgment by default without any appearance of any kind by Rowen. There’s no judicial order regarding Rowen’s blog. Stop spinning it, John.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *