Santa Clara Officials Enjoy Chauffeurs, Five-Star Hotels on Taxpayer-Funded Trip to Paris

Santa Clara’s top city officials may enjoy some of the highest public employee compensation in the state. City Manager Deanna Santana, for her part, makes more than the president of the United States, with $767,605 in annual compensation since the council gave her an 11 percent raise last month.

But that didn’t stop her and a couple of her underlings from getting taxpayers to foot the bill for a somewhat too lavish excursion to Paris last fall.

Santana and assistant city managers Nadine Nader and Ruth Shikada jetted off to France for September’s International Association of Science Parks and Areas of Innovation (IASP) conference. The stated goal was in the city’s interest. With the Santa Clara Convention Center set to host the IASP gathering in 2021, Santana and her entourage hoped to get a taste of the event and promote their Silicon Valley city in return.

Unsurprisingly, that kind of diplomatic jet-setting comes with a pretty hefty price tag.

Documents obtained by Fly show that the three-day trip cost taxpayers roughly $8,500. And despite planning to attend since February 2019, Santana and her cohorts missed out on cheaper airfare by waiting until June to book their transatlantic flights.

While the conference was held in Nantes, the trio of Santa Clarans paid $120 for a 20-minute car ride to spend their first night in Paris at the Marriott Champs Elysees—a five star hotel with rooms that cost upward of $460 a night.

To her credit, Santana paid out of pocket for her posh room. The same can’t be said for her two travel buddies.

After a night at the Marriott, the group eschewed France’s famed train system and piled into a $940 private car to head more than 200 miles northeast to the conference.

Santana didn’t return requests for comment. But Lenka Wright—the city’s mouthpiece—defended the cost of the trip as “reasonable” and the purpose as a benefit to taxpayers.

Wright also claimed that the chauffeur service from Paris to Nantes was “relatively cost neutral” compared to buying three $225 plane tickets to travel the same distance and hail a ride to their hotel. “Relatively cost neutral” is open to interpretation, of course. If they spent $675 on air fare, they’d have to spend another $265 to taxi from airport to hotel to match the cost of that 200-mile chauffeur ride.

Fly can’t help but wonder how many people outside City Hall would agree with Wright’s definition of “reasonable” and “relatively cost neutral.”

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The Fly is a weekly column written by San Jose Inside staff that provides a behind-the-scenes look at local politics.

39 Comments

  1. 10 percent of the population of Santa Clara eat 99 cent store food, work two jobs for rent, clothes, and utilities. They take public transportation. Only one thing can be said for these people who drank 100 dollar wine and escargot on the public dole,

    Pigs.

    • > Only one thing can be said for these people who drank 100 dollar wine and escargot on the public dole,

      Yeah. So what?

      It’s Paris.

      You’re supposed to drink wine in Paris.

      Do you want the world to think that people from San Jose are clods?

        • I’m wondering if San Jose’s cultural ambassadors were sufficiently cosmopolitan to pour the wine into a goblet before sniffing and sipping, or did they just leave the bottle in the plain brown paper bag and guzzle like an good ‘ol boy at a NASCAR rally?

        • > why are you dragging San Jose through the mud? these folks are from SANTA CLARA

          You are right, Tyler.

          My sincere apologies to the clods of San Jose for equating them to the clods of Santa Clara.

          I’m sure that there is a world of difference and that San Jose clods would NEVER be caught drinking their pinot noir out of a wine bottle in a brown paper bag.

  2. By the way, Deanna, was the Louis Vitton scarf you had on at the last meeting obtained on city time?

    • 49’er Owner Jed York poured $500,000 to fund the stories like that In local media. Smart move to cheat Santa Clara of 10’s Millions Of local taxes if he can get rid of this City Manager and the Mayor.

  3. This is misleading… I live in Switzerland and often take the TGV. It is not cheap. I’ve never seen an $18 ticket…. a one way ticket can easily be $80 – 120… or more. Be upset I guess, but using TGV prices to say 3 people sharing a car for 240 miles is egregious is silly.

    • I’m with you here. TGV is not cheap, but definitely faster! My tickets last summer from Paris to Lyon were 68 euros(~$73) per person one way. That was the cheapest option!

    • It is apparently cheaper if you buy in advance though some are saying. Same with airplane tickets (we all know that). There wasn’t much advance planning for the trip it seems. This trip reeks of a taxpayer funded junket (we all know that also).

  4. Who gives a rats arce? We elect them. They screw us over. They enrich themselves at our expense so what else is new? Trump does it. So now every low level government official thinks they can do it. Get used to it or start cleaning up the mess at the top. Oh, that wasn’t nice about the 49ers putting all of this out there for us to see. But then again Eddie Dibartolo just got a pardon from Trump so I suppose that means he gets to take back his team from his sister and brother in law. Oh what a tangled web we weave when First we practice to deceive!

  5. It is the new Santa Clara way where the 49ers are to blame for locusts in Africa, the city sends letters with no evidence, and city management takes trips to Paris when low paying city workers are fortunate if they can afford Reno if they take the seniors gambling bus

  6. That city manager salary! I guess somebody decided running a city like a business means giving the CEO exorbitant amounts of money.

  7. United States’s corruption is greater than India and Mexico’s…Santa Clara County is the best example of it.

  8. I hate this gotcha journalism. 1) France’s high speed rail is NOT $18 for 200+ miles. 2) Three people decided to pool their hotel money and get a nice room. Most people expect to get a room by themselves when traveling for business, so unless the hotel room was 3 times more than a normal business class hotel, I don’t see the problem.
    The whole article is written to bury all the context. It could be written, 3 officials share a room to save money on trip. One does not even bill the city for her hotel. But those facts way at the bottom of the article.

    • I agree. They’re on business and getting individual rooms would cost more. And who’s going to book an international flight more than 3 months in advance. For international flights, you won’t get much of a difference in fare if you book months in advance. In fact, you may end of paying more. Also I commend them for flying in economy class for the long flight. most business travelers would fly in business class which would cost over $5k RT per person. I don’t see any concerns here that would warrant this story.

    • How about this as a proper writing: “We applaud a SCC senior staff member and 2 lower-level employees for having stayed in the US and did their jobs instead of jetting off to France paid for by taxpayers”??!!

  9. Without commenting on the pay of the city manager, yeah the cost of the chauffeured limo is cost neutral. And your pointing out making a big deal of it is a cheap shot.

  10. Is this truly what Fly has time to be doing? Breaking down an $8,500 bill which if read correctly was extremely reasonable. Two shared a room and Santana went above and beyond and paid for it herself. She went to benefit the City. You need to learn business if you don’t understand that the $8,500 investment will yield insane returns when the same conference comes to Santa Clara and the influx in hotel stays etc spike. Also three executives sharing a private car for that length of a journey is reasonable. The problem with taking the rail is it can have delays etc and versus a car where it is ready for you any time. Also by taking a private car they can make any choice of stops to check out various venues etc. My father was a City Manager for years and had his bills, even his cell phone bills,, broken down by an angry citizen. My dad proved to never take a dime and waste this precious time highlighting his expenses every month as he knew what was coming. This is unreasonable one sided journalism and is hiding the truth behind the accusatory headline.

  11. The question is why is this position commanding such a ridiculously high salary? It’s not like San Jose is managed in such a stellar manner. I think she should be paid based on results, which by my estimates should qualify her for a nice $55K/year pay.
    All extra money that has been paid to her so far should be refunded.

  12. Except “City Manager Deanna Santana … makes … $767,605 in annual compensation” is wrong. Go look it up. The salary is $448,491, and the city removed a $45k housing allowance. Also, while I don’t know the current official Presidential salary, President T makes plenty more than Ms. Santana. Get. The. Facts. Straight.

    • > Also, while I don’t know the current official Presidential salary, President T makes plenty more than Ms. Santana.

      What?

      Comparing a city manager to the presidency of the United States?

      The first obvious point is that there is a difference in responsibility.

      What were you thinking?

      • Clearly sjout-etc you did not even read the article above or you would have realized the original comparison between local and national politicians was made by San Jose Inside. Please go read the article.

    • Her entire salary and benefits package is $767,605 so that figure is correct. The housing allowance was not omitted; it was moved into salary as a “merit” increase. Keep in mind too that she enjoys a perk no other city employee does — fully paid medical insurance for herself and family (spouse, 2 kids) and my understanding is that she uses it rarely as secondary insurance only. Her compensation package is too rich for the size of city she manages, regardless of the business lines of SVP and stadium.

  13. Ms. Santana knows how to use the public dole. Has she repaid the lower-than-market rate 40 year $1.1 million loan funded by Sunnyvale taxpayers and used to buy a home in Sunnyvale?

  14. Clearly, pigs at the public trough. And an outrageous, wholly incomprehensible salary as well. The Santa Clara City Council has money falling out of its pockets, yet street potholes remain unfixed and taxes reach to the sky.

  15. Let’s get fhe facts straight for the residents of Santa Clara as this and couple other articles are not about a 8500 trip for 3 people that brought a multimillion tradeshow to Santa Clara with that trip. This article as well as the silicon valley voice are mouthpieces for 49’ers who have lost the control over the stadium management as 49’ers management company tried to screw the citizens by avoiding local taxes. 49’ers will be pouring Millions into next election to get the city management out because the greedy Jed York, The owners, do not want to pay their fair share local tax that are in 10’s of Millions. Youdnot believe it? Check this out : 49’er tried to show the value of the Stadium 50% less so that they could cheat on their local taxes. The last imcident was that they showed loss for their Levi stadium operations? Really? A team going to Superbowl losing money on stadium ? Now you understand why Jed York wants to get rid of the management that challenges his greed. Now wonder Jed York was kicked out of San Francisco in the first place

  16. Funny story. I live in France in Nantes. A one way TGV ticket from Paris to Nantes (2 hours) in a week-day is usually between 50 to 80 $, depending on the comfort of the car (1st or 2nd class), how long you buy in advance, and how busy is the slot chosen (20 trains a day, some trains are highly booked, some others no). But what is the most meaningful for me is this kind of news itself, appearing publicly on a website. It’s interesting because this article would NEVER come in the French news! I France always pretends to be an example for democraty but the control realised by citizens over their representative is almost nul, in comparison with what is done in the US. Politicians in France spend much more for their trips and citizens don’t have the same opportunity to control their spending. They are supposed to give receipts for their expenses and that’s already a lot! France is the country with the most important public spending in the world so you can imagine they have large budgets for travelling and so on, on all layers (cities, intercommunalities, departement, regions, ministries…)

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