The grand jury never spoke to the accused Santa Clara council members
The Santa Clara County civil grand jury failed to interview the majority of Santa Clara council members it convicted of alleged misconduct in a controversial new report.
Three of the five council members reprimanded in the report — Kevin Park, Raj Chahal and Anthony Becker — told San Jose Spotlight they were never contacted by jurors. They are accused of having unethical ties to the San Francisco 49ers and putting the team’s interests above the city.
“It’s surprising considering I’m one of the people who had charges against me,” Park said. “Not even talking to me when you make such specific accusations seems irresponsible. There’s no way people can consider this an unbiased report if they haven’t even spoken to one of the parties. »
Others named in the report are Council members Karen Hardy and Suds Jain, both of whom were interviewed. The two told San José Spotlight that the questions were contradictory and accusatory.
“It seems like all the documents they saw were biased,” Jain said.
The final report, released on Monday evening, revealed that two jurors recused themselves for conflicts of interest. He did not reveal which jurors or why they could not participate in the inquest. Last week, 49ers officials raised concerns about several jurors with close business and personal ties to Mayor Lisa Gillmor, a vocal opponent of the team.
Officials from the Santa Clara County Superior Court and County Council Office — which serves as grand jury counsel — declined to respond to the allegations. They confirmed that the challenged jurors had not participated in the inquest.
The timing raises eyebrows
The release of the report on Monday, less than a month before Election Day, also raised eyebrows. Sources who spoke to San José Spotlight anonymously said the jury’s goal was to influence the change, and that may be why it was released ahead of an election. Becker challenges Gillmor for mayor, and Hardy and Chahal face re-election.
The jury began the Santa Clara inquest in June and interviewed only 10 people before completing its report, despite beginning its term in January. A report from last year on county technology services, for comparison, had 45 interviews. A report on guardianships from the previous year contained 29 interviews.
A former juror, who requested anonymity for confidentiality reasons, said not speaking to three of the accused council members was a legitimate reason to be suspicious.
“I think we have reason to suspect he might be biased,” the juror said. “(Based on) the limited number of interviews. The failure to interview the people who were mentioned.
Chahal said he was shocked to see the county court system, an institution meant to ensure fairness, manipulated to “spread politically motivated lies.”
“Assummations, lies and misrepresentations are hallmarks of the (civil grand jury) report,” he said. “Any investigation aimed at presenting fair and truthful conclusions would seek to listen and hear the views of all parties and stakeholders – however, the (civil grand jury) did not contact me once to assert my views in his report.”
Becker said the report raises questions about how much contact Gillmor had with jurors before it was released.
“In this country, you are innocent until proven guilty, but their verdict is guilty without even a real investigation,” Becker said. “It’s even more disturbing that there are lawyers on this grand jury, and I’m sure they would never go to court with the case they presented here.”
Gillmor did not respond to a request for comment.
Among other findings, the report says the five board members often meet with 49ers lobbyists — possibly violating Brown Law — before board meetings, caved to team influence, failed to hold team executives responsible for the missing financial reports and accused Hardy and Chahal of potentially violating the city’s gift policy.
Santa Clara Police Chief Pat Nikolai, a Gillmor supporter, called the district attorney on Monday to investigate the allegations.
The 49ers, who were also not questioned by jurors, spent millions to defeat Gillmor and re-elect the board members named in the report. As of September 1, the team had spent at least $1.5 million supporting Becker, Hardy and Chahal, including about $704,500 for Becker. The team has invested at least $1.9 million in PACs to support the three board members.
Peter Hurtan, a former juror and president of the California Grand Jury Association, said he had faith in the grand jury’s role as an impartial public watchdog — despite any missteps.
“I can’t speak for the grand jury and why they make decisions for who they interrogate,” Hurtan told San Jose Spotlight. “But you hope that as much information as possible is collected to be as informed as possible.”
49ers officials, however, called the jury a “kangaroo court.” They said the jury refused to correct errors in the report even after being presented with evidence.
“This is a political stunt with no legal or factual basis,” team spokesman Rahul Chandhok told San Jose Spotlight. “At least two members of the ‘jury’ have already been removed from their positions due to conflicts of interest. When presented with hundreds of pages of evidence correcting their report, they said they had no responsibility to examine any information that contradicts their prejudices.This corruption of the justice system is outrageous.
Jain said he requested that the report be presented to the Santa Clara City Council for public debate. The City has 90 days to respond.
Contact Ramona Giwargis at [email protected] or follow @RamonaGiwargis on Twitter.