Seven people sitting on elevated dais with people working on desks in front of them
A Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury report says members of the Santa Clara City Council have 'irreconcilable differences.' File photo.

The Santa Clara City Council’s effectiveness is being called into question by a county civil grand jury report, alleging city officials’ disagreements have made life worse for residents.

The Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury published a Santa Clara-focused report on Wednesday, this time lambasting dysfunction and pettiness at city council meetings and detailing how it detracts from the city’s quality of life. Two years ago, another contentious grand jury report looked at the San Francisco 49ers’ influence on city politics, which the team refuted.

Among the grand jury’s recommendations are that every councilmember, including Mayor Lisa Gillmor, attend conflict resolution training by October and that the city hire a conflict resolution professional.

The report alleges councilmembers’ consistent arguing during meetings has eroded residents’ trust, decreased staff morale and affected city functions.

“The role of leaders is to create an environment that promotes collaboration, an essential component for building an effective council,” the report reads. “The inability of the city council to communicate respectfully and work together has undermined the effective governance and morale of the city.”

The report also recommended Councilmembers Anthony Becker, Raj Chahal, Karen Hardy, Suds Jain and Kevin Park attend ethics training, and that Becker, Park and Chahal attend training about the city’s parliamentary process. The report alleged the city’s Governance and Ethics Committee is ineffective and has no influence over the city council, and recommended the city establish an Independent Ethics Commission to oversee behavior.

Gillmor, Chahal and Councilmember Kathy Watanabe could not be immediately reached for comment, though Gillmor and Watanabe put out a joint statement on X, formerly known as Twitter, that said they will soon bring some of the report’s recommendations to council. Becker referred San José Spotlight to his lawyers, who did not respond to requests for comment.

Hardy said she felt some of the comments were “cherry-picked” and that the report only reflected one point of view. Jain also said the report did not include any misconduct from Watanabe or Gillmor, referencing a recent instance when he greeted Watanabe on the street and she refused to acknowledge him.

“If you’re going to look at something, I think you need to look at the whole picture and not play favorites,” Hardy told San José Spotlight. “There was nothing illegal, there was nothing terrible. It was just some people not liking something and I thought, well, there’s a lot of things in life that happen that we don’t like.”

Jain and Hardy both said they were interviewed for this report.

The grand jury is requesting the city — and every councilmember — respond to the report.

After the 2022 report released, 49ers executives called the jury “stacked” with Gillmor’s political allies. The report was released shortly before the November 2022 election, where Becker and Gillmor faced off. Several councilmembers, including Becker, previously told San José Spotlight they weren’t interviewed for the report.

Multiple people allegedly leaked the 2022 report prior to its publication. Becker allegedly leaked the report to the 49ers and is locked in litigation over alleged perjury which he has pleaded not guilty. Supporters also suggested Gillmor may have leaked the report to the city’s police union, after talking points from the report were published early on a website overseen by the union.

Contact B. Sakura Cannestra at [email protected] or @SakuCannestra on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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