Embattled eBay exec has ear of another San Jose mayor
San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan at his inauguration ceremony on Feb. 1, 2023. Shortly after taking office, Mahan allowed former eBay exec Steve Wymer to help his administration. Photo by Joseph Geha.

    Days after his election, San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan allowed a disgraced former eBay executive linked to a vicious stalking scheme to build his transition teams, work on his schedule and broker a meeting with a tech leader.

    New emails obtained by San José Spotlight highlight the continued political influence of Steve Wymer, the former chief communications officer at eBay, who also advised former Mayor Sam Liccardo. Now, Wymer has embedded himself into the new mayor’s administration and serves on an unofficial kitchen cabinet of advisors.

    Wymer in 2019 appeared to orchestrate a stalking and harassment campaign to silence a Massachusetts couple who published critical online posts about the tech giant. A group of eBay employees signed up the couple for pornographic websites, attempted to install a tracking device on their car and shipped disturbing packages containing a funeral wreath, a book about grieving a dead spouse, a pig mask with blood and live spiders and cockroaches.

    The incidents followed Wymer’s texts to top eBay officials calling Ina Steiner, the author of the posts, a “biased troll who needs to get BURNED DOWN,” and threatening to “crush this lady.” He also texted, “I want to see ashes.” Wymer was fired from eBay in September 2019 for his role in the scheme. Seven other former eBay officials were sentenced to prison and probation terms. The story made national headlines and was featured on “60 Minutes” last month, with Wymer at the center of the reporting. Steiner and her husband David, the victims of the harassment scheme, filed a federal lawsuit against Wymer and other former eBay employees in 2021.

    Despite his dark past, Wymer joined Liccardo’s communications team as a “volunteer” three months after being fired. He advised the former mayor on press strategy and hiring decisions. Liccardo and Mahan both defended Wymer, who landed a job as CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Silicon Valley in 2020—just a year after the scandal.

    Just like Liccardo, Mahan has allowed Wymer into his inner circle. The revelation comes months after Mahan in December refused to say whether Wymer would join his leadership team.

    “He volunteered to help in the weeks before I was inaugurated when we didn’t have a mayor’s office team but were already dealing with a huge volume of meeting requests and the like,” Mahan told San José Spotlight. “Steve was one of dozens of people who provided names to serve on our transition committees.”

    Mahan, who would only answer questions in writing, said Wymer arranged “a couple meetings,” but refused to say how many or with who.

    According to new records, Wymer was copied on an email sent Jan. 4 from prolific downtown developer Gary Dillabough to Scott Ekman, a top official at Adobe. Dillabough was attempting to connect Ekman to the new mayor and called on Wymer to make it happen.

    “I am ccing Steve Wymer who is helping with Matt’s schedule,” Dillabough wrote in the email to Ekman. Wymer contacted Mahan’s executive assistant, Megan White, to set up the meeting.

    He told White he was working with Mahan and his chief of staff Jim Reed on transition teams and setting up meetings for the mayor. The transition committees worked on budget priorities and were highly criticized because of the secrecy around the members and meetings.

    “Gary offered to (intro) the Mayor to a great leader at Adobe who cares about downtown and could be helpful in just connecting the company to various initiatives that might align and the Mayor said he would like to meet him—then I was asked to connect,” Wymer wrote in his email to White on Jan. 7.

    A screenshot of Wymer’s email coordinating meetings for Mayor Matt Mahan.

    A few weeks after Wymer helped broker a meeting between Mahan and Adobe, the mayor agreed to speak at the Boys & Girls Club’s annual gala on Jan. 27 and present an award.

    Mahan claimed that Wymer does not have an official role, title or responsibilities in his office. Mahan refused to say whether he will cut ties with Wymer in light of his disturbing past. He also stopped short of calling him a “friend.”

    “I’ve known Steve for years and we’ve interacted professionally and socially from time to time,” the mayor said.

    The two first met about six years ago when Wymer was vice president of communications at Nextdoor and Mahan was working in civic tech.

    Wymer held a campaign event for him at his Willow Glen restaurant 20Twenty. Wymer also co-hosted an inauguration afterparty that raised money for the Downtown Streets Team.

    Mahan disputed the notion of an “afterparty” and said he only attended because it was advertised as a fundraiser for an organization that he supports.

    Screenshot of Willow Glen Times March 2023 issue.

    Wymer in December called Mahan and Liccardo “friends,” but declined to say whether those influential relationships helped him land the top job at a nonprofit serving vulnerable youth after getting fired from eBay. The friendship had its perks: In one of his last actions as mayor, Liccardo in October 2022 signed a letter supporting a request from the Boys & Girls Club for a federal education grant, records show.

    Mahan, Liccardo and Wymer appear to enjoy a relationship beyond City Hall, with social media posts boasting photos from after-hours dinner parties.

    Wymer did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

    In addition to Wymer, other members of Mahan’s kitchen cabinet—an unofficial group of advisors—included Liccardo, Reed, Bill Baron of Brandenburg Properties, his former staffer Matthew Quevedo and lobbyist Victor Gomez, according to City Hall sources. They met in the weeks before Mahan took office. Reed confirmed Mahan had multiple conversations with Wymer and others about transition matters during that time but said they stopped when he took office.

    One political observer, who asked for anonymity for fear of political retribution, said Wymer’s influence in Mahan’s camp is the worst kept secret.

    “From what I understand he is as powerful now as he was with Liccardo. He just doesn’t showboat as much as he did with Sam,” the source said.

    When asked about the optics of surrounding himself with Wymer, the mayor demurred.

    “All of us are fortunate to live in a system where folks are innocent until proven guilty,” Mahan said. “If he has done anything wrong, he should be punished. No one is above the law.”

    Contact Ramona Giwargis at [email protected] or @RamonaGiwargis on Twitter. Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.

    Editor’s Note: Victor Gomez is on San José Spotlight’s board of directors.

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