San Jose ex-politician won’t give up social media accounts
Former District 7 San Jose Councilmember Maya Esparza, center, is pictured in this file photo.

    A former San Jose councilmember is posturing as an elected official on social media, despite multiple demands by the city to turn over these official accounts.

    Former Councilmember Maya Esparza is holding the District 7 social media accounts and associated websites hostage, even as the city attorney, manager, clerk and current Councilmember Bien Doan have requested she relinquish the login information. Esparza still represents herself as the district’s councilmember on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram, according to screenshots of the accounts taken by San José Spotlight. Esparza, who served one term starting in 2018, lost her reelection campaign to Doan last year.

    Doan said the issue has made transitioning into the role difficult because it hinders his ability to reach constituents, especially in urgent situations like the January floods. He wants to change city policy to ensure it never happens again.

    “It almost feels revengeful,” Doan told San José Spotlight. “I would expect the outgoing councilmember would be cooperative. When we come to the office our goal is to take care of our residents, understand their needs and concerns and communicate with them. To not get that was disheartening.”

    A screenshot of Maya Esparza’s Facebook page from Sept. 19, 2023.

    Doan plans to submit a memo to the council this week to mandate that official councilmember social media and mailing list accounts be tied to a “.gov” email and be owned by the city. He wants to ensure these are the primary accounts used to disseminate information from current leaders. Doan said he also wants the city to purchase council district website domains so when turnover happens, the city can determine who manages them.

    Esparza did not respond to requests for comment.

    “You have to ask, why is the previous councilmember claiming she is still the councilmember?” Doan said. “To me, that’s you breaking a lot of laws. You are impersonating a public representative—and there should be some type of consequences.”

    Doan said the animus relationship with Esparza started immediately after the election was certified. He said he reached out to Esparza on several occasions for a transition meeting – customary when there is a change in a councilmember – but Esparza refused.

    When he took office in January, Doan said there were no resources, data or old memos to reference—the office was empty. Doan said even some city office equipment was missing. While there were some remaining district funds, the mailing lists, social media accounts and even the “” domain were not accessible to him.

    In 2020, Esparza purchased the “” domain using personal funds—despite the domain belonging to the city before she was a councilmember. City Clerk Toni Taber said she asked Esparza to turn it over, but Esparza said no.

    A screenshot the of page from Sept. 19, 2023.

    This was not the first issue Taber experienced with Esparza refusing a city request. Taber said she asked all council offices for their mailing lists in October 2022 and Esparza failed to provide hers. And for several months, the District 7 office couldn’t access the official mailing list containing resident contacts because Esparza refused to supply the password.

    Eventually Taber was able to get the login information for the “iConstituents” database by asking the private company for access after Esparza did not provide login information.

    But Esparza also failed to mention to Taber that she had another mailing list associated with the city’s email in Mailchimp, a marketing company that allows users to send email blasts. When the District 7 office discovered this additional mailing list, they requested the login information from Esparza. The IT department finally retrieved the account since it used a city email, according to Doan’s office.

    Taber believes if Doan’s digital property policy memo comes before the San Jose City Council, it will spark an important discussion among leaders.

    “Part of the discussion has to be how do (these new policies) get enforced,” Taber told San José Spotlight. “The transition (of councilmembers) usually goes pretty okay, but every once in a while you get a couple that just don’t communicate.”

    The city attorney is also involved. Because Esparza still claims to be the current councilmember on Facebook, Doan has been unable to create his own councilmember account. Any time Doan tries, he said he gets wrongfully flagged by Facebook for “impersonating a government official.” The city attorney sent a letter to Facebook demanding access to the account on Aug. 28, but has not heard back.

    A screenshot of Maya Esparza’s Instagram from Sept. 19, 2023.

    While Esparza hasn’t posted from Instagram, where she lists herself as the current councilmember, she has posted on LinkedIn in the last six months—and has failed to change her title there, too. She did however change her X, formerly known as Twitter, account to say “former councilmember.”

    A screenshot of Maya Esparza’s page on X, formerly known as Twitter, from Sept. 19, 2023.

    Jonathan Fleming, Doan’s deputy chief of staff, said the city is exploring all avenues to remedy this.

    “There’s no reason for a previous councilmember to do this,” Doan said. “I hope that our city and future council and mayor will always have this wonderful transition where it’s all about our community and not about ourselves.”

    Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or @Jana_Kadah on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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