Santa Clara business leader’s potential campaign could create conflict
The Santa Clara City Council is pictured in this file photo.

A rumored ally of Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor has his eyes on a City Council seat, but running for it would create a conflict of interest for him in his other roles.

Sources say Christian Pellecchia, vice president of operations at Santa Cruz-based Slatter Construction and board chair of the Silicon Valley Central Chamber of Commerce, told them he’s running for the District 3 seat represented by Councilmember Karen Hardy. One former member of the chamber board who didn’t want to be identified said Pellechhia moved into the district about six months ago specifically to run for the seat.

Pellecchia denies he’s running. He said there are rumors circulating because people want him to run and that they didn’t start with him.

“I have so many roles here right now,” Pellecchia told the San Jose Spotlight on Wednesday. “Whether I want to run or not, it would just cause trouble.”

Pellecchia was not immediately available for comment Thursday.

Pellecchia hasn’t pulled papers to run for Hardy’s seat, but some say a potential run creates a conflict with his continued presence on the chamber board. Harbir Bhatia, former chamber board member, agreed to take a leave of absence from the board at Pellecchia’s behest when she unsuccessfully ran for the District 1 Santa Clara City Council seat in 2020.

When Pellecchia began actively raising concerns with the executive board that Bhatia’s campaign presented a conflict of interest for the business group, not everyone agreed. But Bhatia ultimately accepted the idea of taking a leave of absence.

“I said if this is better for the chamber and the broader good of our businesses, I will accept it and take a leave of absence,” Bhatia told San José Spotlight. “And now if he’s running, which is what I’ve been told by many people, taking a leave of absence is the right thing for him to do.”

Pellecchia said he has no affiliations with any political groups in Santa Clara, but people associated with the chamber contest that. Pellecchia has had frequent meetings and attended several events with Gillmor and her allies since 2017, according to city records. He’s not required to register as a lobbyist in Santa Clara and filed for an exemption from having to register as a lobbyist with the city in March 2017. The exemption only applies if any communication about the city’s affairs is part of the public record and is available for public review. In November 2020, he also appeared on Gillmor’s YouTube show “[email protected]

Pellecchia has had a windy path to his current position as vice president of operations in construction. He’s been actively involved in martial arts, including teaching it to kids and promoting mixed martial arts events in Santa Cruz, according to his LinkedIn page.

He was interim CEO and president of the chamber around the time allegations were made that the chamber overcharged the city by over half a million dollars over five years. However, several people associated with the chamber said that wasn’t the case and the city actually faulted the chamber for engaging in routine business practices related to managing a convention center and visitor’s bureau. The city and chamber recently decided to settle for $330,000.

Sources said the audits that led to the allegations were politically motivated.

Contact Sonia Waraich at [email protected] or @soniawaraich on Twitter. 

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