Demands for Santa Clara Councilmember Anthony Becker to resign ultimately went unheeded Tuesday, the conclusion of a seven-hour meeting often stalled by procedural minutiae and recriminations.
The Santa Clara City Council voted 4-2 not to schedule a future debate over whether to press Becker to resign, with Becker abstaining. He stands accused of leaking a civil grand jury report days before its public release and then lying about the leak. He’s pleaded not guilty to both charges.
The proposal would have been toothless if passed; Becker would need to be recalled by voters in order to be removed from the city council. But the agenda item was still indicative of tensions between members. Mayor Lisa Gillmor, who narrowly defeated Becker in last year’s contentious mayoral race, was one of two votes in favor of moving the item forward alongside Councilmember Kathy Watanabe.
The bulk of the meeting was ostensibly focused on proposed revisions to the city charter, with tensions rising long before the vote on Becker. But the at-times acrimonious exchanges between councilmembers had as their backdrop the ongoing criminal case against Becker and allegations of undue influence from the San Francisco 49ers football team.
The grand jury report, released Oct. 10, claims several councilmembers, including Becker, took private meetings with team lobbyists and governed “as if the city council owes a fiduciary duty to the 49ers.” The team’s then-spokesperson slammed the report as a “hatchet job,” and reporting by San José Spotlight later found the jury failed to interview three of the five then-councilmembers as part of the investigation.
Transcripts containing 850 pages of testimony from the investigation were released last month. They revealed at least two people told investigators Becker was to blame for releasing the report. Additionally, team officials admitted to investigators that they considered leaking the report to shape the public narrative and that Gillmor was doing the same thing.
Becker’s status as a councilmember wasn’t the only item that caused friction during Tuesday’s meeting. The council also scrutinized the method by which Santa Clara selects its police chief; presently, the city elects its chief by popular vote, unusual among California cities. Councilmembers were unsurprisingly divided over the issue, with some suggesting the city charter be amended to allow the chief to be appointed by city officials instead.
The Santa Clara Police Officers Association opposes that idea, and ran a Facebook ad last week decrying it ahead of the meeting. The idea of changing the charter has also drawn protest from residents in the past, and voters would ultimately need to OK any such revisions to the charter via a ballot question.
The meeting proceeded through several unrelated items before returning to the question of Becker’s continued presence on the council. A string of commenters recounted the allegations against Becker, including that Becker sent the report to Rahul Chandhok, the former chief spokesperson for the 49ers.
Becker declined to give a detailed response to commenters, saying, “My side of the story will be told in court.”
Becker is due back in court for the perjury case on Aug. 2.
Contact Graph Massara at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @BylineGraph.