Reported from the San Jose Mercury News on August 25, 2016
Santa Clara city officials say they’ll hire an attorney to investigate claims that former mayor and City Council candidate Patty Mahan violated the city’s new lobbying ordinance.
The complaint against Mahan has political undertones. It came from Deborah Bress, who’s running for city clerk against Rod Diridon, Jr.and who has been a sharp critic of the San Francisco 49ers’ Levi’s Stadium project which Mahan had supported.
Mahan is accused of not registering as a lobbyist despite meeting with city officials to discuss a billboard company’s contract.
Santa Clara City Attorney Ren Nosky plans to hire an outside lawyer to look into the claims. Calendar entries show Mahan met with multiple city leaders this year to discuss business related to Allvision, an advertising company looking to renew its city contract to install billboards around town.
The accusation against Mahan is the first potential violation of Santa Clara’s new lobbying law, which is supposed to increase transparency at City Hall. It requires lobbyists to register, pay fees, list their clients and policy issues. Mahan in June was sent a letter from the City Clerk’s Office outlining the rules.
But the former mayor said she doesn’t need to register as a lobbyist because she isn’t one — she’s Allvision’s lawyer. “I’m strictly serving them in a legal capacity,” she told IA.
Mahan wouldn’t discuss why Allvision hired her. Nosky confirmed the city faces no litigation or other legal matters related to Allvision.
And one council member who met with Mahan described the meeting as pure lobbying. Mahan brought with her Josh Scharfberg, the company’s vice president of business development.
“We didn’t talk legal stuff,” said Councilwoman Debi Davis. “They explained to us about the policy and the project — it wasn’t a legal thing to me. It was lobbying.”
Mayor Lisa Gillmor said she hopes the investigation shows that Santa Clara won’t “sweep anything under the carpet.”