Civil Grand Jury Case Consumes Public Resources Scrutinizing Prior Council’s Actions

From 2018-2022, resident-focused Council Members held a 4-1 majority in Cupertino, ensuring that our local government served the needs and interests of residents first. These Council Members pushed back against those who came to Cupertino intent on maximizing profit with little regard for how their actions impact the people who live here.

During 2018-2022, the Council worked with City staff to accomplish significant achievements for the benefit of Cupertino residents, including:

Despite efforts to elect 3 resident-focused Council Members in 2022, campaigns backing financial interest candidates were significantly better funded. Council Member Liang Chao was re-elected, but financial interest candidates prevailed in 2022 and, for now, hold a 3-2 Council majority in Cupertino.

Resident-focused Council Members Liang Chao and Kitty Moore continue to work hard to advocate for fiscal accountability, transparency, environmental protection, sensible development, and improved transit and City services for residents. They continue these efforts in spite of a work environment made hostile by a Mayor and majority Council who resent sharing the dais with Council members whose legislative priorities and base of support differ from their own. Unlike today’s Council majority, Council Members Chao and Moore neither sought nor received campaign support from financial interests: not from real estate interests, corporations, nor labor unions.

In 2022, an anonymous individual submitted a complaint to the Civil Grand Jury, Santa Clara County alleging that resident-focused Council Members asked too many questions, wrote too many email messages to staff, made certain staff members “feel threatened”–not to be confused with  threatening staff, which they did not do–, and filed public records requests (a right that is protected by State Law for all persons, including elected officials, under Government Code § 7921).

Here is the timeline of events that have followed since the complaint was filed, as summarized in the City Attorney’s presentation delivered to Council on 5/9/2023:

Dec. 19 – Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury Report released

Feb. 21 – City Council approves response to Grand Jury Report and directs [the Office of the City Attorney] to conduct investigation

May 2 – City Council votes to waive privilege over independent investigation report

May 9 – Public discussion of investigation report

On 5/9/2023, Council Members Moore and Chao read statements and recused themselves before Council deliberations began, identifying in their comments why they would not participate in a process that exposed them to possible financial and legal consequences. Under the Civil Grand Jury procedure, those accused can neither face their accusers nor review the evidence that the Civil Grand Jury considered to render its decision.

Council Member Chao also questioned the attorneys present about which Cupertino Municipal Codes specifically that she allegedly violated, as none were cited by section number in either the Civil Grand Jury Report nor in the City-funded investigation summary, the Fact Finding Report. The City Attorney either could not or chose not to answer Council Member Chao’s question directly. Instead, he asserted that the problem rested with the accused Council Members’ perceived “volume and tone of voice,” presumably when asking questions or engaging with staff.

Council Member Chao cited specific Municipal Code sections which did appear to codify the right of Council Members to ask questions of staff. The Municipal Code also appears to protect staff from overtly burdensome requests from individual Council Members, directing staff to refer the Council Member to the City Manager if questions were to require significant research or communication time. Regrettably, the exchange with the City Attorney resolved with the City Attorney accusing Council Member Chao of “distorting the Municipal Code,” and Council Member Chao asserting that she still does not know which sections of the Municipal Code she is alleged to have violated as none are cited by number in the reports.

Then, the special interest council majority led by Council Member Fruen voted to remove Council Members Moore and Chao from their committee assignments. 

It is questionable whether 3 Council Members will adequately represent Cupertino residents on the many City, district, County, and regional boards and committees without assistance from Council Members Moore and Chao. 

In 4 or 5 months, Council will again revisit the Civil Grand Jury report and reconsider the political consequences the Council majority has imposed on their colleagues. What will have changed?

For further detail:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top