By Robert Haugh
At the August 30 council meeting, the vice-mayor South Jain proposed replacing the elected positions of chief of police and city clerk with appointed positions.
In the city charter, voters have the right to elect both offices.
Jain claims they are few qualified Santa Clara residents for the position of police chief and that clerk is a part-time role that only handles election duties.
“Santa Clara is the only city with an elected police chief and among only 20% of cities with elected clerks.” Jain says only 12 of the SCPD’s 153 sworn officers live in Santa Clara.
He also says the position of Clerk would be best managed by an appointed professional who reports to Council and City staff.
That same evening, the chief of police Pat Nikolai and city clerk Hosam Haggag testified and refuted Jain’s proposition.
Nikolai referred to the fact that the acting city manager Rajeev Batra said repeatedly that City staff are being stretched with increased staff workload exacerbated by the demands of current Council.
He adds that to initiate a change, a charter review committee should be formed, which would only increase the workload of municipal staff.
“If it is not broke, do not fix it.”
The DEI task force studied the issue of elected versus appointed leader and concluded that an elected leader best meets the needs of Santa Clara.
“What is more transparent than an election and accountability to the people,” Nikolai said.
Nikolai added that 7 of the 8 cities in Silicon Valley have hired their chief of police within their department.
“It sounds arrogant and goes against democracy,” Haggag said.
Haggag says Jain’s assertion that “no accountability” is not accurate – “The pinnacle of democracy is to be held accountable by the residents – the same accountability for Council members.”
“I am not interested in taking power away from voters,” said Mayor Lisa Gillmor.
Member of the board Kathy Watanabe says a POA poll of Santa Clara voters indicates an overwhelming preference for an elected police chief.
The vote was 4-2 in support of Jain’s proposal. Council Members Anthony Becker, Karen Hardyand Kevin Park voted yes. Gillmor and Watanabe opposed.
The matter will come back to the Council at a later date. This is a developing story.