San Jose Revisits Proposal to Allow Legal Funds for Candidates

UPDATE on Sept. 28, 2016: The City Council voted unanimously to allow elected officials to raise money to sue, to defend themselves from a lawsuit or to pay for a recount in a contested race.

After tabling the matter for a week, San Jose’s City Council on Tuesday will consider allowing candidates to raise money for election-related litigation and recounts.

The proposal stems from a lawsuit filed by Councilman Manh Nguyen against attorney Lan Diep, who beat him in the June primary by 12 votes. Because the outcome was so close, it triggered an automatic recount that affirmed Diep’s lead. Nguyen then paid out of pocket for a second recount, which again confirmed his challenger’s win.

Nguyen, however, challenged the competence of Santa Clara County’s Registrar of Voters, claiming the agency’s vote-counters lost hundreds of ballots. He called for a civil grand jury investigation and filed a lawsuit against Diep personally that contested his victory.

But local law prevents officeholders from opening second accounts for legal or other administrative costs. Faced with the prospect of paying for his legal defense out of pocket, Diep appealed to the council and the public.

The council obliged, putting an item on the agenda last week that would have sanctioned accounts for candidates’ legal defense. Mayor Sam Liccardo asked to move the item to this week instead to give the city time to revise the language of the proposal to limit the accounts for strictly election-related legal and administrative costs.

“The funds must not be used for traditional campaign expenses,” Liccardo wrote in his memo, “but solely, post-election day activities relating directly to election disputes.”

The language up for review this week would allow both Nguyen and Diep to solicit financial support for their impending court fight. It would also allow candidates to move leftover campaign contributions to a legal fund to pay for lawyers and election costs.

More from the San Jose City Council agenda for September 27, 2016:

  • The city forked out $10.7 million to update its payroll software. But when it went live earlier this month, some unexpected problems cropped up. Now, the city’s personnel officials are asking for another $500,000 to resolve “a number of unanticipated needs and technical issues.”
  • A year of forensic blood, urine and breath test analysis will cost the San Jose Police Department $75,000. The city will consider awarding the contract—with a $15,000 contingency—to a San Jose-based company called Central Medical Lab.

WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

One Comment

  1. Santa Clara County Registrar of Voter lost Hundreds of Ballots……………..Not to worry Mr. Nguyen, they would have all likely been Republicans!

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