UPDATE: This article has been updated, 10:30am April 13.
In her most recent filing with California’s Fair Political Practices Commission, Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor failed to include nearly $400,000 in real estate commissions and fees her company received in 2021.
An examination of Gillmor’s Form 700 filings in 2021 and 2020 also revealed that the mayor under-reported her company’s income from real estate commissions paid by the Union School District in San Jose by $30,000 per year for three years.
The FPPC’s Form 700 requires public officials each year to list all income, investments, loans and assets of themselves and any business entities, to identify potential conflicts of interest.
Gillmor filed for re-election on Wednesday, Aug. 9, and was listed on the city clerk's elections page the next day as a qualified candidate.
The mayor is the daughter of real estate magnate Gary Gillmor, himself a former Santa Clara mayor. In 2017 she consolidated the family’s real estate enterprises under her control. Her business interests and potential conflicts have been issues in past campaigns.
A licensed real estate broker, she previously served as a councilmember from 1992-2000 and again from 2012-2016. In 2016, the city council appointed her mayor after former Mayor Jamie Matthews resigned. Gillmor later won the mayoral election in 2018.
Gillmor and Associates also applied for and received a $33,367 federal pandemic relief loan in April 2020, and $33,833 was forgiven in the following year. In the application for a Paycheck Protection Program Loan, ProPublica reported that Gillmor and Associates had filed as a “new business, two years or less,” when in fact the company was a reorganized version of the 40-year-old family real estate enterprise.
During the period of the pandemic loan, Gillmor and Associates appeared to have a steady stream of business, unaffected by the Covid pandemic.
The company’s Form 700 filings and statements by school district clients showed $525,062 in income from commissions to Gillmor and Associates subsidiary Public Properties Advisors in 2020-21, plus income of more than $100,000 per year in property management fees and more than $10,000 per year in retail leases.
Companies and nonprofit organizations that received Paycheck Protection Program loans had their loans forgiven if they met certain criteria, including not laying off employees during the defined period covered by the loan. Applicants had to say in their application that the loans were necessary for the continuing operation of the business.
In the Form 700 filings covering the years 2019, 2020 and 2021 filed in the year following each income year, Gillmor filed FPPC public disclosures reporting that Public Property Advisors received $10,000-$100,000 in income from the Union School District, when in fact the district reported it paid the firm $130,000 each year.
The 2022 Form 700 report filed by Gillmor in April stated that properties owned by various Gillmor entities had fair market values in 2021 exceeding $6 million.
No mention of $400k
In the Form 700 report filed this year, for 2021, there was no mention of $395,062 in commissions paid to Public Property Advisors by the Union School District in San Jose from the leases on three former San Jose elementary school properties—Athenour Elementary ($117,906) and a real estate commission in connection with the former Ross Elementary property totalling $122.173, plus a commission for the lease of the former Cinnabar Elementary ($7,942) and an unnamed real estate commission of $147,041.
Any recourse to possible inaccuracies or omissions on Gilmor’s Form 700s is up to the Fair Political Practices Commission – and Santa Clara voters – and not via lawsuits.
Last fall, Gillmor won a high-profile “anti-SLAPP” lawsuit at the California Court of Appeal, which unanimously threw out a claim by former Santa Clara University law student (and now a Fresno County Assistant District Attorney) Brian Exline that the mayor had failed to properly report her sources of income prior to 2018, as required by state law.
In its decision, the appeals court gave Gillmor – and any other politician – a free pass against lawsuits challenging any information in the Form 700 filings required by the Fair Political Practices Commission. The filings, said the court, are protected by the First Amendment.
The court affirmed Gillmor’s contention that information she filed on her Form 700s to the Fair Political Practices Commission prior to the 2018 mayoral election, was “political work,” and therefore should be afforded “free speech” protections.
Court: Form 700s are ‘free speech’
In November 2021 the California Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal.
In those earlier Form 700s filings, Gillmor had included none of the commission income for her Public Property Advisers. She argued that the income had been included as income to Gillmor and Associates, and that Public Property Advisers was a wholly owned subsidiary of her real estate firm.
SLAPPs are Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, often brought against public comments on government actions, used to silence and harass critics by forcing them to spend money to defend baseless suits. They have been castigated as chilling free speech and healthy public debate by targeting those who communicate with their government or speak out on issues of public interest.
The decision in the Gillmor case in effect stood this concern on its head, preventing the public from suing public officials for omissions or inaccuracies on FPPC Form 700s.
Exline was required to pay both his and Gillmor’s legal bills in the nearly three-year legal battle. He never disclosed how he could afford the legal fees, or identified a source of funds to pay the legal bills, as rumors swirled among Santa Clara politicians that the San Francisco 49ers had underwritten the suit.
UPDATE: Lisa Gillmor commented (below) on this article at 10:39pm Aug. 12, after declining since mid-day Friday to return a phone call or respond to a series of written questions sent to her work and personal emails.
Here is the Lisa Gillmor Public Property Advisors Schedule C Aoril 2022 , for her company Public Policy Advisors, a subsidiary of Gillmor and Associates, as it is posted on the Santa Clara City Clerk website and also on the Fair Political Practices Commission website. In the form, she stated income from the Union School District as “10,000 to 100,000.”