Incumbent Mayor Rich Tran’s City Council meeting attendance record has come under scrutiny in advance of this year’s November 6 election, mainly courtesy of opponent and 6-time former Milpitas Mayor Jose “Joe” Esteves, who has sent out an email advertisement reading:
“Incumbent Mayor was absent in Council Meetings almost 40% of the time in 2017, the worst attendance record for a Mayor. Council Chamber meetings Incumbent Mayor missed in 2017: May 11, May 16, May 17, May 18, May 22, Sept 11, Oct 17, Oct 26, Nov 4.”
Tran was actually present on October 17, 2017.
In total, per 2017’s attendance records, Tran was absent from city council meetings 10 times that year. Eight of the mayor’s 2017 absences were from special meetings, meaning ones other than those regardly scheduled twice a month at City Hall.
According to Councilmember Garry Barbadillo, “Per the council handbook, it did not distinguish the several kinds of ‘meetings’ we have nor put a hierarchy on them, so they are all equally important and necessary. They are Regular meeting, Special meeting, closed sessions, study sessions, and emergency meetings. So that explains the number of absences the mayor may have, as contrast to what he claimed a minimal ‘regular meeting’ absence.”
By way of a comparison to Tran’s attendance record: In 2017, Councilmember Anthony Phan was absent 4 times, Councilmember Gary Barbadillo was absent 4 times, and Vice Mayor Marsha Grilli and Councilmember Bob Nuñez both had perfect attendance.
In 2018, Tran has had 2 recorded absences so far, Phan’s been absent 4 times, Barbadillo’s been absent 4 times, Grilli’s been absent 1 time, and Nuñez has had perfect attendance.
Going back to ‘17, Tran would have had 5 less absences that year, bringing him down to 5 total (closer to Phan and Barbadillo’s 4 absences apiece), if not for a work assignment in Guam that caused him to miss meetings on 5/11, 5/16, 5/17, 5/18, and 5/22 (all accurately cited in Esteves’ campaign literature), during which urgent closed sessions pertaining to anticipated litigation against the City of Milpitas took place.
Mayor Rich Tran said about his string of May, 2017, absences, “It’s sad that the City Council would have special meetings knowing that I was scheduled for a two-week assignment in Guam with the National Guard. It’s Milpitas politics as usual, precisely the politics that this city needs to eradicate. There’s something fishy going on at City Hall when so many special meetings are strung together in a short period of time.”
Vice Mayor Marsha Grilli wrote in an email in regard to the same block of absences, “City business doesn’t stop when 1 of us is gone, especially when it’s an emergency.”
Added Barbadillo, in regard to the scheduling of special city council meetings, “Most of the time, if not always, we were asked for mutual availability before it is set.”
Regarding Tran’s additional 2017 absences: On 9/11, he was deployed to Florida to assist with Hurricane Irma. On 10/26, he was deployed to New York for a military exercise. And on 11/4, he was at Santa Clara County’s Moffett Federal Airfield for a regular monthly drill.