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April 13, 2021

City talks bullet train, Bracco’s eligibility for council

A high-speed rail through downtown Gilroy?

The City of Gilroy cemented its recommendation for where the California High Speed Rail Authority should build its station in Gilroy.

In a 5-2 vote during a special meeting Monday, council members identified downtown Gilroy as the preferred high-speed rail location – with the caveat that an aerial alignment would be unacceptable.

Councilmen Dion Bracco and Bob Dillon cast the opposing votes.

In the future, City Council will study the possibilities of a downtown trench or modified at-grade alignments for the high-speed rail.

Monday’s recommendation marks culmination of a station area visioning study the city began almost a year ago in April 2011. The objective was two-fold, aimed at (1) engaging the community with an outreach program explaining the options for two possible station locations in Gilroy – through downtown or east of the Gilroy Outlets, and (2) drawing up a plan that outlines the major differences between the two options. The plan was created to help City Council make a recommendation for a preferred station location.

Amid swirling questions and ongoing discussion on whether the bullet train – a $98.5 billion project – will ever come to fruition, City Transportation Engineer Don Dey reminded in Monday’s staff report that “California Governor Jerry Brown has declared his intention to make this project a reality…there is no evidence that CHSRA is slowing in its effort to prepare its environmental impact reports and proceed with the initial construction of the Central Valley section of the system this coming fall.”

Check back for an expanded version of this story.

Dion Bracco: Felony conviction does not negate serving on City Council, city attorney says 

In response to a Dispatch article printed Friday, which reports that City Councilman and mayoral candidate Dion Bracco has a criminal record that includes a 1990 felony conviction for possession of methamphetamine for sale, Councilman Bob Dillon requested Monday that City Attorney Andy Faber make a formal determination and report to council members on whether Bracco is eligible to serve on City Council.

“My reason for that is not to attack Bracco, whom I’ve supported in three elections and believe has done a good job here,” Dillon said. “I have some concerns over the legality of it if he’s disqualified, concerning the decisions he has made (as a member of City Council).”

City Attorney Andy Faber replied that Bracco is not disqualified from serving on the council, “based on the facts as we understand them from the (Dispatch) article.”

As the topic could not be discussed any further Monday because it had not been placed on the agenda, Faber said he could report this fact “more fully” to the council in writing.

A memo sent to City Council members would be satisfactory, Dillon said.

Councilman Perry Woodward opted to abstain from any discussion regarding this topic, “given the fact that Bracco and I are both candidates for mayor.”

Bracco remained silent throughout the duration of Monday’s meeting. He did post a statement to his campaign website Feb. 24, however, in which he said he started using meth after his father died suddenly in 1986 and that after the arrest he went to rehab and turned his life around.

Faber said Tuesday morning that the city may or may not choose to release the memo to the Dispatch; the document is not considered public because of attorney client privileges. Mayor Al Pinheiro said Tuesday morning the memo cannot be released unless approved by the majority of City Council.

However, on Tuesday Pinheiro emailed the memo to the Dispatch. In it three questions were answered by Faber of Berliner and Cohen law firm: Under state law, when is a person disqualified for holding public office as a result of a felony conviction? Under the City of Gilroy Charter when is a person disqualified from holding public office? And, what is the application of this law when it comes to Councilman Dion Bracco?

Gilroy’s City Charter states that “an elective office becomes vacant when the incumbent … is convicted of a felony,” among other reasons including the person dies, is recalled, violates his official duties or resigns, according to Article IV, Section 406 of the charter.

There are no references in the city charter regarding disclosing felonies or other crimes when running for public office, though individuals applying to work for the city are required to disclose whether or not they have ever been convicted of a felony.

Beyond the city’s charter, current state law does not prevent Bracco from holding public office in Gilroy, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit.

State residents with felony convictions are eligible to vote and hold public office in California as long as they are not in prison or on parole, the DA’s office stated.

Only a few crimes can be punishable by temporary or permanent bans on holding office – for example, an official having a financial stake in contracts he or she approved, the DA’s office said.

In response to how it applies to Bracco, the memo states that “We have no independent knowledge of the facts relating to a prior conviction of Dion Bracco.

“However, assuming that the information reported in an article entitled ‘Councilman has felony drug conviction’ … is correct, Mr. Bracco is not disqualified from holding public office in the City of Gilroy, under either state law or the city charter.”



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