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February 24, 2021

Hello? Councilman?

To contact Councilman Peter Arellano, go to the City of Gilroy website, hover the cursor over Arellano’s photo to find his city-paid cell phone number.

But do not expect Arellano to answer the phone, and do not expect to leave a message.  

Instead of a recorded personal greeting, expect to hear six seconds of a cacophonic noise, akin to AM radio static, and then a terse message from Verizon that says: “The mailbox is full and cannot accept any messages at this time. Goodbye.”

Arellano is one of three council members who opted for the city to pay for a smart phone, which costs the city about $65 per month each, City Clerk Shawna Freels said.

The total cell phone bill for the month of March for the three council phones and Freels’ phone was $262.66.

“It’s totally up to them if they feel they need one,” Freels said.

Freels said the idea behind offering cell phones to council members was to make them as accessible as possible, both to city administration and to the public.

Arellano first received a city-paid cell phone in 2008, he said, but hasn’t used it in years, and he thought he asked the city to turn off his service “a long time ago.”

“It might have been a miscommunication,” said Arellano, who announced he is running for mayor April 25. “I’m pretty sure I asked them to turn it off.”

Arellano said had this issue not been recently brought to his attention by the Dispatch, this could have gone on for “another five years.” Vince Monroy, Arellano’s press manager, said Arellano brought the cell phone issue to the city’s attention on Wednesday.

But for more than a few years, the public did not have a way of accessing Arellano by phone, at least through the city website. Arellano, a doctor at Kaiser Permanente in Gilroy, said he plans to list his personal cell phone on the city’s website soon, and is open to taking calls from the public – unless, of course, he’s with a patient.

Council member’s city-issued email addresses are listed on the city website, under City Hall, then City Council.

The city also pays the cell phone bills of Councilman Bob Dillon and Councilwoman Cat Tucker. Dillon does not use his city phone for any purpose, and hasn’t for “at least six months,” and plans to turn it in soon.

“The option to get a phone was available, and it seemed like a good idea at the time, but I think it’s time to turn mine over,” Dillon said.

While Dillon can’t be reached on his city phone listed on the website, he makes sure that the public has a way to get a hold of him by phone. On Dillon’s recorded message on his city cell phone, he says, “I seldom answer this phone,” and then continues to list his personal cell phone and home number.

Dillon said he gets about two to three calls a week from the community about various issues, sometimes many more.

“If you call me, you’ll get a call back. I dodge nobody,” he said.

Tucker, who works in marketing at Applied Materials, Inc. in Santa Clara, uses her city cell phone on a daily basis.

“When you work for a high-tech firm you have to be there 110 percent. They don’t take well to mixing stuff,” Tucker said. So Tucker uses her city cell phone as a porthole to all things Gilroy. She uses it to respond to calls on her lunch break, and to be able check emails throughout the day, since her personal phone is not a smart phone.

Despite Tucker’s demanding job, she said she gets back to most calls from the public, which she gets at least once a week, within a day or two.

Cell phone records indicate for the month of March, Tucker had only five minutes of calls, but used about 260,000 kilobytes of data for email and Web use. Tucker was the only council member with any phone activity in March.

Among the council members who chose to opt out of receiving a city cell phone, the consensus was that lugging two phones around would be cumbersome, their personal cell phones already had email capabilities, and they didn’t want to waste city dollars on something they wouldn’t use.

“There was no need for another expense for something that I could cover on my own,” said Councilman Peter Leroe-Munoz, who is also a Deputy District Attorney for San Benito County.

Leroe-Munoz lists his personal cell phone on the city website, and said he answers calls from the public anytime between the hours of 6 a.m. and midnight if he is available.

“It’s important because we represent the community, and we have to stay connected with them,” Leroe-Munoz said.

Councilman Dion Bracco had a similar response.

“Having a city cell phone that I wouldn’t use? That to me would be a waste of city money,” said Bracco, who is also a mayoral candidate.

Bracco, who also lists his personal cell phone on the city website, said he tries to answer as many calls from the public as he can, and if he can’t answer, he returns phone calls within the day.

“That’s our job and we need to make sure we get back to people. I know from personal experience, when you call someone and they don’t return your call, it’s annoying,” Bracco said.

Mayor Al Pinheiro said that no doubt, some council members are harder to get a hold of than others.

“It’s not an excuse, to say ‘I have to work,’” Pinheiro said. “Before you make decision to serve on council you have to talk to your boss and make sure that person understands that you need to be flexible.”

Monroy said that Arellano asked city staff if there was a method of looking up individual phone records, and they said there wasn’t.

“If someone would have seen that he wasn’t using the phone, it could have been canceled,” Monroy wrote in an email.

According to six months of individual council member cell phone records obtained by the Dispatch, Arellano used his cell phone for no purposes, including calls, texts or email. Dillon had no records of calls or texts for those six months, but did use a nominal few hundred kilobytes of data, presumably for email or web browsing – although he said he doesn’t use the phone for “any purpose.”

Peter Arellano: 621-9415, [email protected]
Dion Bracco: 422-1734, [email protected]
Bob Dillon: 591-3805, [email protected]
Peter Leroe-Munoz: 427-4697, [email protected]
Perry Woodward: 891-9204, [email protected]
Al Pinheiro: 483-3886, [email protected]
Cat Tucker: 500-2523, [email protected]

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