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Publication Date: Friday, May 04, 2001

Ambra accuses Stasek of misconduct Ambra accuses Stasek of misconduct (May 04, 2001)

Council member accused of threatening Microsoft

By Justin Scheck

In a series of events highlighting political rifts and infighting among city council members, Mayor Mario Ambra has accused Council member Rosemary Stasek of conducting herself "in an inappropriate way" during a January conversation between Stasek and Microsoft government affairs manager Robyn Holst.

In a memo to council members dated April 30, Ambra said he was concerned about reports from a Centennial Committee meeting in which Holst allegedly said a council member "threatened to bad-mouth Microsoft if it did not contribute" to the county's housing trust fund.

According to Ambra, Holst told him in a telephone conversation that the exchange with Stasek took place in January, while Stasek was still mayor.

Ambra said Holst mentioned the interaction in the context of an April 19 Centennial Committee meeting when the committee discussed whether council members should solicit donations from corporations for the centennial event.

Holst said she was displeased with the way in which she was approached, and she used the word "extortion," according to Ambra.

Stasek, who is running for the state assembly next year against Council member Sally Lieber, said she did speak to Holst and expressed disappointment that Microsoft did not contribute to the trust fund. But she said she did not threaten Microsoft.

"I had heard that Microsoft had made a corporate decision not to contribute to the housing trust fund. In January (Holst) and I had a conversation where I said I was disappointed," said Stasek. "That has always been my style. I wanted her to hear from me."

"The only person this is of interest to at this point is the mayor," said Stasek. "He did not believe me when I said I did not do anything illegal."

According to Ambra and City Manager Kevin Duggan, in a Monday meeting involving Ambra, Stasek, Holst and Duggan, Holst said she did not want to pursue the matter.

After the meeting, Ambra sent out the memo, which said "I am concerned that, as mayor, Rosemary was soliciting money for a program the Council had not endorsed and doing it in an inappropriate way. If others on the council [sic] are concerned about this and want to pursue it further, let me know."

Ambra said Stasek's comments "shed a bad light on the council and the city."

"It's not a legal problem, but it's an ethical problem," Ambra said Tuesday.

The sequence of events following the Centennial Committee meeting, and leading up to the meeting with Duggan, are unclear. But all parties agree that at some point, San Jose Mercury News reporter Chuck Carroll was given an anonymous fax about the issue.

Bob Weaver, a planning commissioner and Centennial Committee member, said that after the meeting he contacted Ambra about the accusation. But Weaver denied notifying Carroll. He said he did not know who contacted the newspaper.

Council member Ralph Faravelli said he was notified of Holst's statements by a Centennial Committee member other than Weaver, and that he called Duggan to express concern.

Ambra said Wednesday that he did not know who first notified the Mercury News of the issue, but that Carroll contacted him about the issue, and he told Carroll about the Monday meeting.

Ambra said that any further action will be up to the council.


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