Santa Clara City Council fires City Attorney Brian Doyle, a frequent 49ers critic

brian-doyle-fired-by-49er-friendely-santa-clara-city-council

Reprint from San Francisco Chronicle 

The Santa Clara City Council on Wednesday fired City Attorney Brian Doyle, who was defending the city in eight legal actions brought by the 49ers.

Doyle, city attorney since 2017, had repeatedly clashed with the 49ers, accusing the team of concealing financial information about the operation of Levi’s Stadium and withholding millions in revenue that the city argues should have been shared with taxpayers.

Doyle, who earned about $390,000 annually, also alleged that 49ers executives violated conflict-of-interest laws on stadium contracts.

Mayor Lisa Gillmor, who also has feuded with the 49ers on stadium issues and supported Doyle, emerged from the closed session and announced the decision during the concluding open session of the City Council meeting held via Zoom.

“So our city attorney is dismissed without cause,” Gillmor said.

Gillmor said five council members voted to terminate Doyle: Vice Mayor Raj Chahal and City Council members Sudhansu “Suds” Jain, Kevin Park, Karen Hardy and Anthony Becker. The five officials often meet privately with team officials, city records show. Three of them (Jain, Park and Becker) were elected last year after 49ers Chief Executive Officer Jed York poured $2.9 million into an independent expenditure campaign to elect a more football-friendly City Council.

In April, Jain said at a public meeting that 49ers executives had said they wanted Doyle “gone.” Gillmor said before Wednesday’s meeting that she believed the 49ers were seeking Doyle’s firing to “avoid oversight of the stadium, and avoid any court decisions that will not be in their favor.”

Mayor Lisa Gillmor, who also has feuded with the 49ers on stadium issues and supported Doyle, emerged from the closed session and announced the decision during the concluding open session of the City Council meeting held via Zoom.

“So our city attorney is dismissed without cause,” Gillmor said.

Gillmor said five council members voted to terminate Doyle: Vice Mayor Raj Chahal and City Council members Sudhansu “Suds” Jain, Kevin Park, Karen Hardy and Anthony Becker. The five officials often meet privately with team officials, city records show. Three of them (Jain, Park and Becker) were elected last year after 49ers Chief Executive Officer Jed York poured $2.9 million into an independent expenditure campaign to elect a more football-friendly City Council.

In April, Jain said at a public meeting that 49ers executives had said they wanted Doyle “gone.” Gillmor said before Wednesday’s meeting that she believed the 49ers were seeking Doyle’s firing to “avoid oversight of the stadium, and avoid any court decisions that will not be in their favor.”

Mayor Lisa Gillmor, who also has feuded with the 49ers on stadium issues and supported Doyle, emerged from the closed session and announced the decision during the concluding open session of the City Council meeting held via Zoom.

“So our city attorney is dismissed without cause,” Gillmor said.

Gillmor said five council members voted to terminate Doyle: Vice Mayor Raj Chahal and City Council members Sudhansu “Suds” Jain, Kevin Park, Karen Hardy and Anthony Becker. The five officials often meet privately with team officials, city records show. Three of them (Jain, Park and Becker) were elected last year after 49ers Chief Executive Officer Jed York poured $2.9 million into an independent expenditure campaign to elect a more football-friendly City Council.

In April, Jain said at a public meeting that 49ers executives had said they wanted Doyle “gone.” Gillmor said before Wednesday’s meeting that she believed the 49ers were seeking Doyle’s firing to “avoid oversight of the stadium, and avoid any court decisions that will not be in their favor.”

The five members who voted to fire Doyle declined to speak publicly about the decision. Doyle’s dismissal was treated as a confidential personnel matter.

The remaining two members of the council, Gillmor and Kathy Watanabe, voted against termination.

Team officials have not responded to The Chronicle’s requests for comment.

Before the vote, Doyle urged the council to hold the session in public, saying, “I am more than happy to publicly answer any questions about my performance.” His lawyer, Thomas Stout, added, “Whose interest does secrecy serve?”

Doyle said he was proud of his record, noting he had defeated the 49ers in an arbitration hearing in which the team sought a $170 million rent cut over the life of its lease at the publicly owned stadium.

The council didn’t indicate how it planned to fill Doyle’s job, nor did it state when his firing takes effect, as Stout pointed out. The departure of the city attorney shouldn’t have an immediate effect on the litigation with the 49ers; although Doyle supervised those cases, an outside law firm was handling much of the legal work.

The biggest pending legal matter involves the city’s 2019 move to terminate the 49ers’ contract to manage Levi’s Stadium. The 49ers sued the city to stop the move. A trial date has not yet been set.

More than a dozen speakers called or emailed the Zoom council meeting to protest Doyle’s firing and the secrecy surrounding it.

“To fire the person without cause is not acceptable to me,” said Robert O’Keefe, a retired California Highway Patrol officer who lost a City Council bid last year. “If there’s a reason you want to fire the city attorney, state it and state it now.”

Two speakers said Doyle deserved to be fired for allegedly mishandling a lawsuit filed to increase minority representation on the City Council by replacing an at-large electoral system with district elections.

Santa Clara contested the suit, lost at trial and also lost an appeal. That cost the city about $5 million as a result, Doyle’s critics claimed.

Ron Kroichick is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer and Lance Williams is a freelance writer. Email: rkroichick@sfchronicle.com and lancewreporter@gmail.com Twitter: @ronkroichick and @LanceWCIR