Silva votes against himself

Mayor Anthony Silva objected to the appointment of Dyane Burgos to a vacant Council seat because her mother works for the city’s Human Resources Department. Silva contended this created a conflict of interest.

“We need to be on the up and up,” Silva blandished the Council. “People would be concerned if one of our parents worked for the city manager – plain and simple. I can’t believe you guys don’t see it.”

To say Silva’s argument got little traction is understatement. “Other council members rolled their eyes,” the news story says. The Vice Mayor publicly intimated Silva’s position (as head of a nonprofit that receives city funds) is even more compromised. The other five council members then voter to appoint Burgos.

Which raises a couple of concerns.

First, a mayor needs four votes if s/he is to lead. Zero votes is not even ballpark to four votes. If this is a beginning of a trend, it is a trend of Silva’s poitical isolation.

As for the objection: there’s a kernel of truth to Silva’s argument. City Manage Bob Deis controls the livlihood of a council member’s mother. If Silva wants to articulate his concerns — that this gives Deis inappropriate sway of Bergos’ vote; or that Burgos should recuse herself from contract-approval votes that enrich her mother; or some other ethical issue – we should listen.  

Those arguments may not be forthcoming, though. Curiously, even Silva was not swayed by Silva’s argument; he ultimately voted to appoint Burgos, too. I find this reversal hard to fathom. If Silva’s objection to Burgos was ethical, he should have voted his conscience. Conscience should not bow to the politically inevitable. That’s what expedience does.

Silva supported another candidate. It appears his actions were not based on ethical consideratons at all: the conflict of interest argument was just window dressing for his agenda to get an ally on the council. It’s perfectly OK to suport an ally. But not to invoke ethical considerations you yourself do not believe are valid. That subordinates the role of ethics to politics. It does provide insight into the mayor, though.

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    Michael Fitzgerald

    Mike Fitzgerald is The Record’s award-winning metro columnist. His column runs in the paper three times a week. Born in San Francisco, he was raised in Stockton. His column covers diverse beats including, sometimes, the offbeat. Read Full
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