‘Afraid of Jim Zito:' San Jose City Council Race Heats Up

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A race for San Jose City Council is getting ugly.

A teacher wants Jim Zito not only to drop out of the race but resign from his current position on the school board claiming she had a frightening encounter with the candidate, and she’s trying to send her story to every voter in the district.

A letter written by 3rd grade teacher Sarah Ciccarello pictures Zito as a man who intimidates women, but his allies say it’s all part of a smear campaign by some San Jose unions.

Ciccarello said she spoke-out at a school board meeting several years ago, about classroom needs and after the meeting, she claims Zito confronted her.

“I felt extremely uncomfortable and threatened,” she said. “I never had that happen before, that someone getting in my face, that angry, about something I said. It was scary.”

The Evergreen Teachers Union president told NBC Bay Area on the phone he witnessed the incident, and claims “women intimidation” is a pattern for Zito.

“It makes me sad that it’s come down to that level,” said Zito supporter Bonie Mace.

Mace sits on the school board with Zito and is a volunteer in his city council race. She says she’s never seen Zito be disrespectful toward anyone and she calls it a union hit job.

The mailer was paid for by the San Jose Police Officers Association.

“This is not about Jim,” said Mace. “This is about union politics at the city council level and that’s really what it’s all about.”

The police union already sent out its own mailer highlighting allegations from Zito’s ex-wife in their messy divorce several years ago.

Ciccarello contends her confrontation shows a pattern against women but Mace says Ciccarello has a vested interest because she’s a member of the board, for the teacher’s union.

She claims the unions are afraid of losing some of their influence in city government if Zito wins but Ciccarello says it’s just time for Zito to go.

“I think he should resign,” she said.

NBC Bay Area reached out to Zito and he said he wanted to do an interview but was spending time with his daughter who leaves town Monday.

He sent over the following statement:
"I do not believe that anything I’ve done at a Board meeting was inappropriate or intimidating. If so, why wasn't it reported earlier? While disappointing, it is not surprising that these Evergreen Teachers Association (ETA) officials have fabricated this allegation for the POA.  As a charter school teacher, a staunch advocate for students and the community and a strong budget hawk, the ETA has opposed me in my past three elections to the EESD Board. The ETA and the POA are both endorsers of Ms. Arenas’ reelection. The POA has already fabricated allegations and misrepresented information to try and cast doubt on my character.  It’s no coincidence that this false assertion is being made by the ETA and produced by the POA at a critical point of the City Council elections, and at a time when the EESD will be entering into a new round of salary negotiations for the 2020-21 school year."

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