SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – San Jose had its first council meeting since Mayor Sam Liccardo called out the councilmembers who went to Japan on taxpayers’ dime for a sister-city celebration.

Liccardo has publicly said that there should be tighter rules on travel. Now, the councilmembers aren’t happy about his criticism.

San Jose city leaders are divided over a recent trip to Japan that was paid with taxpayers’ money.

The mayor is now looking to pass new travel restrictions.

With five city councilmembers back from a sister city junket to Japan, the full council was seated for a debate on the future of such trips and how many council members should be allowed travel at once.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said, “Fundamentally, we have to do something to fix this.”

Liccardo said the five members who took the trip last week left the council unable to function with half the seats empty.

He also questioned the taxpayer benefit since the city paid for all but one of the councilmembers’ trips.

He said although each member’s travel had been approved, the requests came in at different times and no one was keeping track until days before the trip.

“The point is: let’s have a process so we all know who’s going,” Liccardo said.

Councilmembers Diep, Jimenez, Peralez, and Arenas used city funds to take the trip.

Khamis paid his own way.

Some councilmembers accused Liccardo of grandstanding about the issue while they were already in Japan.

But Liccardo says he wrote a memo and reached out to councilmembers a week before the trip.

“In fact, I approached several members — including the one who complained the most — asking to talk about this issue before they left the country. And so there’s been no sleight of hand here.”

City Councilmember Raul Peralez said, “That’s not true. So, he had a Brown Act with his memorandum, so only the people in his Brown Act saw and knew what he was doing. And when he released the memo, it was actually when the majority of us were gone.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, councilmembers who took the trip discussed at length what they did and what benefit it brought the city.

Council Member Lan Diep said, “That person to person touch I think is quite important and I was quite glad to be a member of this delegation, so thank you.”

But the issue has created such a deep divide on the council that councilmembers took a rare step and voted to push the mayor’s new travel proposal to the end of their agenda, so they could hash it out among themselves without any other business hanging over their heads.