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June 21-27, 2006

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Silicon Valley News Notes

Musical Chairs

It sounds like District Attorney George Kennedy is playing musical chairs with his chief assistant spot again, as the current "number two," Karyn Sinunu, heads out. Last week, Sinunu announced she was taking a leave of absence until the November election to spend more time on her campaign for district attorney. But that might not be the full story, sources close to the office say. Sinunu's unpaid leave, which starts on June 26, could be connected to a disciplinary probe launched by Kennedy. Last month, he hired Southern California attorney Michael Capizzi to "conduct an inquiry into personnel matters," the contract reads. Capizzi will be paid $220 an hour for a maximum of $50,000. Metro recently reported that Sinunu and Deputy District Attorney Ed Fernandez were under investigation for allegedly squashing a slam-dunk drug case in 1997, after former Assistant District Attorney Al Weger told us investigators had interviewed him about the matter. Sinunu has denied being the target of any probe, but sources say Kennedy would only hire outside counsel if the suspect were his chief assistant. We tried to ask Kennedy about why he brought Capizzi on board, but he hung up on us before we could finish the question. County Counsel Ann Ravel was far more courteous, but said she didn't know what Kennedy might do to fill Sinunu's vacant spot. Rumors abound that Assistant District Attorney Marc Buller has been tapped for the promotion (he didn't return our calls by presstime). So what does all this mean for the election? Can Sinunu still claim to be chief assistant on the ballot and in her campaign material? Ravel told us that, technically, Sinunu can retain her title while on leave. If Buller steps up, it would only be in an "acting role," although he would get the higher pay.

The Blowout Chronicles

In any election, there are the close races that make candidates grit their teeth, and there are the blowouts the make everyone's jaw drop. There seemed to be way more than usual of the latter in this month's primary. Take the startlingly wide margin of victory for county assessor: incumbent Larry Stone left termed-out county Supe Pete McHugh in the dust, skipping away with 76 percent of votes and sliding into his fourth term with ease. Maybe it was a given that Stone would win, but with all the mudslinging in this race, even Fly didn't think he'd win by that much. Pete Constant also stunned the competition for the San Jose City Council with 65 percent of votes, leaving labor-backed Jay James with a disappointing 30 percent. Perhaps most impressive of all is San Jose Councilmember Ken Yeager, who won an outright spot on the county Board of Supervisors with 52 percent of the votes, despite having two rivals thought to be strong contenders: fellow Councilmember Linda LeZotte and Santa Clara Mayor Patricia Mahan. ... Speaking of losers, Mahan (who came in behind Yeager with 34 percent) recently unveiled a backup plan that might lead to another political circus in Santa Clara. First, flashback: last month Mahan trotted through a Santa Clara neighborhood campaigning with council buddy Jamie Matthews, who she supported to replace her as mayor. But a day after her county-level ambitions fizzled, she turned around and filed for re-election. Does Matthews feel stabbed in the back? He hadn't returned our phone calls by presstime, and neither did Mahan. ... Matthews, by the way, may have sabotaged his own campaign a bit as well, when he jumped the gun by purchasing a domain name for his website before May 1, the date Santa Clara mayoral candidates are allowed to start spending for the November election. Wait and see if this becomes an issue should the race get tight. ... Another candidate, former Santa Clara Councilmember John McLemore, was—unlike his opponents—happy to talk to Fly about his second run for mayor. He blames his 2002 defeat to Mahan on a hit piece disguised as a community newspaper launched by Chris Stampolis (a friend of Matthews and Mahan). The district attorney filed a complaint against Stampolis for violating campaign laws, but a judge has yet to rule on the case. Meanwhile, McLemore has been waiting for the perfect comeback opportunity. "I must be masochistic," he told Fly. "I need to go through this again, no matter how hard it's going to be."

Show Me the Park Money

So the Measure B county parks measure was a slam dunk, but before parks supporters go resting on their laurels, they might want to consider what's happened with San Jose parks and Measure P, which passed in 2000 with a similarly huge margin—nearly 80 percent of the vote. The upgrade projects seemed to be going smoothly as recently as January, but Tori Eakes got worried after they seemed to just disappear off the public radar for several months. As commissioner of the San Jose Women's Softball League, Eakes has spent a good amount of energy ensuring that the city builds two new complexes, one for softball diamonds and the other for soccer fields, with Measure P money. "San Jose doesn't have any place where there are more than two fields," she said. "Just for the sake of our own local people, it would be nice to have nice facilities." When things started looking sketchy, Eakes wrote to Councilmember Dave Cortese, saying, "Now it's almost as if the proposed complexes have been relegated into 'Area 51.'" Her main concern was that funds might have been diverted to something else. Fortunately, in a not-so-dramatic twist, the earmarked money wasn't diverted anywhere and eventually turned up lost in the city's bureaucracy on pages V690 and V692 of the Parks Department's 2006-2007 budget, where apparently only Matt Cano from the Capital Facilities Development Unit knew to find it. According to Cano, the reason the projects look stalled is because the city is looking for appropriate spots to build such specialized sports centers. "We are evaluating the options for where the sports complexes go," he said. "However, the funding is absolutely still in our budget." Cano didn't know how long the evaluation process would take, but insisted that the nearly $25,000,000 Measure P set aside for sports was safe in their budget until at least 2011.

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