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August 16-22, 2006

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Silicon Valley News Notes

Hot Grand Jury Transcript Action!

Fly has been busy poring through the more than 2,000 pages of grand jury transcripts released last week in the Gonzales indictment case—some of the most entertaining bedtime reading you'll ever encounter. No, really! We're learning a lot. For one thing, Chuck Reed's middle name is Rufus. Can you believe that? Oh, and since no one's really talking about it, here's a little perspective revealed in these pages: if you "follow the money," as they say, this entire $11.25 million scandal is about 50 employees at a San Jose recycling plant run by Norcal subcontractor California Waste Solutions. OK, that's a little too much perspective, maybe. But really, this is great stuff. Here are a few of our favorite "gotcha" moments from Supervising Deputy District Attorney Julius Finkelstein: (1) In 25 pages of testimony, Councilmember Judy Chirco repeats the phrase "I don't recall" 19 times. But Finkelstein continues to grill her about why she supported giving Norcal an extra $11.25 million in 2004. The 59-year-old city leader finally breaks down: "Because if there had been—I was naive when I got on the council, because I didn't understand how labor unions worked. And apparently Teamsters and Longshoremen are two different unions." Really? She's just now figured this out? Finkelstein continues: "Do you think maybe you didn't fully understand the issues when you cast your vote?" Chirco admits, "Based on the information that I know now, Yes." (2) Finkelstein corners Vice Mayor Cindy Chavez about why she agreed to have taxpayers "shell out an additional 11 million" to Norcal. She squirms around his pointed questioning and takes about 1,000 words to say, "For me, the vote was about whether or not we were going to pay people a decent wage ... From a policy perspective it would not have been inconsistent in my mind to pay for the additional costs." But the prosecutor doesn't let Chavez off the hook. No official policy, in fact, required the city pay Norcal for any additional labor costs, and union workers had already been getting their decent wage since the recycling plant opened in 2002. Then Finkelstein pounces: "So the policy in fact being furthered was your policy, not necessarily the city's policy?" (3) David Duong, owner of California Waste Solutions, suffers from inconsistent memory loss while under the grand jury's heat. In case your memory is also lapsing, Norcal subcontracted with the Oakland-based CWS to process San Jose's recyclables and promised to pay the cost difference if the recycling company employed higher-paid Teamsters instead of Longshoremen at its San Jose plant. Finkelstein tries to nail down the date of a meeting in which Norcal executives presented Duong to Mayor Gonzales as a Vietnamese business owner. It only makes sense, the prosecutor points out, to butter-up Norcal's proposal before the City Council voted on Oct. 10, 2000. It takes Duong six times claiming he "can't remember" when he met with the mayor until the light bulb finally comes on. "Yes, now I remember," he says. It was on Oct. 9, the day before the council voted to go forward with Norcal's proposal. (4) Todd Thompson, one of Norcal's attorneys, repeatedly traps himself in his own verbal web. Finkelstein confronts him with a letter in which he wrote, "Norcal and CWS had hatched a plan to have the ILWU assert the right to organize CWS's San Jose facility." What did he mean by "hatched a plan?" Thompson rambles on about his word choice being inappropriate until Finkelstein asks him if he understands what "hatch" implies. "Hatch is what one does to an egg to get it to turn into a full-fledged organism," Thompson replies. Wait a minute: "You weren't talking about eggs here, right?" Finkelstein clarifies. Then another Thompson slip-up. "During subsequent months, Bill [Jones, a Norcal executive] and others courted members of the city council and the mayor," the Norcal attorney had written. When Finkelstein asks him what he meant by "courted," the witness again veers off-track with a literal definition of the word. "In a romantic relationship, a man courts a woman or vice versa in order to cause them to fall in love." Whoo hoo! Is this case getting steamy or what?

Secret to District 6 Race: Cardio

Michael Mulcahy's brief appearance on San Jose's political stage left supporters hoping for an encore. But, sadly, it looks as if the perfectly coifed upstart won't be starring in the race for council District 6 after his dash for mayor came up short. Fly has to wonder if the thrill will still be there as a handful of other candidates vie to replace Ken Yeager, who moves on to the county Board of Supervisors this fall. Six District 6 hopefuls got their paperwork in by last Friday's deadline, and so far, most seem to have the same dazzling campaign plan: knock on doors. Willow Glen residents get ready for crowded porches and doorbells interrupting your dinnertime. This sounds so exciting, Fly might even stake out a sidewalk to get a glimpse of the action. "I'm a voracious precinct walker," gushed candidate Clark Williams, a social worker and neighborhood leader. He even admitted, "I prefer to do that than talk with the media." Hmm, should Fly be offended? Williams said he has some big shoes to fill in an area referred to as "Yeager's district." The current councilmember has a good reputation for responding to neighbors' concerns, but Williams believes he can take that further by "making good public policy" and "not just listening to the loudest voices." Pierluigi Oliverio is also getting ready to knock on doors and educate residents on how to pronounce his name. And he'd better get busy, because he doesn't plan on accepting any money from lobbyists. The software executive and former teacher claims he has "energy and enthusiasm without coffee" and hopes his age (he's only 36) won't discourage voters. "I want to give this city the best years of my life," he reassured us (not that we were even worried; Mulcahy is only 41 and he caught our attention). Then there's the seasoned candidate, Steve Tedesco. He wasn't going to run for District 6 if Mulcahy did, because they supposedly share many of the same supporters in the business community. But Tedesco has quite a résumé: he was president of San Jose's Chamber of Commerce for 12 years before he became executive director of the Boys and Girls Club. "I've been involved in every issue that's hit San Jose," he said. And with all that experience to give him a leg up on the young 'uns, what's his campaign strategy? You guessed it! "We're walking the neighborhoods," he said.

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