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August 30-September 5, 2006

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Silicon Valley News Notes

Say Anything

Fly almost fell off the wall when it heard the shameless accusations Cindy Chavez made at her campaign rally last weekend. The labor insider said unequivocally that boy scout Chuck Reed knew about the secret union deal with Norcal two years before other councilmembers approved an extra $11.25 million for the garbage contract in 2004. Whoa there! Chavez has sped past speculating critics and a grand jury indictment handed down by the district attorney. What, we had to ask ourselves, did Reed know? And how could Chavez think she knew what he knew, based on the evidence available? Reed's grand jury testimony reveals that Norcal's subcontractor California Waste Solutions approached him in 2002 because it wasn't getting money it had expected from Norcal, which was supposed to somehow get it from the city. Reed said he didn't know who promised what. But Chavez, in what can only be described as a big leap of logic, has waded into uncharted territory by blaming Reed for withholding material facts when he voted against the $11.25 million contract amendment—a vote, we might add, that he lost. "Everything that I knew was on the table," Reed told Fly. He and Councilmember Linda LeZotte co-signed a memo opposing the amendment, which LeZotte says got little attention from the rest of the council. What's more, the council already knew Norcal and city officials had cut a deal from letters written by the garbage company in the summer of 2004. Is Chavez's bombshell just a big attempt at saving face? Reed's camp, of course, thinks so. "Desperate people do desperate things, and this is a desperate act by the Chavez campaign," Reed's campaign manager Vic Ajlouny counter-offensed. Chavez herself has been criticized for voting in favor of the extra money and leading the effort to stop the council's investigation of the mayor. The likely reason for the bizarre charge is to take heat off Chavez—who just about everyone thinks had to know something, given her labor ties. Her grand jury testimony reveals that she met with Norcal and Teamsters representatives in October of 2000, just before Gonzales made his $11.25 million promise. But no one has pointed any unsubstantiated fingers her way, not even Reed. "I never accused her of wrongdoing," he said of his opponent. "Because they were all just rumors." He and LeZotte both called Chavez's tactics "ludicrous."

Whitman's CPS War

What would you do if someone threatened to take your kids away unless you dumped your significant other? If you were anything like Los Gatos resident Charlie Whitman, you'd tell them to back off. But that's been easier said than done for Whitman, who's still waging a six-year-plus legal battle against Santa Clara County for allegedly violating his First Amendment right to associate with whomever he wants. In 2000, Whitman and his fiance Kelly Lynn Tucker got entangled with the county's Child Protective Services when they sought counseling for one of Tucker's kids (to deal with an issue they say had nothing to do with their parenting skills). We'll spare you the complicated details for the time being and get to the part that swayed a federal judge: a county social worker threatened Tucker's custody of four children if she continued to see Whitman—essentially forcing her to leave him. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed in 2004 that Whitman's First Amendment rights may very well have been violated, and now the case is headed to trial in federal district court. Whitman, who has no history of drug abuse, violence or crime, says he was baffled and hurt. Once a mild-mannered geologist, this whole mess has turned him into an outspoken advocated for CPS reform. He's now out to prove that county social workers engage in a rampant practice of telling parents who they can't hang out with. So far, he says he has 21 witnesses who've allegedly been bullied in the same way. With his attorney Bob Powell, he's seeking more people willing to testify. County Counsel Ann Ravel defends the social workers at CPS. "People are human," she said. "When there's an emphasis on protecting children, there are bound to be some decisions that maybe in hindsight aren't the best, but there isn't any evidence of a widespread problem in the department." A district court judge, however, decided there was enough evidence of a bigger problem to try the case when he denied the county's request for summary judgment in February. A court date has been set for March of next year, although Ravel says the parties might resolve the matter sooner. "We are absolutely willing to discuss a settlement," she said.

Form Fitting

If you read about gadfly Don Letcher and his supposed 40 addresses in the Mountain View Voice last week, you might be thinking he's just a nut. But Fly discovered there's a method to Letcher's madness, which no one seems to have caught onto yet. Here's what's been reported: Mountain View City Attorney Michael Martello denied Letcher a chance to run for City Council because he failed to fill out his residency form correctly, crossing out the part that asked where he resided and instead writing: "my voting address is." He listed a residential property that he's owned for the past 25 years, but refused to provide addresses for the 40 different places he says he's lived during the past six months. Martello, who failed to return our phone calls, told the Voice that he confirmed Letcher does "not reside in Mountain View. It's a very fascinating story." Well, yeah, but he missed the point: Letcher pulled a clever stunt to challenge the city's definition of residency. Martello and City Clerk Angie Salvador had already barred Jim Lohse, a homeless medical marijuana advocate, from running for the council even though he was registered to vote at a street corner in Mountain View. They said he had to prove a residence where he slept at night. But Letcher disagreed with their interpretation and sided with state law, which requires only a voter registration address. So that's all he provided on his candidacy application. And since he doesn't sleep at his home every night, he counted all the other places he's visited that could be residences according to the city's slippery definition. "I believe there is election fraud in progress in the current Mountain View City Council election," Letcher wrote to us—and to Secretary of State Bruce McPherson. In response, McPherson said he didn't have the authority to intervene and suggested Letcher's only remedy would be to sue the city in civil court. Now, Don loves to stick it to politicos, for sure, but will he take it that far? Don't touch that dial!

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