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November 15-21, 2006

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Silicon Valley News Notes

Campbell: The Untold Story

Lost amid the hoo-hah of the higher profile races on election night was incumbent Jane Kennedy's re-election victory for a city council seat in Campbell. Kennedy topped a field of five candidates who were running for three open seats in Campbell—a race that wasn't about to grab headlines with descriptions like "cordial despite competition" in the local press. However, there was an interesting historical note to Kennedy's victory that recalled little quaint Campbell's link to San Jose scandal. In 1983, San Jose councilman and vice mayor Al Garza pleaded guilty to bribery, conspiracy and perjury in a City Hall crime story in which he accepted a payoff for a council zoning vote. Garza, who ended up being sentenced to three years in jail, was bribed by an Alviso mobile home dealer. During the scandal, Jane Kennedy was Jane Meyer, and employed as a secretary at the office of the mobile home dealer, a perch that gave her a unique perspective of the Garza debacle. Julius Finkelstein, the same prosecutor putting the heat on Gonzo today about the Norcal scandal, also prosecuted the Garza case. Meyer, recalls, Finkelstein was a valuable witness for the prosecution. "I don't remember the details," he tells Fly. "But I know she was a cooperative witness. Whether she came forward [on her own] or whether we found out about her [through somebody else], I don't recall."

Trouble in the Trailer Park

Assemblywoman and champion of mobile home owners Sally Lieber is stuck in a fray with some of her biggest fans: the senior residents at the Sahara Village Mobile Home Park in Mountain View. The hullabaloo started this summer when rumors circulated that Sahara owner and local real estate mogul John Vidovich was going to replace his low-income mobile home property with pricey condos—a development trend that's spreading like wildfire throughout the South Bay. Sahara dweller Al Stuetzle told Fly that he helped management squash the rumor. Apparently, he made some enemies along the way. Neighbor Iris Lubitz allegedly posted notes in the park's laundry room claiming that Stuetzle beats cats to death with a stick and is under investigation by animal control authorities. Infuriated, Stuetzle took Lubitz to small claims court for defamation and presented evidence that he was not a cat killer nor under any investigation. He won his case in August. Things got weirder in October, however, when Lubitz appealed in Superior Court. She denied writing the notes (although they matched her handwriting) and subpoenaed assemblywoman Lieber's staffer Harry Adams, who deals with mobile home-related issues, to testify on her behalf. Lieber told Fly that Adams didn't know anything about the matter. The judge denied Lubitz's appeal, but the melodrama doesn't end there: Stuetzle published an "Open Letter to the Community" in the Mountain View Voice a few weeks ago, raging about Lieber's involvement and questioning her use of taxpayer time in court on Lubitz's behalf. The assemblywoman told Fly with muffled laughter that Stuetzle never bothered to call her about his gripe before going to the media, but she's not going to respond to his ad. "I don't have any particular opinion about any of it," she said.

Spooked in San Jose

Jeppesen International Trip Planning, until now a quiet downtown San Jose flight planning company and a subsidiary of Boeing, was placed on the political map last month after a piece in The New Yorker revealed not only that the company's clients included the C.I.A., but that Jeppesen was responsible for planning the spy agency's "extraordinary rendition" flights, the murky C.I.A. operations that transport suspected terrorists to countries where torture is permissible to allow interrogators to take the gloves off when questioning them. Jeppesen was identified in documents as providing logistical support in the C.I.A. abduction of Khaled el-Masri, a German mistakenly fingered as an Al Qaeda operative, who was arrested by Macedonian officials and handed to the C.I.A in 2004. According to el-Masri, he was stripped, shackled and placed in a 737. He ended up in Kabul, where he was harshly interrogated for four months. Meanwhile, in 2003, Jeppesen signed a 10-year lease for the penthouse floor of the Opus West building on East Santa Clara Street in downtown San Jose. The office space gives the company a clear view of the Mineta San Jose International Airport, and the deal also came with an agreement to put Jeppesen's name on the building's rooftop (so as to be able to advertise to pilots flying into the airport). While attempting to chat with Bob Overby, the company's managing director who was quoted by a former Jeppesen employee in The New Yorker piece as saying that the C.I.A.'s extraordinary rendition program "pays well," Fly was advised that Jeppesen's corporate office in Colorado is handling the torture questions. Calls to that office went unreturned at deadline. Meanwhile, there's no word yet if the Opus West building is still comfortable having Jeppesen's name bannered on its rooftop.

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