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[whitespace] Mario Ambra Down and Ousted: Mario Ambra doesn't want to talk about it.


Public Eye

Verdict: Guilty

The waiting, as TOM PETTY noted, is the hardest part--especially if you're waiting to see if a jury will end your political career. That's what Mountain View City Councilman MARIO AMBRA, who stood accused of trying to bully city staff into taking zoning and code enforcement actions that would increase the value of property owned by his family, was doing last week. After closing arguments on Monday, Ambra waited around the dreary corridors of Superior Court in downtown San Jose for four interminable days. Accompanied by his wife, his lawyer and a handful of loyal supporters, Ambra sat on the wooden benches outside Department 12 and occasionally shuffled down to the coffee shop. Mountain View busybodies GARY WESLEY and VALERIE HARRIS and members of the city's firefighters union were among those who stuck by Ambra's side during the trial and jury deliberations. Despite the fact that there were reporters milling about, Ambra stuck to his months-long policy of not saying a peep. Finally, at noon Thursday, a verdict. Except for the hum of the air conditioner, the courtroom was silent as the clerk read the verdict: Guilty. Ambra shook his head slowly and seemed to mouth the words "No way." ... KEN ROBINSON, Ambra's smiley, blow-dried defense attorney, spun the verdict as a triumph for his client because the three corruption charges were dropped on a technicality, leaving Ambra guilty of misconduct. "We're gratified that the jury didn't find him guilty of any corruption that was charged," said Robinson, who did his best to paint the accusations of city staff as sour grapes. Appeals? "We'll make some decisions later," Robinson said as the elevator doors chimed open behind him. Bow-tie-wearing prosecutor BILL LARSEN stuck around to jaw with reporters, taking issue with Robinson's assessment that Ambra had escaped branding as corrupt. "That they didn't find the corrupt element doesn't mean he wasn't corrupt," Larsen said. ... Ambra will remain a councilman until 9am this Thursday, when, barring any last-minute miracles, Judge JOHN F. HERLIHY will formally enter an order of removal. The defrocked pol is free to run for any public office after that, including his own seat, which will be open in November. But before that, the remaining six councilmembers will take up the matter of what to do with the empty spot at their next meeting, April 23. Until then, nobody's saying who might occupy the seat, but the council's options are either to appoint someone or leave it empty. In any case, anyone can run for the seat in November--even Ambra.

Jim Johnson
Jim Johnson

Trading Places

In what looks like a bad case of showing up at the party after the lights have been turned off, Atherton resident JIM JOHNSON recently announced plans to open up Palo Alto's first independent day-trading office on June 1. Johnson tells Eye that he is negotiating a lease for prime downtown office space off University Avenue. Johnson says the time is right for the ever-hopeful to start speed-trading stocks again despite the current slump and the fact that most of the last batch of day traders can be found wandering around urban areas sans shirts. "It's not for everyone," he concedes. "It's high-risk." Day trading has been good for Johnson, a former psychology and statistics professor. His trick? "When I go to bed at night, I don't own any stock--I trade out at lunch. It's safer than a buy-and-hold situation." Johnson has been placing ads in local papers to see if anyone who has any money left might be interested in paying for the right to seat-time in his facility, equipped with high-speed data lines, market news feeds, redundant Internet connections, interactive charting services and the body warmth of fellow arbitrageurs. Customers will have to convince their brokers that they are qualified investors so they don't go ballistic if the tides turn against them. "I don't want to have a lot of depressed people around," he says. "Who would want that?"

Empty Chamber

TERESA JOHNSON, the longtime policy director at the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce, is following ex-boss STEVE TEDESCO to the Boys and Girls Club of Silicon Valley. Tedesco, the Chamber's former executive director, who started as executive director there in February, called his old co-worker at the Chamber when development director ADINA FRATICELLI gave notice. Johnson, who gave notice to Chamber exec JIM CUNNEEN last week, started working at the Chamber just after graduation from San Jose State University 19 years ago. "I'd been thinking about making a change," says Johnson, whose new role will be less about politics and policy and more about grant-writing and fundraising. "I've always had a dream to work at an organization that works with kids," she says. Johnson also ran COMPAC, the Chamber's political action group, so Cunneen needs to start looking for a politically savvy local to take over for her. Eye asked if he might call his former Assembly chief of staff, BOB HINES, now government-relations director at the Tri-County Apartment Association, but Cunneen brushed off the suggestion. "I'd hire Bob in a second, but I can't afford him," Cunneen lamented. "I don't have anyone in mind. We'll take our time in filling it, but when the right person comes along we'll move real quickly." Hey, isn't ROD DIRIDON Jr. looking for work?


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From the April 18-24, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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