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[whitespace] Jerry Springer Lord and Ringmaster: A county jail guard training to become a pastor objects to his colleagues watching Jerry Springer at work.

Jailhouse Flock

Department of Corrections chief Tim Ryan wants Santa Clara County to be able to boast one of the best jail systems in the country. Toward that end, Ryan is pushing to get the county's jails a special accreditation from the American Correctional Association, an honor bestowed on only 3 percent of the nation's jails. But if allegations leveled in a 13-page complaint filed by correctional officer Michael Sweetser last month have any merit, it could be a long time before the jails get any formal kudos. Sweetser, who is training to become a pastor, accuses other jail guards of a whole range of unholy conduct, such as gambling on duty and leaving posts unattended; bringing knives to work; and putting dangerous "sereno" (sic) Mexican gang members with homosexuals or transvestites in the same holding cell. Sweetser also has a major beef with two of his colleagues whom he accuses of watching The Jerry Springer Show and other "pornographic videos of an offensive nature" at work. Sweetser says he asked them to stop watching the material in question, but they, in effect, told him to buzz off. "I hate that slutful Jerry Springer Show," Sweetser griped to another jail guard. "It makes me sick. I don't watch this at home ... and I don't have to be subjected to this stench at my work station." The Christian correctional officer claims he is being discriminated against and harassed because of his religious affiliation. Michael Hackett, an administrative services manager for the Department of Correction, acknowledges that the behaviors described in Sweetser's complaint violate department policies. "We are taking the allegations very seriously," Hackett says, "and are conducting an investigation." An interesting twist: One of the guards named in Sweetser's complaint is reportedly gay. Jailhouse gossips suspect what the pastor-in-training really objects to is not the guard's sinful viewing habits but sinful lifestyle. Sweetser, who has been reassigned to another unit, denies all such innuendo in his missive, saying lifestyle is irrelevant. "They are harassing and beginning to persecute a Christian, and it must stop."

Early Retirement

Capt. Robert Wilson was Sheriff Laurie Smith's most visible supporter inside the department during the campaign. Wilson even appeared in one of Smith's television commercials. Because of his high-profile support, cops thought Wilson was the frontrunner to become Smith's undersheriff. ... But Smith has taken far longer than anyone imagined to restructure the department--because of procedural and political complications--and Wilson seems a mite impatient. He recently told the Cupertino Courier (a Metro-owned newspaper) that if he didn't get promoted to undersheriff he would retire at the end of the year. He coyly added that if he were offered the job, he "may in fact take the position." A Smith adviser bristled at Wilson's comments, but said the 31-year veteran is still the top contender to become undersheriff. "Bob won't need to retire at the end of the year," the source predicts.

Wild Bill Who?

Just as soon as Eye reported last week that there seem to be fewer and fewer people willing to take on incumbent Congressman Tom Campbell, the names of two more would-be challengers have surfaced. The first guy, after being introduced Friday night at the annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner at the San Jose Hyatt, left a few insiders asking, "Who?" His name is Bill Peacock, a relatively recent transplant to California from the Midwest, where he once ran for public office. He is supposedly a businessman with a fat wallet, something the Dems can't help but like. But he does face a major logistical problem: He doesn't live in the district. Campaign records indicate that he lives in Portola Valley, which means he would have to pack his carpetbag and move south. Campbell, of course, moved down to these parts from Stanford after he decided to run in 1995. ... Aside from Peacock, a friend of Los Gatos mayor and former TV personality Jan Hutchins says the Jan-man is giving the idea of running some thought. ... A quick point of clarification on the Eye item last week on this subject: Former congressional candidate Jerry Estruth, a stockbroker at Dean Witter, assures readers that his failed '95 bid didn't make him go "broke," though he did get stuck with a $200,000 campaign debt. "It was a good kick in the 'nads," he reflects, "but by no means did it leave me broke."

Whole Claude

It has been 17 years since former Councilman Claude Fletcher lost his quest for the holy grail of San Jose politics to Tom McEnery. Could there be a belated comeback in the works? Fletcher is making it no secret that he covets the City Council seat now occupied by Pat Dando--his old seat, in fact. Dando is being courted by state Reeps to run for Assembly, and should Dando move on, Fletcher could move in. ... In recent months, Fletcher has been taking a keen interest in a controversial plan to build 54 mini-mansions on an orchard next to the IBM. Trouble is, community activists can't figure out whose side the Fletchmeister is on. ... Homeowner George Bettisworth says that it seemed like Fletcher was a hero at first, unearthing public documents that showed the city meant to preserve the land next to IBM as "permanent" open space. Not too long after that, Fletcher seemed to change his tune and urged the Almaden Valley Community Association to compromise with developer Charles Davidson and IBM. Now, Fletcher again appears firmly opposed to making any concessions. Still, Almaden Valley skeptics wonder what Fletcher is up to and whether his political ambitions might be clouding his judgment. "On three different occasions now," Bettisworth says, "Claude's emphasis seemed to change." Fletcher, who says his political plans are "up in the air," counters that he just gave it to people straight about IBM's potentially strong legal position and stresses that it was he who first found the documents that could spare the orchard from the buzzsaw.

Pearls of Irony

Now that embattled United Way CEO Eleanor Jacobs is on administrative leave from the financially troubled charity, she should have plenty of time to pursue her writing career. Eye watchers may be interested to note that Jacobs is the author of self-help books like Ten Pearls of Wisdom: Achieving Your Goals & Capturing Your Dreams . ... If Jacobs decides to stick with her "guides to success" genre, she might want to think about adding a couple of sagacious pearls for future editions, like "Don't make promises you can't keep" and "Don't pay your assistant a $160,000 severance." In an interview with bookseller Amazon.com, Jacobs says that eventually she would like to be a "volunteer" for her favorite charity, the United Way of Santa Clara County. Of course, that might be the only way she'll ever work there again.

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From the May 6-12, 1999 issue of Metro.

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