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[whitespace] Laurie Smith Report Scarred: The corrections audit has Laurie Smith fuming.

Public Eye

Jail Wail

The best reading in the 200-page Department of Corrections management audit that county officials released Friday wasn't the document itself. The long awaited study of jail operations would make any reader's eyes bleed. The gold is in Attachment B, where Sheriff LAURIE SMITH unloads 27 pages of pointed prose, slamming the audit by consultants DMG Maximus as a $300,000 waste that totally missed the point. Smith contends that the yearlong study, which dedicates seven of eight sections to day-to-day management of the Corrections Department, doesn't audit the dual structure it was supposed to look at and that the consultants didn't even understand the complex legal issues involved in how the Board of Supervisors contracts with the sheriff to oversee corrections. Additionally, Smith charges, the analyses are based on the consultants' own opinions and recommend changes to the setup that are either illegal or unfeasible. And although the audit scrutinizes everything from accessing databases to painting buildings, Smith can't help observing that it ignores the "DOC's well-known problem with escapes ...in its rush to conclude that the DOC model is working effectively." Smith has been a longtime critic of the complicated contract that has the sheriff's office overseeing some aspects of how Corrections runs the jails. The sheriff's basic beef with the setup is that, as she writes in her response, "while I can delegate authority in certain circumstances, I cannot delegate responsibility." (State law says jail guards can't carry guns unless supervised by a sheriff or police chief.) The sheriff penned her memo to county board chair DON GAGE as a response to the Maximus audit's conclusion that, under the existing agreement, everything is just fine. "The Santa Clara County model for delivering corrections services can and does work," auditors write. "As a result, we found no operational reason to explore alternative structures for delivering corrections services as part of this study." The last page of the audit says the sheriff could be put in charge of the jails--but only if a legal analysis determines that Maximus' recommendations don't mesh with state law. Supervisors were never falling all over themselves to grant Smith's wish to get the jails, but now that the audit is out, the chances of that happening have all but evaporated. "I know that she wants the jail but it's like if you decide you want a new car, then you can think of every excuse in the world," Gage says, adding that he thinks Smith is doing a great job right now and that he'll be working with her to update the county's contract with her. Gage doesn't see anything wrong with the audit, and says supervisors will likely fine-tune the existing setup instead of giving the jails to Smith. "I think the board is at a point where we're not going to do it and the sheriff knows that."

What About Bob?

As a lobbyist, it was time to shine for Tri-County Apartment Association government relations director BOB HINES. But instead, as councilmembers prepared to take up just-cause eviction--before the deal fell apart, anyway--Hines was stepping on a lot of toes in the mayor's suite and council offices. As Tri-County's point man, Hines' job was to run interference for landlords. But some think Hines went too far. "His demeanor, the way he handles himself, the things that he says are just out of line, unnecessary, critical and not helpful in anyway," one sixth-floor staffer grumbles. "He's just really hurt himself professionally through this whole process. The guy's lost a lot of credibility." Says another insider: "The guy who should have the closest relationship with the councilmembers is basically persona non grata with a majority of them. He was just ranting on this, saying there were Brown Act violations, and suggesting the mayor has committed a Brown Act violation is a not a minor deal. He's gotten very rabid about this, but he's gonna get a little reality check here pretty fast." When Eye phoned Hines, a former chief of staff to ex-Assemblyman JIM CUNNEEN, Tri-County CEO KATHY THIBODEAUX intercepted the call. She theorizes that Hines is under attack from a small group of people. "I know that a couple of folks are exasperated with Bob, but to characterize this as anything more is unfair. Bob is a passionate advocate, and I'm aware of the concerns that have been expressed by a couple of folks on the sixth floor. Bob is being used as a scapegoat because there was an attempt to ram this thing through."

Missing Money

Democratic Activists for Women Now (DAWN), the South Bay group focused on promoting progressive, pro-choice women candidates, elected new officers Sunday to fill spots left empty by a recent shake-up. It seems that DAWN WRIGHT, chief of staff to San Jose City Councilman CHUCK REED, gave up her post as president after about $5,000 (or roughly a year's revenues) turned up missing from the group's account. Board members politely asked Wright to step down during the investigation because of her connection to the group's treasurer, who was suspected of siphoning off the funds. And now, as other members scramble to clean up the mess, Wright says she isn't speaking to a certain ex-treasurer. "It was my mother," Wright says. Her mom, LILLIAN HICKS, who is listed as the suspect in a police report taken after the embezzlement, also stepped down after the missing money came to light. Wright says she won't be speaking to her mom until all the money is paid back in full. "What she did was inappropriate; it was not OK; and it really put me in a bad position. I spent eight years of my life building this club, and every cent that was taken I raised. I was deeply hurt by what she did, and I think everyone felt betrayed." Hicks didn't return Eye's phone call. Members of the nonprofit group first started poking around two months ago when the state Fair Political Practices Commission said their filing was late. According to the police report, Hicks was able to write checks from the group's account and apparently wrote some for personal expenses. Hicks so far hasn't been charged with anything, and investigators will hand the case over to the DA's office to make the call on pressing charges. Meanwhile, DAWN founder WILLIE WOOL says the group is preparing an amended FPPC report and that it has already instituted financial safeguards like dual signatures on checks to prevent any other abuses.

Daily Vs. Weekly

Palo Alto Daily News owners DAVE PRICE and JIM PAVELICH expanded their publishing mini-empire into the West Valley last week with a microdaily in the town of Los Gatos. The new paper had been in the planning stages for a year, but the publication was a surprise to everyone else, including staffers at the other local papers in the area. Price and a few other staffers took to the streets of Los Gatos and Saratoga Tuesday to hand out the first issue of the Los Gatos Daily News, which will cover those two towns and the burgeoning bedroom city of Monte Sereno. With eight pages and a press run of just 3,000, the paper landed on street corners at the same size as the first Palo Alto Daily News edition put out by the publishing duo six years ago. Since then, Palo Alto is up to a 30,000 circulation and about 60 pages. And, Price adds, he and Pavelich have since opened three more Daily News franchises in Redwood City, San Mateo and Burlingame. All five tabloid-size papers use the same format: a few short local stories mixed with a lot of national and international news hot off the AP wire. The only LG scribe so far is CHRISTINA BELLANTONI, who came from Silicon Valley Business Ink, but Price says that'll change as he adds staff--and opens an office in Los Gatos. Price contends that the new paper won't compete with the Los Gatos Weekly-Times and Saratoga News, two of the six weeklies run by Silicon Valley Community Newspapers (which was spun off by Metro Publishing Inc. into a separate company six months ago). "I don't think it'll really compete with them. If you look at the Palo Alto Weekly, it's doing just fine. It's a different thing, and I don't think they should be concerned about our entry into the market." SVCN publisher DAVID COHEN is playing it cool. "We're the pedigree paper," Cohen sniffs. "Our lineage dates back to 1881, when the Los Gatos Weekly News started. So when they reach 120-some-odd years old, I'll have the same freaking respect for them as I do for our paper. If the Daily News wants to come in, they have a very high bar to reach." Cohen says his team has been working on expanding the news content in Los Gatos and Saratoga since he bought the group last year and, though he wouldn't talk specifics, hinted that SVCN might be opening a new paper of its own.

Unusual Events

Eye can't help but wonder if House of Blues has something up its sleeve--or if it's about to be swallowed up by another company. First off, Santa Clara County is getting impatient with the struggling company. The county approved a new House of Blues venue at the fairgrounds two years ago, but nothing has happened since then. The company's April 28 deadline to break ground has come and gone, so now county officials want the Los Angeles-based nightclub chain to forfeit a $225,000 deposit on the project if it doesn't line up financing by September. The struggling company has been in acquisition talks with a handful of rivals, including radio and concert behemoth Clear Channel, for about a year. Secondly, as Metro music columnist SARAH QUELLAND noted a couple weeks ago, word around the club scene is that HOB is teaming up on some kind of partnership with the Usual on South First Street. Eye watchers will recall that two years ago, House of Blues cut a $4.2 million, 15-year deal with the Redevelopment Agency to turn the old Woolworth's building on South First Street into a hip club but then, as presaged by Metro's June 28, 2001, story "Betting on Blues," shelved its plans a few months later as it announced layoffs and big losses. HOB appears to be MIA, but is it? For months, the Usual has been getting a seemingly endless makeover inside and out, and eagle-eyed club-goers have noticed that there hasn't been a name on the place for several weeks. Attorney and Usual owner DAVID FARLING offered Eye a cryptic remark: "Word has sort of leaked out that there's some major changes going on over at the Usual, and that's true, there are. But as for the specifics of those changes we're not really able--and we're not really authorized--to talk about those at this time." Farling also said he couldn't talk about the club getting a new name or owner. When Eye pressed him to deny that any partnerships, deals or discussions were in the works with House of Blues, Farling wouldn't take the bait: "We're just working on some major changes." As for HOB, marketing chief JACK GANNON offered a shrug: "No one here internally is aware of any kind of partnership with the Usual," he said. "We have lots of different talent buyers; they may be in conversation about just doing some shows there, that could be going on." But for now, Gannon says HOB is still planning to open up at the old Woolworth's building--eventually.

Are We Having Fun Yet?

The normally festive atmosphere of De Anza College's annual Powwow was dampened by more than the rain this past weekend. A group of student "volunteers" working at the festival say that event promoter and teacher GERRI PARKER made them work there against their will by threatening to give them C's in her class unless they put four hours of work into her annual event. ... De Anza student PAUL ARIAS, who's gearing up to graduate with his AA degree in a few weeks, says he speaks for a group of ticked off students in Parker's Native American studies class when he says that the four hours of work was essentially required. Arias filed a grievance against Parker, signed by five other students, requesting her immediate removal from the classroom. ... "We feel that Gerri Parker has herself become an obstruction to the teaching of the class," the grievance states, adding that she also used "obscene" language in class and called some of the students "losers." Parker didn't return Eye's phone calls, but the dean of her division, DUANE KUBO, verified that he received Arias' complaint about Parker. "I don't know if this is out of the ordinary," he said. "As division deans, we do get a lot of complaints." He says a committee will review the grievance.

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From the May 23-29, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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