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Public Eye

All in the Family

It's that time of the fiscal year when San Jose's elected leaders panhandle their colleagues for budget money to fund pet projects in their districts. This year's most interesting request comes from Vice Mayor Margie Fernandes, who wants $100K for Piedmont Hills High School to help the school build its new stadium--no doubt, a worthy cause. Surely the fact that Paul Fernandes, Margie's hubby, is the athletic director at Piedmont Hills High makes the endeavor an even worthier cause. Not so, scoffs Jim Anton, Margie's chief of staff. "It's a school in her district, and we're raising money for it," Anton sniffs. "The fact that Paul works there is incidental." At the very least, Eye figures, Fernandes could have disclosed in her budget memo that her husband just happens to work at the school that stands to benefit from her public spirited pork program. Anton explains that the family connection didn't seem relevant. Besides, he reasons, everybody on the City Council knows Paul works at Piedmont High. Now everybody else does, too. ... Even Margie-basher Dale Warner, who buys full-page ads in the Berryessa Sun regularly excoriating Fernandes, couldn't muster a discouraging word. "Good for her," he applauds. "She's bringing the bacon home." ... Another budget wish list item of note: Morality watchdog and mayoral contender Pat Dando can add another liner note to her campaign literature with her request to buy "software filters" preventing licentious library patrons from accessing off-color Web sites. "The library does not display pornographic magazines in the periodical section," the Dandy proselytizes, "and it shouldn't allow the display of similar adult materials on Internet terminals."


Ethical Dilemma

Later this month, Ethics Commissioner Jan Hutchins informs us, the commission will recommend suspending the campaign-finance element of the much-attacked county ethics law. In the future, the Jan-man says, he hopes to see the commission serve a more educational function rather than punish the not-so-wicked. "It's just a better place to be, karmically," he intones. "Do you want to help people do right, or do you want to catch them doing wrong? I'd rather do the first." ... The inspiration for the commission's collective epiphany: a roundtable discussion held two weeks ago at Santa Clara University with several local movers and shakers like D.A. George Kennedy, Assessor Larry Stone, political consultants Rich Robinson and Greg Sellers, ex-supe Susie Wilson and campaign bankroller Mike Fox Sr. San Jose Mercury News editor Rob Elder, an expected guest, didn't show up, facilitating an afternoon of Merc-bashing. Funniest moment of the day: Commissioner Barbara Campbell, who got spanked for donating $100 to supe candidate Barbara Koppel last year, had a friendly disagreement with Koppel during the discussion, prompting someone to quip, "If I were you, Barbara, I'd ask for my money back."


Daze of Our Lives

Things are heating up this month in Milpitas Place again. A female city employee accuses fairhaired vice mayor Bob Livengood of trying to have her pay slashed after she failed to reciprocate his romantic desires. Former parks and rec director Cathy Dressler--remember her? She was accused of having an affair with ousted city manager Larry Moore--claims in court papers that during a League of Cities conference in October 1994, the dapper Livengood kept hinting he'd like to be alone with her. Dressler spent the next 18 months fighting off the Bobster's unwanted advances, her lawyer says. Ostensibly, the love-starved Livengood then demanded that Moore demote Dressler or cut her pay, the complaint alleges. The alleged Lothario has been directed by the city's lawyers to keep his mouth shut, but did say that an outside investigator hired by the city at Dressler's request already looked into her charges. "Each allegation was found to be groundless, meritless and untrue," Livengood reports. Sounds like the makings of a real "he said, she said" courtroom drama. ... Eye, too, makes a surprise guest appearance in the pulp legal script. Upon receiving a call from Eye a few months ago regarding an unusual vacation pay-out approved by Moore, Dressler "was so emotionally distraught she was forced to leave work." ... Meantime, exiled finance director Larry Sabo, now crunching numbers in Kentucky, returns via proxy, filing his own lawsuit against Milpitas last month in which Dressler and Moore are prominently vilified. Dressler, in turn, accuses Sabo of harassing her and causing her insomnia.


David v. Goliath

Councilmember David Pandori knew he couldn't stop airport expansion, but at least he'd be able to speak his piece before an attentive audience. ... At Tuesday night's City Council meeting, Pandori nitpicked airport planners for over an hour with questions like 'Would sound testing of homes be done with the windows opened or closed?' A practicing attorney, Pandori dredged up month-old questions that airport staff had already responded to in memos, demanding "a yes or no answer."

In the news media corner, San Jose Mercury News photographer Richard Wisdom rolled his eyes at a press pal, mouthing the words other councilmembers may have wished they could: "Bor-ing." ... Perhaps feeling the same sentiment, Mayor Susan Hammer told Pandori after almost a half an hour that he could take another five minutes to wrap things up. ..."I have more than five minutes of questioning," he told Hammer self-righteously. "This has been going on for more than nine years. I will try to be as expeditious as I can."

"Everyone would appreciate that, " Hammer smiled, with gritted teeth. ... Sure enough, the incriminating questions Pandori shot at aviation director Ralph Tonseth and other airport staff were to no avail. The council voted 9 to 1 to build the great, big airport that businesses have been vying for, with token concessions to the neighbors. ... Absent from the vote was Councilwoman Pat Dando, who hurriedly boarded a plane to Texas to care for her ailing mother. Apparently, she had no difficulty finding an available flight.


Rich Man, Poor Man

The back-and-forth exchange on the editorial pages of the Cupertino Courier (a METRO-owned paper) continues over the city's new campaign-reform law. First, erstwhile political consultant Rich Robinson had a conniption over the ordinance, which caps campaign donations from individuals at $100, calling it an affront to freedom of speech. This lofty reasoning was too much for Bob Hendrickson, who pals with Councilman Wally Dean, the law's co-author. Hendrickson followed with his own snide missive, arguing that the campaign law was really an affront to Robinson's bank account, not free speech. "[I]f my income depended upon, let's say, prostitution, and a law was passed that forbade it, one might want to claim foul by saying, 'We should be outraged that someone is trying to tell us how to have fun!' " This, in turn, was too much for Robinson to leave unanswered. He retorted with a long-winded spiel that, owing to spatial restrictions in the Courier, ran without the punchline: "As for Mr. Hendrickson, while I admire his bold advocation of legalizing prostitution, it is a cause I'm not willing to support."


Public Eye welcomes tips. Leave messages 24 hours a day by calling 408/298-7818 and then pressing 2, followed by 412, to reach Eye's voice mailbox. Send email messages to eye@sjmetro.com.

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From the June 12-18, 1997 issue of Metro

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