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The Body Politic

WHEN ROLLER-SKATING cable talk-show host Bill Chew spotted politician-lobbyist Pat Sausedo sitting in the audience during the recent airport vote, he felt compelled to approach the Saucy One. Chew must have known he'd find a sympathetic ear for his gripes about Pete "Primo" McHugh, Sausedo's opponent in last year's supe election. "He comes from the Jess Unruh school of flexible ethics," grumbled little man on campus Chew. "You got that right," Sausedo was heard to reply. While the source of Sausedo's resentment might be obvious, the root of Chew's animus for McHugh goes back to when he applied to be Primo's chief of staff a few months ago. His pitch to McHugh centered on the themes of "fitness for office" and "the body politic." As proof of his fitness, Chewy, who ran for mayor before, submitted a photo of himself in the buff (sans genitalia), showing off his aerobically enhanced physique. Suffice it to say, this didn't go over too well with the McHugh interview team, who later handed the job to Gordon Reynolds, a volunteer on Primo's campaign. Chew took umbrage at being passed over by McHugh, who obviously didn't go for the fitness shtick (which Chew had previously pitched--unsuccessfully--to board chairman Jim Beall when Big Jim was looking for a staff chief). "He [McHugh] needs to get into shape more than anybody on this board, except maybe Beall," Chew observes, adding that if board members were in better shape, they could truly lead from a position of strength. A Primo defender dryly noted: "Interviewing Bill Chew is the downside of Pete McHugh's desire to give everybody a fair hearing."


800-Pound Metaphors

Without revealing the identity of the political primate, for weeks insiders have coyly hinted that an 800-pound gorilla, metaphorically speaking, might descend from the trees to run for the San Jose City Council or Board of Supes. Well, it turns out that the gorilla is Sheriff Chuck Gillingham, who apparently prefers other mammal metaphors when referring to himself. "They're just trying to smoke the bear out to see what he's gonna do," the lawman tells Eye. Gillingham, whose term ends next year, is amused by all the chatter but insists he hasn't made up his mind about his future career plans. Recent intelligence had Gillingham turning in his holster and fading into the sunset, but the sheriff says loose talk about his retirement was premature. "I've got a whole bunch of options. As soon as my wife tells me what I'm gonna do, I'll give you a call." If the sheriff were to run for City Council, he'd face off against Linda LeZotte, who has been anointed by Demo queen-makers such as Mayor Susan Hammer to succeed Trixie Johnson. But in that relatively conservative district, Gillingham could kick tail, insiders agree. As for the Board of Supes, Gillingham lives in Jim Beall territory. Gillingham, who'll be asking the board to approve his department budget this month, wisely spoke well of the board chairman.


Fast Cash

Things are going so well for the Redevelopment Agency that the agency wants to help county Assessor Larry Stone collect its tax money faster by donating $28,000 worth of new computer equipment. A wave of appeals in recent years has caused a big backlog in putting new buildings on the tax rolls, the agency's bread and butter. The new computer equipment "will contribute significantly to improving our methodologies and operations, and assist our staff in increasing their productivity," the assessor reports. Over the past couple years, the agency has given $200,000 toward improving the assessor's productivity and efficiency. Stone, however, doesn't like to view the agency's contributions as totally self-serving, though he concedes, "This was not all benevolence, that's for sure. ... There's a reason they do things." Looking at Executive Director Frank Taylor's latest budget spending plan, there are 50 million reasons. ... While Taylor and crew help modernize the assessor's office, there's still no word on when the secretive public agency will be posting its own Web page with basic info like meeting agendas. Flak catcher Carol Beddo says that the agency first wants to hire its new $97,000-a-year communications specialist before launching a Web page. Beddo informs us that the agency is close to hiring someone, who Eye presumes will be well-versed in the ways of mind-reading agency management, obfuscating for the press and making sure the Web site doesn't clash with the granite downtown.


Where's the Cash, Bro?

He may be a big city crimefighter, but even San Jose's police chief, Lou Cobarruviaz, can get caught up in a family spat now and then. In the chief's lawsuit against his brother, Gilbert Cobarruviaz, he accuses his bro of improperly pocketing cash from three Oakland rental properties the siblings inherited from their father in 1993. Lou apparently started to get suspicious because he wasn't making any dough from the rentals and forced Gilbert to show him the books last year. According to Lou's court complaint, the chief discovered that Gilbert had been skimming a salary for himself and his girlfriend, loaned money to his daughter and forged Lou's signature on a Wells Fargo credit card application to borrow money in the name of their business partnership, COBCO. In September the chief sued Gilbert to dissolve their partnership. Over Lou's objection, Gilbert's lawyer, David Bonaccorsi, later tried to have the case moved from Santa Clara County to Alameda County, though not for the obvious reason. "It wasn't motivated because he was chief of police here," swears Bonaccorsi, a Santa Clara University grad, "but truly independent legal grounds." Judge Peter Stone denied the request to change venues. The heretofore unpublicized nine-month court battle appears to be coming to an end, with both parties close to finalizing a settlement.


Deformed Reform

Imagine his surprise when attorneys from the state Fair Political Practices Commission told Sen. Byron Sher that Prop. 208, the voter-approved campaign reform initiative, is worthless. Well, at least the law has a loophole so big a loaded Brinks armored car could drive through it. In response to Sher's recent query, FPPC lawyer Lawrence Woodlock applied a very literal reading of the initiative, determining that so-called independent expenditure committees effectively weren't subject to Prop. 208 until after they spend $1,000--an interpretation the initiative's authors say is ridiculous. The FPPC ruling means that newly formed independent committees can raise unlimited cash without contribution limits. The likely result: As soon as one committee spends more than $1,000, its leaders form a brand-new committee not subject to pesky campaign finance laws.


Shut Up Or Else

Management at the San Jose Mercury News reportedly has given investigative reporter Gary Webb an ultimatum: Stop working on stories connecting the CIA to the crack epidemic, or lose your job. According to a story on the Society of Professional Journalists' Web page, the veteran newsman has been reassigned from his state capital office to a small suburban bureau in Cupertino. "This is just harassment," Webb is quoted as saying. "This isn't the first time that a reporter went after the CIA and lost his job over it." In interviews with the alternative press, Webb says he's written and turned in four follow-up stories on the "Dark Alliance" series that have neither run nor even been edited.


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 19-25, 1997 issue of Metro

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