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Jungle George v. Garbagemayor

A few weeks ago, it seemed like George Kennedy had his legacy locked. The 16-year district attorney would retire with a record as a crime fighter who kept the county a safe place and kept politics out of the prosecution business. There would be an orderly march toward the coronation of his handpicked successor, Karen Sinunu. But that plan blew up after leaked excerpts of a report suggested that DA brass may have stepped on a prosecution of the county's chief executive, Pete Kutras, and the head of the powerful sheriff's union, whose support is coveted by contenders for the DA's job, such as Sinunu. The race has changed dramatically in the past month. First Judge Ron Del Pozzo dropped out of the race, complaining of back pains and not enough time to spend with his daughter, after he became the target of media and web attacks and donors failed to line up in support. Then Judge Delores Carr and DA union leader Jim Shore jumped into the fray. Kennedy's admission ("C-Gate," MetroNews, Aug. 17) that he discussed the prosecution of DSA boss Jose Salcido with their mutual political consultant, Victor Ajlouny, has raised eyebrows among DA office watchers. Kennedy's office is known for prosecuting flagrant examples of political corruption by smaller fish ... council types like Santa Clara's Eddie Souza, Mountain View's Mario Ambra and San Jose's Terry Gregory. But he hasn't bagged any big fish; Kennedy's office has treaded lightly when it comes to investigations of formidable players like Kutras or Salcido, not to mention Mayor Ron Gonzales' cascading waves of scandals or the South Bay Labor Council's commingling of funds between its political activities and its charity-funded Working Partnerships. Kennedy fans argue that his conservative strategy of prosecuting only sure-wins has avoided high profile debacles like the Santa Barbara DA's failed prosecution of entertainer Michael Jackson. Kennedy may still have his chance to go out with a bang. Word is that the DA is sniffing around into allegations that the Gonz perjured himself before a grand jury investigating the mayor's secret deal to pay the city's garbage vendor millions of dollars without bothering to mention it to the council. Taking down the unpopular, scandal-tainted mayor would of course be a legacy-capping samurai move for Jungle George. "I'm not going to talk about that," Kennedy says about the garbage matter. He is also saying little about the Salcido-Kutras investigation, noting that he recused himself months ago and alerted the attorney general and others of that very fact. Someone from the AG's office in Sacramento called recently to discuss the case, he says, but Kennedy won't say who rang him up or what they talked about, since that's "privileged." Kennedy probably hopes the whole dang thing would just go away, but the C-Gate scandal just got new life when his former political consultant, Ajlouny, called a press conference last week to "put to rest" allegations contained in Metro's Aug. 10 article ("Guilt by Association," MetroNews). That piece contained passages of a report that Assistant DA Sinunu first denied the existence of—and later said wasn't really a report. Ajlouny, however, did call it a "report" and passed out copies of the 12-page highly confidential document, which sure looked like a report to us and concluded perjury by Salcido and illegal use of public funds by Kutras. It was authored by veteran government integrity investigator Joe Brockman, a former SJPD captain, whom Kennedy calls "a great investigator" and whom he continues to have confidence in. Under questioning, Ajlouny acknowledged that County Counsel Ann Ravel provided him with the report he circulated to the media along with a rebuttal and the results of a lie detector test that Ajlouny argues proves Salcido's innocence. Brockman, meanwhile, sounds tired of having his integrity and competence attacked and is lawyering up. And the subject of his investigation, Salcido, faces a DSA membership growing restless over raises that are a small fraction of what they thought Salcido negotiated when they gave up their political rights to oppose Measure C. An anonymous DSA member circulated a document last week that calls for Salcido to step down as DSA president for having "brought shame to the organization" and for such indiscretions as using DSA money to make a $10,000 contribution to the exclusive Bellarmine Academy, where Salcido's child attends school.

Care Factor

Veteran documentarian Bob Gliner has developed an idea to change the reality TV genre as well as foster humanitarian efforts here in the valley. Gliner, an SJSU sociology professor who has produced more than 35 documentaries, is producing a pilot reality-television series in which contestants compete to solve social problems. Gliner's first casting call for Making It Right—Saving the World One Episode at a Time will be this week, Thursday and Friday, from 4 to 8pm in Hugh Gillis Hall at SJSU. Gliner is looking for San Jose State students to star in the pilot series if he can find a network to pick up the show. "Maybe we'll get people who don't think they have a social conscience but do," he says. "Or we'll get people who think they have a social conscience but when you get down to it, they don't have the time or commitment." A panel of judges will decide which of two three-member teams wins the competition. Gliner wouldn't say what kinds of events the teams would compete in. Nor would he say whether Making It Right would be good television. "Who knows?" he says. "We might influence the reality TV genre away from being so self-centered. We might have a political impact that way."

Care Factor II

Chances are you know someone affected if not devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Even here in the Metro newsroom, we had people calling up to make sure family members had gotten through safely. Since last week, the Santa Clara Valley chapter of the Red Cross has been sending volunteers and staff members to aid disaster victims. Two local volunteers are even driving an Emergency Response Vehicle from San Jose to Louisiana. To donate by phone, contact the Red Cross' Santa Clara Valley Chapter Fundraising Hotline at 408.577.1000. Contributions can also be dropped off at or mailed to the chapter's office at 2731 N. First St., San Jose, CA 95134. Make checks payable to the "American Red Cross" and write "Hurricane Katrina" in the memo line. You can also go to www.neworleans-louisiana.com, which has links to groups that need donations.

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From the September 7-13, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2005 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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