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Photograph by Paul Myers

Lean Dean: Labor council's former exec leaves behind creative financial trail.

Public Eye

Chasing Amy's Paycheck

Remember when, in 1999, that nearly above reproach daily, The New York Times, lauded the then-South Bay labor leader Amy Dean as perhaps the most innovative figure in the Silicon Valley? And, after reviewing Form 990 tax documents and internal financial statements from Dean's tenure as the region's labor queen, Eye can hardly disagree with the characterization. ... Innovation, however, is not always a good thing when it comes to financial reporting. And a review of Labor Council filings indicates that the information reported to tax authorities does not match figures included in the council's own audited financial statements. ... In some filings, the labor group may have under-reported Dean's income. For example, in the South Bay Labor Council's 990, a tax document the federal government requires nonprofit organizations to complete, Dean's salary is listed as $67,800 for 1996 and $34,222 for 1997. (Dean took personal time off in 1997.) Further, in a column that requires the listing of contributions to employee benefit plans and deferred compensation, the disclosed amount for Dean is $13,453 for 1996, and zero for 1997. ... Meanwhile, the South Bay Labor Council's 1996 and 1997 audited statements describe the pension plan for business manager Dean and assistant business manager Cindy Chavez, now labor's representative on the San Jose City Council. The plan provides that "ten percent of a plan participants' eligible compensation is contributed to the plan each year." Then, it lists $16,720 and $16,520 as the respective 1996 and 1997 contribution figures. Shouldn't this mean that Dean and Chavez earned at least a combined $167,200 in 1996 and $165,200 in 1997? And, assuming Dean's salary is correctly disclosed in the federal 990s, wouldn't that mean that her assistant, Chavez, pulled down at least $99,400 in 1996 and $130,978 in 1997? Those figures didn't make much sense at the Labor Council. Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, Dean's protege and the Labor Council's current leading executive, tells Eye that the Labor Council's bean counters, J.H. Lee Accountancy Corp. in Oakland (which prepared both the 990s and the audit opinion), would look into the matter. But, since the records are 7 years old and currently in storage, it could take as long as two weeks to explain the discrepancy. ... Dean, who has since left the Labor Council and is back in Illinois working on her book, was similarly stumped when contacted and also referred Eye to the Labor Council's accountants. J.H. Lee Accountancy Corp. didn't return several phone calls.


Trading Races

Last week the Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce split its endorsement between state Senate candidates Ted Lempert and Joe Simitian. Other endorsers won't be able to sit on the fence, though. That's because of commitments that Lempert extracted a few years ago from endorsers who didn't even know which political seat the former state Assembly member was going to run for--or who he might run against. Now those folks are stuck in the embarrassing position of having to let Lempert use their names to bolster his campaign, when they actually really like his opponent. The insider's history of this ingenious and wacky compact reaches back at least four years. But its effects are just now unfolding along with the race to succeed termed-out Palo Alto Sen. Byron Sher in the 2004 election. ... In early 1999, Lempert was gearing up to manage his impending term-limit ousting by planning a run for state Senate. He targeted Sher's seat. This made geographic sense, because Senate District 11 (Sher's spot) overlaps with Assembly District 21 (formerly Lempert's kingdom and currently Simitian's). But still, it was an interesting choice since Sher had another term left and planned to use it, and Sher was a guy whom Lempert used to like to call his "mentor." Needless to say Lempert's "aggressive campaign," as the SF Chronicle put it at the time, vexed members of the Senate Democratic Caucus. who typically don't like their incumbents undermined by credible challengers such as then-Assemblymember Lempert.

So San Francisco's Senate President Pro Tem John Burton dropped more than $700,000 into Sher's bank account to suck air out of Lempert's rogue assault. He then, various insiders recall, advised Lempert to take a hike if he knew what was good for him. So Lempert said, fine, just do this one thing for me. ... Fast-forward to now. Lempert's four-page, three-column partial endorsement list reflects commitments Burton, Sher (notably, a friend and political ally of Simitian's) and others made as far back as in 1999 to support him for whichever open Santa Clara County seat he decided to chase next. According to a couple of sources, some promised their future endorsement in writing. After Lempert dropped out, Sher returned Burton's money to the Democratic Caucus' coffers to handicap other competitive races. Ultimately, The Deal secured Sher's job, gave Lempert a chance [against the well-liked sitting Assemblymember Simitian] and saved Burton more than $700,000," sums up a Capitol politics scenester. "Everyone got what he wanted out of it." Well, everyone except the Ted backers who have to hang out with their buddy Joe while his challenger waves their names in his face. "We committed to Ted early on," explain two political players and fans of both potentials. They verbally signed on to back Lempert way before Simitian, who was elected to the Assembly in 2000, positioned himself as a candidate. "It was a rather awkward discussion telling Joe we endorsed Ted," one tells Eye. As for Lempert, he blows off his big-brained maneuvering as campaigning as usual. "It's a pretty standard thing for folks to say, 'I can't support you this time, I'll support you next time," he says. "There's no one who's endorsing me against their will."

Hacking Cough

SUV-driving Public Transit advocate Ron Gonzales successfully campaigned for office on a BART-to-San Jose platform. The voter-sanctioned Silicon Valley BART extension is his legacy. It follows that if half of the route were about to disappear Gonzo may not want to broadcast that to the voters who approved the measure. Of course he has to. Hence the recent public outreach meetings on the topic. Still, the news that the Valley Transit Authority Policy Advisory Board, which includes the mayor, could hang up three of the seven stations in San Jose seemed sudden, and without the appropriate initial public freakout. It was only at the Sept. 5 meeting--when the VTA committee could have acted on the delay, but held off--that people started hearing about the possible gutting of the project. "I was aware that there was a meeting," says transportation activist Terry Applegate, "but not made aware that the issue was on the agenda." Now, said issue continues to make the locals fret. "Those BART stations provided a really sound springboard to getting our development started," offers Chamber Man Jim Cunneen. "We're obviously concerned about the possible delay. Clearly it's a blow." Cunneen doesn't blame Gonzales as a weak link in the train chain and instead notes that the mayor has been working his keister off to fund the 16-mile BART route. (Maybe we should take Norm Mineta's name off the airport if he doesn't come through for us.) In terms of short-changing the public, however, one scapegoat surfaced. Spokesperson Anne-Catherine Vinikas tells Eye that, while the VTA followed the rules of letting the public in on its dealings, VTA computers happened to come down with a virus during the crucial Brown Act public notification period preceding the Sept. 5 meeting.

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From the September 25-October 1, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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