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Stick and Stone: County assessor Larry Stone says he doesn't fear an audit, but brought a court reporter with him to a finance meeting anyway.

Stone Cold Sober

Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone downplays his recent bureaucratic tiff with board-hired auditor Roger Mialocq of the Harvey Rose Accountancy Corp. as a minor disagreement. Stone, whose department is slated for its first-ever management audit, is reluctant to have Mialocq and his bean-counters examine how the assessor tabulates the county's $130 billion property tax roll. According to Stone's mouthpiece, David Ginsborg, his boss doesn't worry about an audit, but thinks the county would be wasting taxpayer money re-evaluating the tax rolls because the state just completed a similar review earlier this year. Just to be on the safe side, though, Stone last week hired a $38-an-hour court reporter to attend a finance committee meeting where the pending audit was expected to be discussed--a highly wagon-circling move for a "minor disagreement." Ginsborg hazily explains, "We wanted to get a legal transcription of what happened at the meeting ... so there's no dispute as to what was said." Politically, Stone's between a rock and a hard place: He can't appear as if he has something to hide, but an audit may very well compel Stone to raise property taxes (it's Mialocq's job to find ways for the county to squeeze more dough out of local companies and individuals). Perhaps adding to Stone's apparent paranoia is the fact that one of the two supes on the committee is his old pal Jim Beall. Earlier this year, Stone and Beall had an altercation that bordered on the physical. Stay tuned. ... A little aside about Stone's hired court reporter: Not familiar with the very important persons sitting around her at the finance meeting, the stenographer kept interrupting the proceedings, checking on name pronunciations and asking committee chairman Joe Simitian to slow down. After the third interruption, Simitian instructed her to pipe down or take a hike (in a polite way, of course). Witnesses say she gathered her stenography gear and left in a huff. As it turns out, the committee never got to talk about the assessor's audit, and Ginsborg assures Eye that taxpayers won't have to pay for the transcriber's truncated services.

Guerrilla Politics

San Jose political terrorist Dale Warner fired his latest Scud missive last weekend to the delight and dismay of savvy City Hall commuters familiar with the recent imbroglio between councilmembers David Pandori and Margie Fernandes. Warner strategically placed five red-and-black street signs along downtown transit corridors that read in succession, "Margie ... David's been snotty/But you've been naughty/It's not funny/Return the money." Warner, a well-to-do gadfly who buys full-page newspaper ad space to rail at local politicians, says he spent $1,000 to print and post 20 sets of signs both in downtown and in Berryessa, Fernandes' district. Eye-watchers no doubt realize that Warner was making reference to Pandori's recent ethics complaint against Fernandes over a $19,000 mayoral assessment poll. The city's ethics board found that Fernandes broke local campaign laws but, to Warner's chagrin, refused to fine her. "The time has come to shift the focus from whether she violated the city's campaign finance ordinance to whether she should make financial reparations," Warner declares. Barry Barnes, Fernandes' political adviser from the San Francisco firm of Terris & Jaye, patriotically observes, "The beautiful thing about America is that every nut has the right to take potshots at politicians. All I can add is, consider the source." Many of the signs downtown have been mysteriously removed. Driving to his law office on Monday morning, Warner says he noticed that the only sign remaining on Julian Street near Fifth was "David's been snotty."

Candid Camera: Mayor Susan Hammer shows up in a White House video.

Caught on Tape

This week the White House released videotapes of coffees President Clinton held with campaign supporters, and lo and behold, on one of the tapes the president is shown trading pleasantries with our very own mayor, Susan Hammer. Hammer is out of the country on a trade mission to Asia and couldn't be reached. Her spokesman, Kevin Pursglove, reveals that Hammer was in Washington for a trade policy meeting at the time. "She received an impromptu invitation to go over to the White House and meet with the president," Pursglove says. "She was there for maybe 10 or 15 minutes." Hammer and her husband, Phil, gave $2,500 to the Democratic National Committee in April 1996. Pursglove says he doubts that the president solicited a contribution during their brief private moment.

Dimmed Bulbs

One of Silicon Valley's last reminders of its agricultural past, Maryott's Iris Garden in Willow Glen, bit bulldozer dust this week to make way for 12 single-family homes. The one-acre garden plot on Bird Avenue has provided eye candy for the public every spring since the 1950s, when it was owned by iris fanatics Clara and Ruth Rees. ... One month ago current nursery owner Bill Maryott and garden manager Marilyn Harlow were coy when asked about their plans to unload the site to the Santa Clara Development Company, reluctant to say it was a done deal before the ink dried. When the bulldozers arrived last week, however, Eye brilliantly deduced that the deal had gone through. Maryott previously confided that the developer "might offer us enough money that we can't turn it down." ... After several years of heavy rotation, Maryott says, the soil on the land just ain't as good as it used to be. In the past, Maryott and Harlow used the chemical methyl bromide to rejuvenate the soil, but with all the new housing development around the garden, they can't use the toxic garden freshener. The urban farmers plan to take their irises and their methyl bromide to a five-acre plot in Corralitos.

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From the October 9-15, 1997 issue of Metro.

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