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[whitespace] Larry Stone Survey Says: Labor leaders are contemplating taking legal action against Assessor Larry Stone for surveying employees' opinions of their union.

Public Eye

Stone's Gall

Even though Assessor Larry Stone has regularly enjoyed the backing of labor during his 25-year political career, his relationship with county government's largest union, Service Employees International Union Local 715, has never been exactly warm. Stone's crusade for employee-performance evaluations has put him in direct conflict with union leaders like Kristy Sermersheim during his tenure as assessor. But tension between Stone and Sermersheim, Local 715's executive secretary, has risen to new heights in the past month. Two days before Thanksgiving, Sermersheim sent Stone a certified letter--copies of which were also sent to the Board of Supes--demanding that a consultant firm he hired with public funds "cease and desist" conducting its survey which had been asking department employees, "On a scale of 1 to 5, how satisfied are you that [Local 715] represents your interests?" Sermersheim also demanded that Stone omit the results of the "illegal interrogation" question--which she claims violated state employee-relations laws--in future reports. Should the assessor not comply, Sermersheim warned, she would seek legal recourse. "You simply cannot be trusted," Sermersheim wrote to Stone, "to respect the rights of our union and members." ... Last week Stone sent a six-page reply to Sermersheim refusing to accede to her demands. In his missive, the irascible tax man insisted that participation in the "employee satisfaction survey" was confidential and voluntary. Furthermore, Stone said, the offending query was only one of 74 questions covering a wide variety of topics asked by the consultant. "The question was entirely appropriate," Stone argued with regard to the union satisfaction query, "as I recognize the union is and should remain an integral partner in our office operations." Stone went on to question whether Sermersheim wants to bury the results because she fears they will make her and the union look bad. (Some rank-and-file county employees, unhappy about the new contract negotiated by union leaders earlier this year, have indeed griped about the Local 715 vanguard ever since.) "I'd rather know where the problems are and work to ameliorate them," Stone professes, "than stick my head in the sand and ignore them." Stone is promising to make the survey results public when they become available. Sermersheim, meanwhile, says she is weighing her legal options to stop Stone from doing so.

Never Mind ...

The Mercury News reported on Sunday, Dec. 12 that former Republican Congressman Ernie Konnyu was "weighing a bid to retake the seat that U.S. Rep. Tom Campbell wrested from him" 11 years ago. Apparently, neither the Merc nor Konnyu knew that the final day to file papers to become a congressional candidate had already passed on Friday, Dec. 10. When Eye called Konnyu at his tax-accounting office, he "explained" that when the incumbent officeholder doesn't file for re-election--in this case, Campbell is abdicating his spot in the House to run for U.S. Senate--the filing deadline is extended another five days. "Those are just the rules," Konnyu shrugged. Well, those would have been the rules if Konnyu had been running for Assembly and not Congress. According to county and state election officials, the five-day deadline extension applies only to county and state offices, not to federal offices. That means Konnyu would have been screwed if, after his weekend deliberations, he had decided to run for Congress again. But Eye can't really blame Konnyu for not knowing the rules. The registrar's official "Candidate Guide," which Konnyu relied on, mistakenly suggests that Ernie would have had until Dec. 15 to file. It's a moot point now because Konnyu has decided not to run for Congress or anything else next year. He observes, "It's best that way."

Sketchy Details

Although Palo Alto Daily News artist Steve Curl might be flattered, his bosses are steaming mad over Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Thomas Hastings' confiscation last Monday of Curl's sketches of the jury hearing the murder trial of Palo Alto resident Bert Kay. The judge, who also presided over the trial of Polly Klaas killer Richard Allen Davis, claimed Curl's drawings were so close to photographic quality they violated rules against identifying jurors. It's not the first time the art-aficionado jurist has tangled with the fourth estate. During the Davis trial, Hastings evicted a photographer from his courtroom for refusing to turn over photos of the killer giving the finger to the Klaas family, which the judge wanted as souvenirs. He also held a KNTV reporter and producer in contempt for refusing to identify confidential sources. That last order was overturned on appeal. Although Hastings recently denied a motion to return the artwork, Palo Alto Daily News publisher Dave Price hopes to make Hastings 0 for 2. "The larger issue here is whether the media can cover trials," said Price, who says his paper will probably appeal. "We don't want a judge to set a precedent like this." More clashes with the media may be ahead with Hastings scheduled to preside over the trial of Cary Stayner, the accused killer of three Yosemite tourists.

Picked and Plucked

As expected, this week the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council officially yanked its previous endorsement of Democratic congressional hopeful Bill Peacock and instead agreed to back a late-comer, Assemblyman Mike Honda, whom unionists perceive as the stronger candidate. Exactly what this means for Honda in terms of added campaign resources isn't clear. But according to Peacock, labor will likely provide Honda with phone banks, precinct walkers and about $70,000 in PAC money. Labor boss Amy Dean says it will be a lot more, so take that, Mr. Bill. This doesn't exactly frighten Peacock, a venture capitalist who has deposited $500,000 of his own money into his campaign so far, making him this race's Al Checchi. And like last year's gubernatorial primary, expect the gloves to come off early in this contest.

Usual Suspect

Bouncers at The Usual tossed Aaron Goodwin, the dreadlocked guitarist for Gilroy rap-rockers Salmon, from the downtown club last week during a weeknight private party for Live365.Com. According to club manager Paul Gerhardt, Goodwin was moshing a little too belligerently in the pit for the somewhat docile ska crowd listening to Fishbone. Gerhardt says that Goodwin knocked into the sound man, then shoved a woman in his path. When security came, Gerhardt says that Goodwin gave the bouncers a shove, too. The bouncers hauled Goodwin out of the club kicking and screaming, threatening to sue The Usual for violating his First Amendment moshing rights. Someone in the audience yelled to Fishbone about Goodwin's forced ejection, and at least one witness says the band appeared to leave the stage in disgust. Witnesses have slightly different versions of what went down, but all agreed that the Salmon ax-man seemed to have been drinking like a fish. "He was out of control," says Gerhardt.

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From the December 16-22, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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