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[whitespace] How green is your garden? Presidential candidate Ralph Nader.


Party Pooper

Ralph Nader snubs the Green Party

By John Yewell

RALPH NADER's stump speech drips with contempt for the two major political parties, calling the system a "duopoly" dominated by Tweedledum and Tweedledee. But Nader's disregard for party politics also appears to extend to the Green Party, under whose banner he is running for president.

Why isn't Ralph Nader, who spoke Aug. 27 at the Luther Burbank Center, a member of the party he represents? "He's running with the Green Party because he's sympathetic with their core principles," says campaign spokesperson Laura Jones from Nader's headquarters in Washington, D.C. "He's always identified himself as an independent voter."

Jones says the goal is to build up the party into a viable alternative third (or fourth?) party, but Suspects is skeptical. Doesn't his refusal to become a member of the party show that Nader doesn't believe enough in what the party stands for?

"It's kind of immaterial to us," says local campaign co-coordinator Jeff Shuey. "The Green Party is much more of a loose-knit group."

Nader has the option to register Green. In Connecticut, his home state, the Green Party has minor-party status. According to Connecticut director of elections Tom Ferguson, if Nader wins he becomes a Green Party member by virtue of being its nominee, regardless of how he is registered.

Meanwhile, Nader has a lot of Democrats worried. Polls show Nader's presence in the campaign could hurt Al Gore in Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and California--all key battleground states--and possibly hand the election to the Republicans. While he is sympathetic to Nader's issues, even Gore supporter Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, the Senate's most liberal member, has warned against the impact of Nader's candidacy.

Jones is unmoved. "He's running with the Green Party to offer people a way that they don't have to vote out of fear," she claims. Unless, of course, their fear is of a Bush presidency.

Settlement in Fire District Suit

By Greg Cahill and Paula Harris

WHEN THE 1993 verdict in the Rodney King beating case was announced, Shirlee Ploeger says, Windsor Fire Chief Ron Collier commented to her: "Well, that shows you what we can do to a man. Can you imagine what we could get away with doing to a woman?"

After eight years as a secretary, Ploeger last year filed a lawsuit against the Windsor Fire Protection District, alleging years of sexual harassment that she says culminated in wrongful termination.

Last week, the fire district's insurance carrier awarded Ploeger a $550,000 settlement in the case, with an additional $50,000 paid by the district workers' compensation insurer--reportedly the largest settlement of a sexual harassment claim ever paid in Sonoma County.

According to Ploeger's suit, employees at the district had elevated sexual harassment to an art form, even going so far as to post a vulgar slur on the business card of a company that offers sexual-harassment awareness training. Ploeger's complaint contained a litany of allegations--including many involving firefighter Troy Collier and his father, Fire Chief Ron Collier, both of whom were named in the suit as the primary persons involved in the sexual harassment which Ploeger says began in 1989.

Included in the complaint were 17 pages of obscene jokes, cartoons, postcards, and other material that Ploeger said were frequently posted on the fire station's bulletin boards and in the break room. Among the charges, Ploeger claimed the all-male firefighting force screened pornographic movies after mandatory training meetings and often circulated sex magazines during work.

Ploeger also alleged that the firefighters made "comments about women's and young girls' bodies, breasts, and buttocks, including about women who entered or passed by the fire station or who were seen on fire or medical calls."

Chief Collier, who has held the position since 1985, has not commented on Ploeger's lawsuit and has declined even to discuss the department's current policy on sexual harassment.

Bill Arnone, an attorney for the fire district, has denied any wrongdoing on the part of Windsor fire officials.

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From the August 31-September 6, 2000 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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