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Cashing In

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Illustration by Steven DeCinzo

Leaving public office doesn't have to be a letdown. For Silicon Valley politicos, it can be a quick ticket to a dream job.

By Will Harper

Help Wanted : Looking for someone with political acumen and connections. Must be familiar with the local government bureaucracy, display networking capabilities. First-name basis with influential political leaders a plus. Salary: Better than your last job.

W HEN PAT DANDO, former campaign manager and loyal lieutenant to Mayor Tom McEnery, went looking for a job in 1990 when term limits dethroned her boss, she didn't have to look too far. The Redevelopment Agency gave her a $72,500 job to be director Frank Taylor's assistant, a position that was never advertised and had no other applicants. It was what the agency calls a "direct outreach recruitment."

McEnery himself landed a post-mayoral job that on the face of it looks suspiciously like a payback. Under his mayorship, the San Jose Sharks received a contract for the use of a $157.6 million taxpayer-owned building for nominal rent, including the right to capture revenue from nonsporting events such as Elton John concerts. After losing his congressional bid in June 1994 and encountering financial problems in his family's property management business, McEnery was hired by the Sharks as "vice chairman."

Ex-supervisor Rod Diridon practically invented his new $90,000 job. Diridon persuaded former Congressman Norman Mineta to use federal dollars to launch a transportation institute at San Jose State University. When the time came to hire the institute's executive director, only Diridon submitted a résumé.

Right before former Councilwoman Pat Sausedo exited public office in 1992, she helped postpone implementation of a "revolving door" law and then went out and lobbied on behalf of developers without skipping a beat. Under the auspices of her firm, The Sausedo Company, she ended up receiving money from clients such as Shea Homes that she once assisted from the other side of the dais.

Welcome to the job machine, where jobs are manufactured, salaries inflated, loyalties rewarded, favors repaid.

In this era of full-time municipal politicians with full-time staffs, public office is both a professional training ground and a time to fatten the Rolodex. Those who came to office with little or no understanding of budgets or use permits leave conversant in "encumbrances" and "R-4 zoning." Perhaps more importantly, they leave knowing the players.

Facing forced unemployment because of term limits, South Bay politicians and their aides don't have to comb the classifieds or hit job sites on the Internet. They advance the old-fashioned way: because of who they know. And while San Jose's job machine isn't a Mayor Daley-style political machine, it raises questions about whether taxpayers are getting the greatest bang for their buck, whether the playing field is level and if the city's political establishment is becoming ingrown with an institutionalized elite of insiders, cultivated through a modern patronage system.

That's not to say that the politicos who go on to better-paying positions don't work hard or are unqualified--nearly everyone in local politics these days has at least a college degree, sometimes even a master's or law degree.

It's often how they get those jobs that violates our notions of fairness and propriety.

Professor Terry Christensen, chair of the political science department at San Jose State University, acknowledges that the South Bay has its share of cronyism but stresses that it's far from being Tammany Hall--or Washington, D.C., for that matter. "With a classic patronage system, there's a quid pro quo involved, like trading a vote for a job," explains Christensen, a McEnery-era insider. "I doubt anything here goes that far, though some cases might come precariously close."

In recent years, both the city of San Jose and the county of Santa Clara have passed revolving-door laws (San Jose strengthened its weaker predecessor in 1993), putting a stop to the more blatant career turnstilers who return to City Hall or the county building as lobbyists.

But the laws aren't airtight.

That's why an ex-official can still land a $125,000 job with an organization that is financially dependent on the city--as long as the organization is a nonprofit.

It's also why former staffers keep turning up in corporate "government affairs" jobs, positions in which they are paid for using their contacts and knowledge--gained while on the public payroll--to influence government decisions to the financial benefit of their new private-sector employers.

Not too long ago, there was hardly a need for local revolving-door laws for South Bay politicians and political aides. That's because there were a lot fewer of them around, particularly in San Jose City Hall.

In 1973, before the San Jose City Council went to the district system, there was only one aide, who worked for then-Mayor Norm Mineta. Today, there are 11 full-time elected officeholders and 38 policy aides scurrying about on the sixth floor of City Hall--not to mention 11 administrative assistants.

And at the end of 1998, three San Jose elected officials and nine policy aides will be looking for new work because of term limits. (None of the current five county supervisors face mandatory unemployment until after the year 2000.) A few will run for higher office. Others will go to work for politicians still holding office.

But some of them will take advantage of the connections they made in political life and cash in. "Let's be frank. That's how the business works," says Michael Van Every, a former aide to Sausedo, who followed his boss into the lobbying business after clearing out his desk at City Hall and now makes $50,000 to $60,000 working for the Home Builders Association.

"If anyone tells you different," he advises, "they're lying."


Some friends are better than others ...


THE FOLLOWING LIST is not exhaustive; it is a sample of some exemplary cases. Those profiled have either held elected office or worked for an elected official at some point in the past decade. We focused primarily on city and county officials, though there are a few state and federal examples. Excluded from the list are politicians who were elected to higher office and aides who took jobs with other elected officials.

Big Shots

Pat Dando
Pat's Answers: Once an aide to former-Mayor Tom McEnery, Pat Dando now uses her political know-how to plan for a mayoral run herself.

Pat Dando
Aide to Mayor Tom McEnery, 1986-1990

New Job: Assistant to Redevelopment Agency executive director Frank Taylor, 1991-95. Dando's now a councilmember and a candidate for mayor.

Salary Bump: Her starting salary with the agency was $72,500. That's significantly more than her pay as a mayoral aide, but she says she can't remember exactly how much of a pay hike she got.

How She Got Hired: Dando says she heard about the job through "word of mouth." According to the agency, the job was not advertised in any newspapers or newsletters because it's a non-civil service position and therefore didn't require the usual red tape. Instead, Dando was hired as the result of "direct outreach recruitment." No one can seem to remember whether there were other applicants or people interviewed for the job. To that question, the agency simply responded, "Unknown." One thing is clear: Taylor, Mayor McEnery's "alter ego," ordered Dando's hiring. Dando argues that she was well-qualified for the job since she had worked on redevelopment issues as a mayoral aide. Prior to assisting McEnery, she worked as a substitute teacher.

Rod Diridon
Driving Forces: Rod Diridon and Tom McEnery have pushed many down the road to success.

Rod Diridon
County supervisor, 1974-1994

New Job: Executive director, The Norman Y. Mineta International Institute of Surface Transportation Studies, 1992-present

Salary Bump: As a supervisor he departed making $76,000. As executive director of the International Institute for Surface Transportation Policy Studies, or IISTPS, at San Jose State University, Diridon initially pulled in a reported $80,000. His salary now hovers around $90,000.

How He Got Hired: During Diridon's final term in office, the job presented itself to him. It was no accident. Diridon, long considered the board's transportation guru, helped create the job. He asked his pal U.S. Rep. Norm Mineta, then a member of a powerful House public works committee, to include funding for a think tank in a transportation bill. The following year, the new transportation institute's board, which included Mineta, brought Diridon aboard as part-time executive director. A federal grant administrator told reporters that no other résumés were submitted at the time. After being termed out of office, Diridon became the institute's full-time chief.

Ron Gonzales
County supervisor, 1988-96

New Job: K-12 education program manager, Hewlett-Packard, 1997-present.

Salary Bump: Refused to disclose. Acknowledged he makes more money now than as a supervisor, where he earned $78,455 in his final year.

How He Got Hired: Before being elected to the board of supervisors, Gonzales worked at Hewlett-Packard as a human resources manager in charge of staff recruitment. As his term on the board neared an end, he contacted old colleagues at HP and inquired about jobs. Gonzales now serves as HP's education program manager, a new post created by a company task force that coincidentally became available near the time he left public office. He now spends his days aggressively lunching prospective supporters for his mayoral campaign.

Shirley Lewis
Symphonic Convergence: Shirley Lewis' skills as a fundraiser and pro-arts councilmember brought her a $125,000 spot as the president of the San Jose Symphony.

Shirley Lewis
City councilmember, 1980-1992

New Job: President of the San Jose Symphony, 1993-present.

Salary Bump: In her final year as a councilmember she earned $48,000. In her first year as symphony president in 1993 she made a reported $75,000. That figure has since swelled to $125,000.

How She Got Hired: During her tenure on the City Council, Lewis developed a reputation as an arts booster. Lewis, who had no experience as a nonprofit arts executive, says that the symphony board approached her about the job when her predecessor resigned. One of Lewis' primary duties is fundraising, a skill she learned as a politician. Under her watch, the symphony's season and budget have grown, and the organization has gone $1.3 million in the red. In the past year an assistant has taken over many of her administrative responsibilities. Prior to being elected, Lewis worked as a council assistant and a restaurateur. Lewis, by the way, hired her former council aide, Karen Shiraki, who had previously served as chief assistant to San Jose Sharks CEO Art Savage, to work for the symphony. On the plus side, Lewis was hired by an independent board comprising business and community representatives.

Tom McEnery
Mayor of San Jose, 1983-1991

New Job: Vice chairman, San Jose Sharks, 1994-present

Salary Bump: As mayor he made $68,000 by his final year. His salary with the Sharks is undisclosed.

How He Got Hired: In his final term as mayor, getting the San Jose Arena built became McEnery's consuming preoccupation. McEnery was so identified with the arena that when the matter of its funding went on the ballot, it was considered a referendum on the mayor himself. When the arena became a sure thing, he tried to recruit a basketball team, and when that fell through, he sought an NHL hockey franchise as anchor tenant. District Attorney Leo Himmelsbach objected to the mayor's active promotion of a facility so close to his family's real estate holdings, and McEnery later curbed his activities after signing a good-behavior pledge demanded by the DA. Flash to 1994. Soon after McEnery lost the Democratic congressional nomination to Zoe Lofgren that year, Sharks CEO Art Savage named him vice chairman of the team. The job offer raised eyebrows, since it was under McEnery's watch that the Sharks landed a sweetheart deal that made the team one of the most profitable sports franchises in America, while San Jose bore nearly all the costs of constructing the team's home. At the time McEnery took the Sharks job, his family business was having some financial difficulties: Bay View Federal Bank filed a $57,703 foreclosure notice against Farmers Union; the company managed to pay off the debt 18 days later, one month before McEnery became an instant hockey executive. McEnery's duties include setting the overall direction of the team's community and charitable activities. What McEnery does exactly from day to day remains a mystery. Anyone who tries to call his Sharks office number invariably gets a voicemail greeting.

Norm Mineta
High-Flying Retiree: In addition to his $50,000 congressional pension, Norm Mineta collects a salary from Lockheed.

Norm Mineta
U.S. Representative, 1975-95

New Job: Senior vice president, Lockheed transportations systems division, 1995-present.

Salary Bump: He left Congress making $133,600 a year. Court papers indicate he now makes $209,000 per year in salary and bonuses. He also still collects $50,000 a year from his congressional pension.

How He Got Hired: Mineta quit mid-term in 1995 to go work for Lockheed, the defense giant with a huge federal-funding habit. During the height of his congressional power, Mineta served as chair of the powerful Public Works and Transportation Committee. During his years as a federal legislator, Mineta advocated for Lockheed projects as well as receiving thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the company. His premature departure annoyed Democrats, who, correctly, feared that a low-turnout special election would hand the seat over to a Republican. Tom Campbell today represents the 15th District.

Becky Morgan
State senator, 1985-1993

New Job: CEO, Joint Venture: Silicon Valley, 1993-present

Salary Bump: As a state senator she made $63,000 in her final year. Her starting salary with Joint Venture was $120,000.

How She Got Hired: After being passed over by Gov. Pete Wilson for the state's superintendent of public instruction appointment, Morgan quit her post as a state senator in July 1993 and announced she was taking over as CEO of Joint Venture, a pro-business group launched with the financial help of her husband, Applied Materials executive James Morgan. In January 1992 Joint Venture's pioneers claimed that the organization would exist for only one year. But their commitment to impermanence changed about the time Morgan grew dissatisfied with her senate job. A search committee went looking for a permanent CEO and reportedly considered 40 candidates and ultimately five finalists, including Morgan, for the job. Morgan supervises 20 underlings and handles a $5.5 million annual budget. Prior to being a state senator, Morgan worked as a bank loan officer, a school trustee and a county supervisor.

Pat Sausedo
Developing World: In her consulting business, Pat Sausedo works for the same developers who were active in her district when she was a councilwoman.

Pat Sausedo
City councilmember, 1980-1992

New Job: Founder, The Sausedo Company. Her clients include developers like Southland Corp. and Twenty-Second Century Development.

Salary Bump: Unknown.

How She Got Hired: Sausedo launched her consulting firm, The Sausedo Company, after leaving office. As an elected official, she led land-use planning efforts that ultimately resulted in the building of thousands of homes in her Evergreen district. As a consultant, she has represented some of the same developers, such as Shea Homes, that were active in the Evergreen district when she was a councilmember. Right before she left office, Sausedo also voted to postpone a vote on a city revolving-door law that would have barred her from lobbying City Hall on behalf of developers for one year. Prior to being elected, Sausedo served as vice president of a metals firm she co-owned with her husband. A couple of her former aides have also gone to work for developers. Michael Van Every worked for Sausedo's consulting company for four years before moving on to work for the Home Builders Association, formerly the Building Industry Association. Aide Susan Mineta now works for Shapell Industries, one of the state's most prolific builders, as the company's community affairs director.

Judy Stabile
City councilmember, 1984-1992

New Job: Site director, Fallon House and Peralta Adobe, 1993-95. Conference Scheduler, Hayes Mansion, 1995-96.

Salary Bump: Says she took a $20,000 pay cut when she went to run the Fallon House.

How She Got Hired: While on the council, Stabile supported the restoration of the former residence of San Jose's first mayor, Thomas Fallon, an idol of Tom McEnery's, about whom the 20th-century mayor wrote an admiring book and sought to have a $820,000 statue erected on a traffic island near the San Jose Museum of Art. According to Stabile, board members from the San Jose Historical Museum Association approached her about the job of running the Fallon House museum. She knew the board well. Stabile was the council's liaison to the historical museum and once accompanied the museum's director and curator to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia on a city junket. She also voted to boost the restoration project's public funding. The project ultimately cost taxpayers $5.1 million--more than double its original budget. Prior to being elected, Stabile worked as a council aide and a surgical assistant.

Susanne Wilson
City councilmember, 1973-79; county supervisor, 1979-90

New Job: Now a lobbyist with paying clients such as Pacific Bell, American Medical Response and developer Lee Brandenburg.

Salary Bump: Unknown, though Wilson says she doesn't make more now as a lobbyist than she did as a supervisor. She does, however, have plenty of time now to take vacations and visit her grandchildren.

How She Got Hired: Wilson started her company, Solutions by Wilson, shortly after leaving office. She says her job mostly entails guiding her clients through the bureaucratic maze. One time, the county's parks department hired her at an $85-an-hour rate (she estimates she billed for 20 hours of work) for her help in getting a "Scenic Highway" designation in her old south county district. Prior to becoming an elected official, she served as youth director for a Methodist church, taught a sewing class at the YWCA and later became president of the YWCA. Her former county aide, Rosaleen Zlatunich, is now a registered lobbyist with the city of San Jose, representing Universal Sweeping, which does street cleaning.

Little Shots

Pete Carrillo
Aide to Councilwoman Blanca Alvarado, 1982-92

New Job: Executive director, Mexican Heritage Corp., 1992-present.

Salary Bump: As the chief aide to Alvarado, Carrillo ended up making about $52,000 a year. As top dog at the Mexican Heritage Corp. he started at a reported $60,000.

How He Got Hired: As a member of the City Council, Blanca Alvarado pushed for a fitting monument to Mexican culture. Toward that goal, she helped establish the Mexican Heritage Corp. and steered public dollars to the nonprofit to oversee the creation of the Mexican Heritage Gardens. (The Redevelopment Agency initially committed a $9 million subsidy to the project. That figure has since more than doubled to $25 million.) In 1992, two years before term limits would push Alvarado out of city office, Carrillo was offered the top job at MHC and granted an exception to the city's revolving-door law that barred City Hall employees from using inside knowledge for personal gain. At the time, Alvarado defended Carrillo's hiring, saying that the MHC board had received applications from many people and had scheduled interviews with five candidates.

David Ginsborg
Aide to Supervisor Ron Gonzales, 1995-96

New Job: Senior management analyst, Assessor Larry Stone's office, 1997-present.

Salary Bump: Made $60,000 with Gonzales. Makes $3,000 less for the assessor, but has a review coming up in March.

How He Got Hired: Through word of mouth, Ginsborg heard about an opening in Stone's office and applied. The onetime Gonzales aide was originally hired by Stone as a contract employee, meaning that the assessor didn't have to go through the usual red tape of advertising the post. Stone recalls that Ginsborg competed with two other people. Shortly after he hired Ginsborg, the board of supervisors, at Stone's request, authorized funding for a new, permanent "management analyst" position in his office, quickly filled by Ginsborg. The young pol has a master's in political management and previously served as chief of staff for a liberal San Diego congressman. He handles media calls, assists Stone on lobbying trips to Sacramento and is among the few public employees who can be reached at his desk at 6:45pm.

Carl Guardino
Chief of staff to Assemblyman Rusty Areias, 1983-89

New Job: President, Santa Clara Manufacturing Group, 1996-present.

Salary Bump: As he recalls, he left Areias' office making $38,000. At CRASH he made $40,000 to $42,000. He now makes $110,000.

How He Got Hired: After losing his bid for county supervisor in 1990, he went to work as a lobbyist/advocate for the railroad-funded, anti-big truck group Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH). From 1991 to 1995 he served as the top assistant to Gary Burke, then the top dog of the Manufacturing Group. Then, Hewlett-Packard recruited him to manage government affairs for the company. He stayed at HP for nearly two years before returning to the Manufacturing Group as its chief. He supervises six staffers and oversees a budget of $650,000. A friend of Guardino's describes him as a "workaholic," a trait that probably doesn't please his wife but helps justify his handsome salary.

Andrea Leiderman
Aide to Councilman Jim Beall, 1987-1993

New Job: Public affairs manager, Browning Ferris Industries (BFI), 1994-95. She's now a government affairs specialist for Kaiser Health Foundation.

Salary Bump: Unknown.

How She Got Hired: A friend in public relations told her about the job opening at BFI and she applied, she says. While an aide to Beall, Leiderman worked on the city's "Recycling Plus!" garbage program, aimed at reducing waste. BFI, one of the state's largest garbage haulers, bid on the $200 million Recycling Plus! package in 1992, but the council voted 7-4 to reject BFI's bid and accept another one. Beall, Leiderman's boss, was one of those who opposed cutting BFI out of the deal. At BFI, Leiderman says, she administered some of the company's pre-existing contracts with the city. Now, as a government affairs specialist for Kaiser, she deals primarily with state and federal agencies.

Dean Munro
Chief of staff to Mayor Tom McEnery, 1983-1990

New Job: Executive director, San Jose Sports Authority, 1990-present

Salary Bump: In 1988, Munro had a reported salary of $54,000. Nearly a decade later, Munro estimates his salary at approximately $95,000.

How He Got Hired: Munro, who worked on the campaign to make the arena a reality, took an extended leave of absence from McEnery's office to attract a hockey team to San Jose. With the mayor exiting public office, Munro's boss pushed to create a brand-new city-subsidized entity, the Sports Authority, that would bring professional and marquee amateur sporting events to San Jose. When the time came to hire somebody to run the show, Munro was the only one interviewed. When first hired, Munro actually was in charge of managing both the arena authority and the sports authority. But in 1993 he quit the arena post, and the city split the two jobs, leaving Munro at the helm of the sports authority. Since landing the job, Munro has successfully lured the NCAA regional basketball tournament and the illustrious NHL All-Star game to San Jose. He supervises four employees and oversees a $575,000 annual budget.

Jackie Rose
Aide to Councilman Joe Head, 1988-93

New Job: Director of marketing and public affairs for Bay 101 card club, 1993-present.

Salary Bump: Unknown, though she told the Mercury News at the time of her departure that Bay 101's offer was "too good to refuse."

How She Hot Hired: Rose says that Bay 101 co-owner Jeff Bumb, a developer, sought her out. As an aide to Head, Rose dealt with land-use issues, among other things. Her boss voted to approve Bumb's request to rezone and expand the card club. However, Rose says that although she knew Bumb, she had only very marginal dealings with him as an aide. Perhaps it was simply coincidence that Bumb, a contributor to practically all San Jose politicians' campaigns, hired Rose weeks after the City Council approved his controversial Cerro Plata project. Rose argues that Bumb sought her out because her long years as an activist gave her credibility in the community--an important asset for someone leading marketing efforts for such a controversial business. Before working at City Hall, Rose co-owned and operated Tony Rose Studios, a small retail photo service on Fountain Alley.

Gary Serda
Aide to Councilwoman Blanca Alvarado

New Jobs: President, San Jose Development Corp. in 1990. Now works for Sun Microsystems in its worldwide corporate affairs division.

Salary Bump: Unknown.

How He Got Hired: As an aide, Serda specialized in economic development, employment and small-business issues. San Jose Development Corp. received taxpayer money during Alvarado's tenure to administer a revolving loan program for small businesses in her East Side district. As was the case with another Alvarado aide, Pete Carrillo, the council granted Serda an exception to the existing revolving-door policy after six whole minutes of debate.

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From the January 29-February 4, 1998 issue of Metro.

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