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[whitespace] Chris Nolan Chris Cross: Ex-'Mercury News' columnist Chris Nolan says she's got a legtimate pay discrimination complaint against her former employer.

Public Eye

Gender Bender

IT'S BEEN NEARLY TWO YEARS since Mercury News execs suspended and demoted former tech-gossip columnist Chris Nolan. She violated the paper's ethics policy, they contended, by using an insider contact to make a modest profit on a stock trade. And even though Nolan packed her notepads and laptop a long time ago, her legal fight against her former employer rages on. And things are starting to get juicy. ... U.S. District Court Judge Ronald M. Whyte recently ordered Merc HR guardians to disclose the salaries of other Merc columnists to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which has been demanding the info for more than a year. EEOC investigators are now poring through the pay stubs to see if Nolan's contention that male columnists make more money than their female counterparts has any merit. Nolan, who's now syndicated in Wired and the New York Post, suggests that the Merc's stonewalling suggests she's got a legitimate complaint of gender bias. "I couldn't understand how I could be accused of having lousy ethics," she clucks, "when they were breaking the law." ... Whyte also ordered the paper to hand over personnel and pay records for Nolan's former supervisors, Pete Hillan and Bert Robinson. Nolan contends that Hillan and Robinson got off comparatively unscathed, even though she informed them about the stock deal beforehand and they didn't voice objections. ... Over at 750 Ridder Park Drive, the imbroglio "is the buzz around the office," claims one Merc vet. For those just waiting on pens and needles to find out how much scribblers Leigh Weimers and Joe Rodriguez make, Eye hates to disappoint, but that info may not be forthcoming anytime soon. Alas, the EEOC keeps its investigative files closed to the public, unless of course they end up in a court file. ... While the feds do their bit, the Newspaper Guild does its thing. The union is representing Nolan in her grievance against the Merc at a May 21 arbitration hearing. A union spokesman says that the arbitrator could award Nolan lost backpay and even offer to reinstate her at the paper. By the by, Nolan and the union have asked Merc higher-ups to disclose their stock holdings to make sure they have no conflicts of interest.

B-Hive Buzz

It's been kept very hush-hush until now, but a simmering war of words between Oakland and San Jose cops over the past few months has finally boiled to the surface. Details are sketchy, but SJ Police Chief Bill Lansdowne confirms that the tension began on the night of Dec. 30 when a crew of eight out-of-towners, including a few off-duty Oakland cops, got into a heated exchange with a San Jose officer and a SJSU flatfoot outside the B-Hive nightclub on South First Street. ... According to Lansdowne, the San Jose cops insisted that the East Bay brigade move their limo that was illegally parked in a red zone. The limo crew, however, wanted to stay put and asked San Jose's finest for what Lansdowne described as "professional courtesy." The San Jose cops apparently stuck to their guns, so to speak, and the East Bay contingent ultimately moved their vehicle. ... After the incident, the chief says, insulted Oakland officers filed a complaint against the SJ cop for being rude and using profanity. "[The Oakland officers] felt," Lansdowne reveals, "that they were treated unfairly." ... An internal affairs investigation--concluded last month--did not sustain the complaint, Mr. Bill tells Eye. At least one Oakland cop involved, department public info officer George Phillips, is miffed with how San Jose internal affairs sleuths handled the complaint. "I'm concerned," Phillips huffs, "with the effectiveness of the [complaint] process." Unfortunately, Phillips would not elaborate or talk in any detail about what happened outside the Bee Hive. "I don't see any value in airing this," he sniffs. ... By the by, both Lansdowne and Phillips say that the complaint did not accuse the San Jose cops of racism, just unprofessionalism.

Charles in Charge

While the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office insists convict Buddy Nickerson is guilty of a 1984 murder of a San Jose crank dealer (see "Buddy and the System," Feb, 15, 2001), one of its star prosecutors apparently doesn't agree. Under order from a federal judge, Deputy District Attorney Charles Constantinides was recently deposed under oath by defense lawyers who asked him about his views of the case. In a past life, Constantinides toiled as a criminal defense attorney. One of his clients happened to be the notorious Murray Lodge, charged in the same spate of killings as Nickerson. Constantinides eventually begged off the case and a couple of years later was hired by District Attorney George Kennedy. ... Now Nickerson's attorneys, Ed Sousa and Gerald Schwartzbach, think they can use his help in their appeal of Nickerson's conviction. Court records suggest that early in the case, Constantinides believed Nickerson was innocent. For months, Constantinides refused to talk to Sousa or Schwartzbach citing attorney-client privilege. But the two barristers persuaded Lodge, now serving a life sentence in Mule Creek State Prison, to give the go-ahead for him to talk. ... "He [Constantinides] testified at the deposition," Sousa recalls, "that he believed and continues to believe that Nickerson had nothing to do with it." ... Constantinides, busy handling the prosecution of cardroom loan sharks, refuses to add anything else to what was the lengthiest trial in the county's history, not to mention his conflicting loyalties. "I feel kind of caught in the middle of all this," he sighs.

Standing Pat

Ask anyone who's seen the polling cross-tabs, San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales is not as popular as he used to be with the ladies--those likely to vote, that is. Gonzo-haters on the left have been pushing for a formidable female challenger. But both labor diva Amy Dean and Rep. Zoe Lofgren--arguably the city's two most prominent pols without Y chromosomes--have punctured early trial balloons. ... To Gonzo's right, as Eye reported last week, mayor eternal Tom McEnery has been hunting for a likeminded contender with an affinity for Fallon objects. But the smart money says that one of McEnery's closest pals, Councilwoman Pat Dando, won't take on Gonzales for a second time next year. ... Despite their contentious campaign fight in 1998, Gonzales and Dando have since worked as allies more often than as adversaries (like their mutual opposition to Calpine's proposed power plant in Coyote Valley). Dando isn't exactly using the press to take potshots at her would-be opponent. In fact, she tells Eye, "I think he's done a good job." She adds that it would be difficult to defeat an incumbent mayor, though she hasn't gone so far as to tell her supporters she won't give it a try. "I'm in a listening mode," she says. ... A final note to all those doubters out there: Mayor Ron tells Eye that he is 100 percent sure he will be running for re-election.

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From the April 19-25, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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