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[whitespace] Inquiring Minds

Outgoing Sheriff Chuck Gillingham tells Eye there will be an inquiry into allegations that Assistant Sheriff Laurie Smith broke department rules by removing evidence from a 1992 internal affairs investigation of her. He's been under pressure for the past month from the Deputy Sheriffs' Association and good-government types to do so. Smith, who is running for Gillingham's job, is pushing for an independent investigation by the attorney general's office, her campaign manager, Gordon Reynolds, reveals. (Gordy, by the way, is also managing Gillingham's City Council campaign against Linda LeZotte.) Smith apparently is leery of an inside investigation being skewed by her political foes in the department, such as DSA prez Don Zies, formerly the head of the Internal Affairs Unit. Gillingham says he hasn't decided whether he'll arrange for an inside or outside job. ... Judging from the potentially damaging content of an internal 1992 memo, Smith might not be the only one in hot water. The memo, written by Internal Affairs office secretary Pat Verzosa, suggests that Gillingham not only knew that Smith took tape recordings from an investigator's desk, but may have even given her the go-ahead to retrieve the tapes. "[Smith] said the sheriff said it was OK to give her the tape," Verzosa wrote. "She went straight to the sheriff ... and told him, 'I've got the tapes.' ... Laurie then went to her office and closed her door. The sheriff knocked on her door and went in her office." Not exactly Watergate, but the episode does have a conspiratorial aura about it. The sheriff refused to comment, saying he's prohibited from talking about Internal Affairs cases.

LeZotte's camp is watching with interest to see how Tape-gate unfolds. ... One piece of good news for Chuckles this week: The Republican lawman picked up the endorsement of retired Democratic state Sen. Al Alquist. The sheriff was spotted with Alquist during a photo shoot at the Alfred E. Alquist Building downtown. Look for the photos to appear in future Gillingham campaign pieces. Al's wife, Assemblywoman Elaine Alquist, is sticking to the party line and backing LeZotte.

Mixed Messages

Speaking of Gillingham, the goodly sheriff has been known on occasion to waffle. Earlier this year, he told candidates in the sheriff's race that he wasn't going to endorse anybody in the primary. Then candidate Tom Sing held a press conference boasting that Gillingham was endorsing him. When reporters tried to confirm Sing's claim, Gillingham hightailed it out of town. Well, it looks like Chuckles is up to his old tricks again. State Senate candidate Mike Sweeney sent out a press release last week claiming a bounty of law enforcement endorsements, including Gillingham's. But Sweeney's opponent, Assemblywoman Liz Figueroa, claims she has the sheriff's support. Sweeney and his cohorts tried unsuccessfully for days to contact Gillingham to clarify the situation. They left phone messages, sent letters. Still no luck. Fortunately, Eye has solved the mystery: Gillingham proclaims he is endorsing both candidates. Michael Miller, Sweeney's campaign manager, says Gillingham previously assured Sweeney he was only endorsing him. "All our conversations with him indicate he's endorsing Mike," Miller sighs. Liz Fenton, Figueroa's right-arm gal, reports likewise that just a couple of weeks ago Gillingham assured Figueroa she had his sole endorsement.

Party Rivals

While we're on the subject of the Figueroa and Sweeney race, insiders have long predicted that the battle between the two ambitious Democrats would turn into a loogie fest. The phlegm is definitely starting to percolate. Feelings were wounded early on when Sacramento political consultant Richie Ross, who has worked for both candidates in the past, snubbed Figueroa and signed on to handle Sweeney's campaign. Figueroa then went out and recruited strategist Gale Kaufman, a former Willie Brown aide who's no stranger to political fisticuffs. ... While Sweeney is building himself up as a man of the people, he's tearing down Figueroa as a limousine liberal. Example: His handlers boast that the Hayward assemblyman refused a recent pay raise and still putters around in a '94 Ford Taurus, while Figueroa showed up for the current legislative session in a brand-new taxpayer-subsidized red Mustang convertible. "If that's the best they got, then godspeed," Kaufman huffs. "Give me a break. So he kept his Ford Taurus. He's boring." No matter what car they lease, all state lawmakers get a $400-a-month allowance. Kaufman swiftly criticized Sweeney for sending a "propaganda" piece to district voters at taxpayer expense touting his stance on education. Departing Sen. Bill Lockyer has told both candidates that he's not going to take sides in the race. He might at least do the gentlemanly thing and offer them handkerchiefs.

More Mistaken Identity

Wandering vet Andy Diaz seems a tad confused as to what political office he wants to occupy. Technically, he signed up this year to challenge City Councilman George Shirakawa Jr. But from the looks of his campaign signs that have popped up around town, Diaz is trying to save some cash by using old signs he had lying around the garage from when he ran for other offices. Some Diaz signs near the Rose Garden say "Diaz: Political Rebel for Mayor" and "Diaz for Sheriff." The latter is especially confusing, since Ruben Diaz is running for sheriff this year. Ruben's campaign manager, Ed Vasquez, assures Eye that all of his client's campaign signs will contain his first name in order to distinguish him from the other Diaz. ... Vasquez claims he's more concerned about sheriff candidate Jose Salcido violating local regulations by hanging campaign signs from public utility poles. "For a man running to enforce the law," Vasquez sniffs, "he should look at the signage he's putting up." Vic Ajlouny, Salcido's political consultant, acknowledges that a few "overenthusiastic" volunteers could have hung the signs, though it's nothing the campaign authorized. "The Diaz people obviously don't know what it is to deal with enthusiastic volunteers," Ajlouny retorts.

Know Thy Enemy

Being a San Jose councilmember is not a glamorous job. Even the mayor here doesn't get a lot of TV time. So Eye can understand if most voters don't recognize their City Council representative. But shouldn't campaign workers recognize their enemy? This past weekend downtown Councilmember David Pandori was going door-to-door campaigning for his favored successor, federal prosecutor Tony West, when he spotted a couple of volunteers precinct-walking for West's opponent, Cindy Chavez. Pandori decided to engage them in conversation. After a few minutes of bad-mouthing Chavez, Pandori asked, "Do you know who I am?" Of course they did. "Sure, you're Tony West." West, by the way, is African American. Pandori is not.

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From the April 23-29, 1998 issue of Metro.

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