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Shades of Green: With his new, improved $131,560 salary, Sheriff Chuck Gillingham ponders what color uniforms his officers should wear.

Off Color

For taking over operation of the county jails this year, Sheriff Chuck Gillingham got a 24 percent raise, jacking up his annual salary to $131,560. And for that money, the sheriff is grappling with such serious issues as uniform uniformity. The sheriff apparently wants everyone to wear green and tan uniforms, the hues now sported by sworn deputy sheriffs. Right now, the county's 750 to 800 jail guards wear blue uniforms. Buying the extra green uniforms will cost at least $500,000, sources tell Eye. Apparently, Department of Corrections director Daniel Vasquez is balking at the wholesale fashion extravaganza. Moles say that Vasquez thinks the county has better things to spend taxpayer money on than new uniforms. The color scheme is apparently backed by the jail guards' union, who supported Gillingham during the 1994 campaign. The Deputy Sheriffs' Association, meanwhile, is fussing over 11 sheriff's sergeants who are working in the DOC in blue uniforms. "We felt that those sheriff's sergeants should be wearing the green and tan uniforms," reveals DSA treasurer Dennis Knight. ... Add another name to the list of possible contenders for Gillingham's job: Jose Salcido. Unlike other potential candidates--Deputy Sheriff Ruben Diaz and SJ Police Chief Lou Cobarruviaz--Salcido says he'll run even if Gillingham opts for reelection. That's probably because Salcido is vice president of the DSA, the union that hates Gillingham. Though Salcido hasn't made up his mind, the part-time SJSU grad student would make a better candidate than the DSA's previous offering, Armand Tiano. Eye-watchers may fondly recall that Tiano's campaign took a nose-dive when METRO printed a photo of him posing with a topless stripper on his Harley in front of the Pink Poodle.

Double Agent

Santa Clara's brash political operative, James Rowen, always seems to be near conflict of some sort. First, there were those nasty allegations about his overzealous effort to dig up dirt on neighbor and former councilwoman Keri Procunier. Now, good-government types like Berkley Driessel think Rowen's status as a member of the Civil Service Commission make his private consulting services too appealing to clients who have a dispute with the city. At the least, some say, Rowen's double-agent status poses a conflict of interest under the city's ethics policy. ... Last month Rowen helped persuade the council to grant one of his clients, Korean Spring BBQ Restaurant, a special zoning permit to serve liquor. Rowen argues that he's merely following in the footsteps of other city commissioners like Planning Commissioner Byron Fleck, an attorney who represented community groups who wanted Portuguese programming as part of the basic cable service last year. Then there's Historic Landmarks Commissioner Karen Hardy, president of Santa Clarans for Political Integrity and Ethics, a group that pushed the council to censure Councilman Jim Arno. "I would have to say that I followed what I understood to be a normal practice," Rowen explains. But there's a key difference: Hardy and Fleck didn't get paid for their services, while Rowen did. Queen Ethics, a.k.a. Mayor Judy Nadler, cautiously reveals that she'd support an inquiry into whether Rowen violated the ethics policy, and Eye hears the city is looking into the matter. If the city finds he has a conflict, Rowen says he'd resign from the commission.

Some Kind of Help ...

It was going to be a slam-dunk human interest story. Last summer Merc scribe Jim Trotter wrote a column about an awards ceremony where 21 low-income students living in public housing received $600 scholarships to continue their education. One of the students mentioned in the story was Ebony Lubarsky. Now Lubarsky is suing the Mercury News and the Santa Clara County Housing Authority for $1 million. The suit alleges the story "ruined" Lubarsky's life; that she was so upset and stigmatized by being identified as a welfare recipient she withdrew from college and refused to pick up the scholarship check. Housing authority head John Burns was named in the suit because agency officials gave Trotter information from Lubarsky's application file without her consent. Lubarsky's case against the Merc was thrown out, but her case against the housing authority may go to trial. "Newspapers have certain First Amendment immunities," laments David Huskey, a lawyer defending the county. "We are investigating whether they apply to us as well." In the meantime, Trotter can't believe the "bright" he wrote about the housing authority may end up costing it millions. "It was so weird. I was basically trying to do them a favor."

Conspiracy Theory: Sunnyvale's ex-mayor Frances Rowe hunts down corruption in city hall.

Windmill Chasing

So, Frances Rowe won't be chasing one windmill this year: elected office. There had been loose talk that the ousted ex-Sunnyvale mayor would give public life another stab, but, alas, Franny's committed to being an outsider now. "I am not going away," Rowe said. "I am going to clean up city hall if I have to die trying." Of course, city hall needs a bit of tidying up after all the mud that was slung around there during Rowe's term. Earlier this year, her old colleagues told her to buzz off with her allegations that Mayor Stan Kawczynski forced Union Bank to do business with the city or lose city investments. ... With her free time, Rowe plans to dig up dirt on her former co-workers and "try and get some answers." Rowe has spent the last few weeks circulating petitions near the office of District Attorney George Kennedy because she believes the council and staff are involved in illegal activities. Rowe is so convinced that the city is corrupt (and out to get her), she's been hiring lawyers, photocopying city documents and holding press conferences. "I have them on the run now," she declares. "They are scared. They are going to try and shut me up, but I am stubborn and they can't. In the end everyone will know the truth about what is going on." ... Acquaintances psychoanalyze Rowe as an egomaniac trying to stay in the spotlight at others' expense. Others say she's just plain wacky. Asked about Rowe and her theories, city staff could only "hmmm" and "haaa" about the subject, concluding "nothing Fran does surprises us anymore."

Mall Rats

Milpitas Vice Mayor Bob Livengood was first elected in 1974, when he was 20, so if career-ending dirt could be found in Livengood's past, it probably would have been uncovered already. Yet, those crazy Milpitians are working to make a case to recall the city's perennial politician. Mayor Henry Manayan, who has had a tense relationship with Livengood since coming aboard last year, confirms that recall proponents approached some of Manayan's supporters to join the cause. Eye gathers that the Livengood-riddance faction has this: allegations of skirt-chasing made by a former city employee, enduring questions about Livengood's departure from the Fremont PD, and a couple of campaign contributions from companies with city contracts. Supe Pete McHugh, former mayor of Mall Town, says he's also heard recall rumblings, but doesn't make much of them. "I'd imagine that over time, all of us in public office manage to alienate some folks."

Last Story

Scott Smith wouldn't call it a coincidence--after all, he wrote a book by that title about his struggle with alcoholism. That struggle ended Monday evening, when Campbell police found the former San Jose Business Journal editor dead in his Campbell residence from a coronary artery occlusion. The newsman, 57, returned to the area last year after leaving the Journal seven years ago to consult and write a column on subjects such as "Ruminations on waiting in line at the bank," or the need for a pedestrian mall in downtown San Jose. During the '80s, the curmudgeonly editor was a critic of downtown redevelopment, city politicos, and a host of others, but had mellowed with age. ... "You know, it's so weird. I just had a three-hour conversation about him yesterday," sighed Don Waier, who was publisher at the BJ when Smith, a founding editor at the paper, returned in the late '80s. Eye contacted Waier in Milwaukee, where he's now GM of an alternative weekly. "Scott Smith was one of those ink-in-his-veins newsmen. He had real enthusiasm for the work. He certainly was one of my mentors," said Lorraine Gengo, who was the Business Journal's managing editor under Smith, and later an editor at METRO. "He faced his demons with a lot of courage. I can't help feeling that he's gone to a better place."

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From the August 21-27, 1997 issue of Metro.

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