Friday, January 10, 2014

Meet the Chris Christie of San Francisco's City Hall

As I've watched the scandal of a New Jersey politician who used the power of his office to make life miserable for an opponent (and a whole lotta of other people in the process), I can't help but find vicarious satisfaction in what is happening back in my home state to one bullying politician.

Governor Chris Christie is embroiled in a widening probe and controversy about his staff (and maybe himself) abusing their control over public agencies and appointed officials, in September when the mayor of Fort Lee didn't endorse his reelection campaign and the story won't go away.

Who is the Chris Christie of San Francisco's City Hall? Here's my answer.

On Friday, October 26, 2012, very late in the afternoon, I snapped a photo of the District 8 Supervisor at a sink in the second floor men's room at City Hall and when Monday, October 29, rolled around the next business day, he launched a vendetta against me and the first stop was Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi's office. Let me point out that the Supervisor votes on the sheriff's budget, a fact to bear in mind in this tale.

Public documents from the sheriff's office reveal that at 11:15 am on October 29, deputy Glisson was dispatched to the Supervisor's office to take a complaint from him and that by 12:30 pm senior deputy DeJesus had approved the complaint. On October 30 the sheriff's chief of staff sent an email copied to three colleagues, Rohan Lane, Mark Nicco and Charles Fiewellen authorizing release of the City Hall surveillance tape outside the men's room on the day of the incident.

Sheriff's senior deputy V. Chew was assigned to investigate further and question me, so he showed up that week at my home and began to leave vmail messages on my partner's home phone.During November 2012, I was interrogated at the sheriff's satellite office at 25 Van Ness Avenue by Chew and an associate, with my lawyer Derek St Pierre present. The sheriff then forwarded the findings to the District Attorney George Gascon and an arrest warrant was soon issued.

On November 29, I turned myself in to the sheriff down at the county jail, with my lawyer and bailbondswoman present. Bail was set at $25,000.

After being released, several months of court appearances, that negatively impacted my health as a longterm AIDS survivor, began. At every court appearance except one, sitting the back of the court room with a smile on his face was senior deputy Chew.

The best word to describe this legal hassle put in motion by the Supervisor to use the criminal justice system to grind me down is vendetta. Do you really think an average citizen, if I had snapped his photo in a public rest room, would have received such attention from the sheriff and district attorney? Nope, only when the victim is an ambitious politician with an offended ego the size of Chris Christie can such an abuse of power occur.

But this is not the only time the Supervisor has shown his Christie-like tendencies. Over the past three years, the Supervisor has thwarted every transparent effort to have basic public discussions and meetings about the control of the rainbow flag at Harvey Milk Plaza, which is public property but you'd never know that from the Supervisor and his friends at the Merchants of Upper Market Castro.

In October 2011, the out lesbian City Administrator Amy Brown, whose department oversees the Department of Public Works and is the agency with legal control over the entire plaza, agreed in emails to meet with myself and fellow free-the-flag activists. There was to be a follow up meeting about the matter after Bill Wilson and I had met with Brown at City Hall, requesting assistance in staging a public hearing in the Castro.

However, the Supervisor got wind of us trying to petition our local government over a grievance regarding public property and Brown soon cancelled the scheduled meetings. A public records request for her emails didn't produce records showing any communication with the Supervisor. But I suspect that as a former staff attorney in the City Attorney's office, an office well-known for advising City Hall folks how to evade sunshine statutes and avoid leaving paper trails and email evidence, the Supervisor conveyed his directions to Brown verbally or from a non-City email address of Brown's.

The flag issue came up at the February 2, 2012, Human Rights Commission meeting and the minutes offer shocking evidence of the Supervisor engaging in Christie-like bullying:

HRC Executive Director Theresa Sparks: I’ll tell you the issue ... specific to Supervisor [redacted] and this has happened on other issues ... the issue about the flag. We were involved because a complaint was filed ... we got involved and we continued to mediate it; (Michael) Petralis continued to want to have a public meeting. Director Sparks talked to [D8 Supervisor] and suggested that maybe we would (hold a meeting); she said, “[D8 Supervisor] went crazy...and he does not want a public meeting. He ... called me and (Commissioner) Pappas the night that it was suggested at the commission.” He said, “I don’t care what you do,” “don’t have it” and that this is “my territory; this is my neighborhood” ... “stay out.” Commissioner Mavis asks why this “wasn’t communicated to us?” Director states she told the Chair ... (bolding added.)

From the HRC's February 28 meeting, the minutes reflect even more concern among the commissioners about the meddling and possible funding threat made by the Supervisor:

Commissioner Todd Mavis: Furthermore, it was his understanding from this hearing on February 2, 2013, that the Director had said that Supervisor [redacted] pointed out that if we were to hold a hearing on this issue, there might be a reduction in our funding or budget, so therefore he would like to reflect in the minutes that these issues are relevant and thinks it would be important to note the details accurately. Director Sparks said we can go back to listen to exactly what was said and we would be happy to note those details more accurately.  (bolding added)

One might think the public record of the HRC and the problems they faced from the Supervisor would have been news, but nope, no media outlet in town bothered to report on those problems or his abuse of power via the sheriff and district attorney. I'm convinced there are many other examples that don't involve me in any way that show the Supervisor engaging in other forms of Chris Christie-like bullying of opponents, and using his perch at City Hall to exact vendettas.

The District 8 Supervisor is the Chris Christie of San Francisco's City Hall.

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