Carolene Marks, Meet Gayle Bishop
S.F. supervisorial candidate Carolene Marks, wife of retiring state Sen. Milton Marks, let taxpayers pay for personal and campaign-related calls she placed on her husband's state-issued cellular telephone, three of his staffers say.
Moreover, they say, Carolene Marks has made liberal use of Sen. Marks' staff-driven official car and has pressured Senate aides to assist her supervisorial campaign. "She is using her husband's office as a vehicle to run for supervisor," one of the staffers said.
All three aides spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they feared reprisals if their identities were disclosed. Billing summaries released by the Senate Rules Committee appear to lend credence to the aides' accusations about the cellular phone. They show a marked increase in charges early in 1996 as Carolene Marks prepared to announce her candidacy, with monthly billings running at nearly triple the precampaign rate.
Carolene Marks, who agreed to a face-to-face interview about the matter, said, "There is no substance [to the allegations]. It's wrong," She added: "Nobody is violating anything. We have been in the field a long time. We are extremely ethical people." Sen. Marks declined to be interviewed.
Trying to turn the tables on the accusers, Elizabeth Colton, Carolene Marks' campaign manager, said the allegations smacked of sexism. Because Carolene Marks is a "strong woman," said Colton, she's being pilloried unfairly for having ruffled the feathers of staffers while tending to the senator's business.
If the charges are borne out, however, they are more than mere sniping. State law governing misappropriation of state funds by government officials and their family members carries a punishment of up to four years in prison and a ban on holding elective office. Contra Costa County Supervisor Gayle Bishop was indicted under that law earlier this year.
According to the three Marks staffers:
* A cellular telephone ordered from the state Senate in 1994 for Sen. Marks' use on the road was taken over by Carolene Marks and used to make personal and campaign-related calls, such as discussions of Carolene Marks' precinct organization efforts. The phone was returned to the glove box of the senator's official car late last month -- after newspaper reporters made inquiries about its use.
(The billing summary from the Rules Committee, obtained by The Grid, shows cell phone charges shot up this year as Carolene Marks readied her bid for office: $2,226.14 during the first eight months of 1996, compared to $1,489.54 for the preceding 16 months. The Rules Committee, citing an exemption to the California Public Records Act, refused to release more detailed records showing numbers to which telephone calls were placed.)
* At least one Sen. Marks staffer who had not made a campaign contribution to Carolene Marks was called by her and asked to do so. Later, another Sen. Marks aide was confronted by Carolene Marks about not doing enough volunteer work on her campaign. Meanwhile, at least one aide on the payroll of Sen. Marks' S.F. district office was spending much of the business day "volunteering" for the senator's wife.
* Sen. Marks' official state car, driven by his staffers, was used to transport Carolene Marks to and from her campaign-related appointments, meetings, and events.
John Rothman, the senator's S.F. district coordinator, disputed the allegations. "In my judgment, we have maintained that separation [that the law requires]," he said. All full-time aides in Sen. Marks' S.F. office met their legal obligation of working at least 40 hours a week on office matters, he insisted. And, he said, Carolene Marks is not precluded from riding in the senator's state car, provided she is accompanied by her husband.
Rothman said he has no knowledge of the use of the cellular phone, because it is never kept at the S.F. district office.
This is not the first time that the blurring of lines between Carolene Marks' candidacy and Sen. Marks' office has drawn attention.
In late spring, the Rules Committee notified the senator's staff that it could no longer mail constituent letters on the senator's letterhead -- with postage paid by the state -- if those letters made reference to his wife, or contained hand-written notes from her.
Susie's New Banshees
Cleaning house in advance of construction for the new Giants ballpark and Mission Bay housing and commercial development, the Port of San Francisco moved quietly last month to evict a growing brigade of homeless people who have bedded down over the years in campers and other vehicles along Terry Francois Boulevard. The Port posted signs along the waterfront byway, south of the Lefty O'Doul Bridge and east of Third Street, banning parking from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m.
It worked -- that is, for businesses that share the strip of asphalt with the Port. "We're loving life now," said Perry Carrubba, owner of Christy Truck Lines. Carrubba said the encampment was strewn with litter, stank of urine, and hosted a rising tide of drug dealing and other illicit activities.
But Carrubba's gain is a loss to yuppie clothier and liberal pol Susie Tompkins.
Predictably, many of the exiled 100 or so Roadwarrior-chic vehicles rolled around the corner onto the east side of Illinois Street -- smack dab in front of Tompkins' Esprit outlet. One can only wonder how this Democratic Party patron will deal with the unwashed masses living on her front stoop.