Prosecutor for Hire
Richard Iglehart, S.F.'s widely praised new second-in-command at the District Attorney's Office, wasn't on the job a month before encountering the first turd generated by his predecessor, David J. Millstein.
Millstein, who held the No. 2 job for rookie DA Terence Hallinan for seven months, enjoyed enormous sway with his boss. So enamored was Hallinan with Millstein, he allowed his pal (and personal lawyer) to maintain a private civil law practice on the side at the same time as he collected a $123,000 annual salary as chief assistant district attorney. Other counties outlaw such arrangements to avoid the potential conflicts of interest for a lawyer wielding the authority of criminal prosecutor while simultaneously taking on business clients. Similarly, state deputy attorneys general are expressly prohibited from moonlighting. Nevertheless, Hallinan steadfastly defended Millstein's deal. And before leaving office last month, Millstein dismissed the issue as needless hand-wringing (see "The DA's Svengali," Sept. 4). "People are not going to come to my firm because I am chief assistant DA," he declared.
Fact is, that was precisely the reason that Iglehart was forced to wield his pooper-scooper so soon after coming on board.
On Dec. 18, San Francisco Chronicle columnists Phil Matier and Andy Ross reported that since leaving office Millstein had been hired by subcontractors allied with a company, ABB Diamler-Benz Transportation Inc., which was trying to block the awarding of a $137 million airport construction contract to its competitor, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. In the column, Hallinan is quoted acknowledging that he ordered a criminal investigation into Mitsubishi's winning bid -- at the request of Millstein; he said his former No. 2 raised allegations of fraud at a Dec. 12 fund-raiser for the DA.
As it turns out, however, Hallinan actually received a written referral from Millstein requesting the criminal probe three days earlier, on Dec. 9, according to a DA's Office staffer.
Millstein's last day on the DA's payroll was Dec. 2, according to the Controller's Office, which raises the question of whether the subcontractors actually retained Millstein before he left public office. That's grist for the city's Ethics Commission and the State Bar.
And the smarmy Millstein-Hallinan influence game doesn't end there. Consider: The East Bay private investigator hired by Mitsubishi foes weeks ago to dig for dirt on the company, Nick Montano, has a long-standing business relationship with Millstein's law firm -- one that predates Hallinan's election, and which carried through Millstein's tenure as Hallinan's chief assistant.
The dots almost connect themselves. But, perhaps leaving nothing to chance, Montano was a sponsor of Hallinan's Dec. 12 fund-raiser where, recall, Millstein broached the subject of a criminal probe of Mitsubishi -- as the DA has acknowledged.
What's wrong with this picture? Plenty. Not the least of which is the fact that had there been anything to the allegations of fraud against Mitsubishi, DA Hallinan was too compromised to legally bring such a case.
Enter Iglehart, a former top aide to the state Assembly Public Safety Committee and top assistant to past California Attorney General John Van de Kamp and retired Alameda County District Attorney Jack Meehan.
DA spokesman John Shanley says Iglehart reviewed the Millstein referral Dec. 19 and called off the dogs: "Chief Assistant Iglehart determined it was not a criminal matter."
Which is good news for Hallinan. It seems he's finally hired somebody equipped to save him from himself.
Arresting South Park Development
On Clara Street (an alley between Fifth, Sixth, Folsom and Harrison streets) artists live cheek by jowl with a toxic waste handler, a cab company, and a towing operation.
This chaotic urban strip could be the next important battleground of S.F.'s residential development wars. The fight would pit a prominent slow-growth attorney who represents Clara Street residents, Sue Hestor, against South Park architect Toby Levy, who has development designs on the alleyway.
Levy has proposed an eight-unit, two-story "live-work" project for Clara Street. Neighbors complain the project, which will cover close to 100 percent of two lots, means less sunlight, more claustrophobia. Plus, they say, the building's weight and the ground's instability don't offer much quake resistance. Hestor says SOMA denizens are objecting to the new waves of housing development that have hit the area: stylish loft residences whose developers call them "live-work" spaces so that they can work under a commercial zoning label that allows greater occupant density.
Ironically, the architect for the project, Levy, is a neighborhood activist in her own right. She co-chairs the South Park Improvement Association, which opposed the China Basin ballpark because of the increased motorist traffic confronting South Park's cappuccino capitalists. And yet, Levy says opponents' arguments about her Clara Street project are misplaced. Sure, she says, the mini loft-boom is a response to demand for living space -- not for work space. But, Levy asks, so what? "If there are loopholes that's an issue for the Planning Commission to take up."
To Levy's mind, the spate of loft construction is legit and rational. She notes that SOMA lots are half the cost of property in most S.F. residential quarters.
No shock then that at least 10 to 15 live-work projects have gone up in the past year in SOMA. And that's why Hestor vows to make the Clara Street project a test case to obtain more stringent land-use rules in SOMA.
Says Hestor: "The Planning Commission is going to hear from us."
Levy, apparently, thinks that's just fine.
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