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Given S.F.'s penchant for small-town politics, it's not surprising that a little-known pamphleteer has caused a minor political crisis in three city departments. The Mayor's Office, the Juvenile Probation Department, and the City Attorney's Office have been thrown into a tizzy over Micheal Fuller, the director of the Juvenile Justice Commission from 1989 to 1993, who has now been offered a job as a line probation officer.
The consternation stems from Fuller's reputation for contentiousness and intimidation. He was fired three years ago for engaging in what the Superior Court found to be inappropriate behavior, including allegedly banging on the door of then-Chief Juvenile Probation Officer Fred Jordan and screaming, "I'm going to get you!" Fuller denies the charge -- though he admits to calling one youth advocate a "stupid bitch."
The mayor is in an unusual bind because the job was offered by Rudy Smith, Willie Brown's appointee as chief probation officer in charge of the Youth Guidance Center, S.F.'s Juvenile Hall. And it isn't clear yet whether the job offer, which Fuller has accepted, can be withdrawn.
Since his departure, Fuller has become identified as the presumed author of the Roy A. Token Underground Newsletter, an unhinged, but at times insightful and well-written, broadside across the bow of liberals who want to place youthful offenders in nonprofit community agencies. The newsletter's author goes by the nom de plume Flammonde B. Simple.
Fuller's critics say they're not afraid of his ideas -- just of him. "I fear for my personal safety," says a high-ranking city official, who demanded anonymity.
Dan MacAllair, the associate director of the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, a nonprofit advocate of alternatives to incarceration, is one of the few critics to go on the record. "Why is the department offering a job to a man who clearly has the reputation of being unstable?" MacAllair asks. "This guy is going to be working with kids."
One of the incidents cited in the civil service hearing that led to his firing had Fuller leaping up from a table and charging at Fred Jordan, stopping only a few feet away. Fuller also denies this incident.
Notwithstanding the accused's refutations, when word got out that Fuller had been offered the job, the phones lit up across the juvenile justice system. And Kimiko Burton, the director of the Mayor's Criminal Justice Council, set herself in motion.
Burton is a no-nonsense pol, the daughter of state Sen. John Burton and just as salty as the old liberal cuss. She says she called the mayor and let him know about Fuller's volatility. "I became concerned and called the mayor, and the mayor became very concerned about [Fuller] becoming a city employee," Burton said in an interview. "I've seen him in action, and he is a very volatile person."
The mayor had Burton call Smith and instruct him to revisit the idea of hiring Fuller. It's still unclear whether Smith knew about Fuller's history before he offered the job. Some sources insist that Smith knew beforehand. If so, it's hard not to imagine the value of his stock with the mayor plummeting.
In an interview, Smith blamed the snafu on his own inexperience. "But that's not a cop-out," he stressed. He added that he's investigating the assertions by Fuller's critics. If he finds credible evidence of bad behavior, Smith says he will withdraw the offer to Fuller. "I am just trying to get the department to work together," Smith said. "If bringing in one person will disrupt that, I will change things."
But whether the city can simply withdraw the job offer is open to question. The city attorney is looking into the matter, but Burton says a larger question of potential legal liability concerns actually hiring Fuller. "What if something happens?" Burton says. "Talk about liability. Especially if we knew of things beforehand." She could not say whether Fuller would be hired or not.
At deadline, Smith was still researching Fuller's past, and the only thing that stood between Fuller and his return to the system was a physical and a psychological test, which are both required of all peace officers.
In an interview, Fuller said the allegations that he is potentially violent are nonsense. "It's the hulking African beast notion," said Fuller, who is black and stands more than 6 feet tall. He added that he works out with weights. "I assume people do fear me. They want their darkies to be stupid and soft-spoken."
He stressed, however, that his presumptive return to the juvenile justice system will be triumphant. "I have been blacklisted and unemployed since 1993," Fuller said. "But here's the kicker: They didn't break me economically or mentally. I didn't go on welfare, and I didn't do any fucking drugs. I stood. And I am now like tempered steel."
The year-end issue of the Roy A. Token Underground Newsletter celebrated Fuller's return in an even more passionate -- and descriptive -- style. The omniscient "Simple" wrote:
"After three years of exile in the gulag archipelago, Fuller, the werewolf, is coming back to [the Youth Guidance Center]. ... Wouldn't want to be around when the lycanthrope goes into lunar metamorphosis. ... We've been seeing him coming around the house. Always comes in smiling, head on a swivel, and geisha polite. Reminds us of a thuggee assassin. Heap of potent karma jumping out of his aura. Folks say he was a master-less samurai, a runaway slave, a Texas plains Indian and an Anyota leopard man in his fore-lives. Warrior spawn!!"