Frank'$ Twin Peak$ Suite
Mayor Frank Jordan finally got around to filing a “complete” Economic Disclosure Statement last week. When Jordan first filed his statement April 4, he was a day late — filing it on the wrong form at the wrong office — and a few dollars short.
Now that he's in compliance with the law we learn that he accepted an $800 gift of “lodging” from Dr. Alisa Gean, a physician who specializes in head trauma. According to his filing, Jordan and his wife, Wendy Paskin, occupied a suite in Gean's Twin Peaks home for five months in 1994. The suite — which Jordan's office confirms has a city vu — was valued at $320 a month in the filing and the mayor paid half that each month of his stay.
Frank and Wendy's short-term residence at Dr. Gean's suggests the solution to the city's homeless problem. Were San Francisco's First Couple forced into the city's mandatory homeless hotel system, their monthly rent would have been $280 — just 40 bucks less than the doctor charged them. If a sufficient number of Twin Peaks citizens could be persuaded to house indigents at half rent, the homeless could live in style and save the city a bundle.
Cheap rent was the best gift news in the Jordan filing — Santa must have missed Hizzoner and Herroner's home on Christmas Eve. Most San Francisco mayors, including Jordan in the past, have reported gifts of chocolates, flowers and sundries each holiday season — the political lubricant advanced by their friends and foes to ease the stickiness the rest the year. One of the only Christmas presents Jordan reported was $50 in gifts from the San Francisco Examiner, where press secretary Noah Griffin's wife, Cindy Myers, is in charge of handing out promotional booty. A cronyism clue: No supe reported getting the gift grab bag.
Of course, these dismal Yule tidings are applicable only if you believe that Jordan filed a complete and honest report.
Hitting the gift jackpot with a reported value of $2,414.49 was Jordan's chief of staff, Jim Wunderman, who reported more presents than all 11 supervisors combined. Wunderman was freebied into an Allman Brothers Band concert, got free tickets to see Tommy, the Rolling Stones and Barbra Streisand (at $600 a pair) and also reported $1,000 in free accommodations and meals for a trip last year to Hong Kong.
The supes — how soon they forget the little favors done them. And how much trouble they seem to have figuring out how much things are worth.
City law requires lobbyists to report every three months all gifts given to public officials. Like a human clockwork, each holiday season lobbyist Marcia Smollens gives a gift basket worth $50 to each of the supes and reports it. Sue Bierman and Susan Leal were the only supervisors to acknowledge receiving Smollen's gift; seven others gobbled the goodies and promptly forgot. (Two supervisors — Ammiano and Teng — weren't yet installed and didn't get the gift).
The San Francisco Giants gave each supe Opening Day tickets, a meal, free parking and a video of Ken Burns' baseball program (the filing reveals that each video was purchased at the Price Club for $89.99). Two supes failed to report the gift; Shelley pegged its value at $120 (don't send him out to do the shopping!), while Alioto, often caricatured as the Lucy Ricardo of the board, judged its value accurately at $89.99. Jordan got the video, too, and declared it was worth $120.
The honest graft of gift-giving was curtailed January 1, when a new state law took effect allowing public officials to accept gifts worth no more than $280. Previously, local elected officials could accept gifts worth up to $1,000, while appointees like department heads and commissioners could accept anything they could get.
In 1994, the Port Commission and its top staff excelled at accepting big gifts. According to city filings, four of five commissioners and a half dozen top staffers received memberships in the World Trade Club restaurant, valued at $2,000 each. The World Trade Club is located in the Port's Ferry Building; its lease rates are set by the Port Commission and staff.
Thanks to the financial disclosure law, which also requires that public officials divulge all outside sources of income, we learn that the head of the city's troubled Juvenile Hall, Ed Flowers, does some interesting moonlighting.
The former deputy sheriff and U.S. Marine won his job with a tough-guy-gets-tough attitude toward repeat juvenile offenders. In his spare time, Flowers reports that he earns spare change leading “Dream Interpretation Workshops” with his wife.
After City Attorney Louise Renne endorsed Willie Brown for mayor and criticized Jordan's political “skills,” Jordan struck back April 13, accusing her of bias against him and his administration.
But was there an ulterior motive behind Jordan's outburst? Was he souring the legal climate just when Renne is negotiating a case against a group that was headed by a key Jordan financial backer?
Last October, the influential Hoy-Sun Ning Yung Association agreed to settle a state Fair Political Practices Commission probe of its contributions in several San Francisco elections, paying $42,800 in fines for 28 violations of state campaign-finance laws. Some of the violations involved contributions above $500 — which is the contribution limit in S.F. races. Thus the state settlement automatically suggested that violations of city law also occurred.
Renne and District Attorney Arlo Smith have huddled over the facts for months, according to sources involved in the case. By mid-March, it appeared that a settlement was in the offing, with the Ning Yung group asked to pay a $9,000 fine for contributions above the legal limit to both Jordan's and Tom Hsieh's mayoral campaigns, as well as Hsieh's 1992 supe reelection campaign.
Any such settlement would likely be front-page news for two reasons: First, it would be the first-ever enforcement action under S.F.'s two-decades old contribution limit law. Second, during this period the Ning Yung group was headed by Thomas Ng, a strong Jordan backer in the Asian community who was rewarded with an appointment to the Fire Commission.
Ng was not named in the state action, and may not be named by Renne. But any prosecution or settlement might cause citizens to ask Mayor Jordan if he would fire the Fire Commissioner.
If one of Jordan's major Chinese American fundraisers lost face, so would Hizzoner, and the fallout would inconveniently revive in this election year a parallel chapter in Jordan's political history: In 1993, Jordan used unique powers ascribed to him to put former Redevelopment Commissioner and Jordan fundraiser Ben Hom on trial, then removed him from office for soliciting funds from city contractors on the mayor's behalf.
The Fire This Time
Last week, District Attorney Arlo Smith fired a top deputy, Bill Fazio, after Fazio indicated that he would run for D.A. this year.
Smith, who maintained that the firing was not linked to Fazio's forthcoming candidacy, proved a few weeks ago that he is just as capable of dismissing endorsers from his list of political supporters as he is showing opponents the door.
A roster of Smith supporters faxed from his office includes two individuals who Smith's office had previously announced were under investigation for political money laundering. (The two supporters in question were collecting funds on Jordan's behalf in 1991.) When I placed a call to Smith's office asking why he listed endorsers he was also investigating for illegal activities, a new list was faxed out. It announced: “As decisions are made about whose support to accept and advertise I will continue to update you. This is our latest endorser list. It is immediately effective.”
Not that Smith is innocent of campaign-finance violations himself. Earlier this year, he was dinged by the state Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) over failing to properly disclose some campaign expenditures and contributors. He rejected the commission's findings, refused to pay a fine, blasted back that the state agency is controlled by Republicans (its makeup is split between Dems and Reeps) and vowed to fight the charges all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Smith's son, Averell “Ace” Smith, who runs an opposition-research firm for Democratic candidates, filed a request with the FPPC for a host of information, including a tabulation of staff hours used to “prepare Press Release No. 95-07” and “a complete list of the news sources and other parties to whom this press release was sent, faxed or otherwise conveyed or transmitted to.”It just so happens that “Press Release No. 95-07” is the press release about Smith Senior's alleged violation.
Add this note: The much-mentioned “private” poll showing Willie Brown handily beating Jordan for mayor also included a few questions about the District Attorney's race, with a matchup of Arlo Smith against Supervisor Terence Hallinan. According to the Hallinan camp, the results showed Smith beating Hallinan, but not by the kind of margin that could be called comfortable. Most uncomfortable of all: The poll showed a majority of voters were just plain undecided on the race, leaving the field wide open.
They Have Answers — We Have Questions
Why is Mayor Jordan now such a strong supporter of the $50 million HUD grant for the Housing Authority, when chief of staff Jim Wunderman suggested just a few weeks ago that the housing commissioners who backed the grant should turn against it? Confirming this chain of events is commission president Barbara Meskunas. “In the interest of keeping peace on this commission, Jim Wunderman suggested we go along with other commissioners and vote to table North Beach and Potrero Hill. Commissioner Carpeneti and I refused to do so,” she reports … Why did the Mayor's Office quietly conduct focus groups last week on voter reaction to a possible Muni strike? Why has the Transport Workers Union notified members that it's a good idea not to take vacation right now?