Gressett arbitration ruling posted

Arbitrator Norman Brand’s scathing indictment of how the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office handled the personnel investigation into allegations of a rape of one its young female lawyers by prosecutor Michael Gressett has been posted below.

Read my colleague John Simerman’s latest stories on the subject here and here.

The arbitrator dismissed all six charges the county based its decision to fire Gressett. He was reinstated into his job with back pay and layer’s fees, but still faces the criminal case, which is being handled by the Attorney General’s Office.

Michael Gressett Arbitration Ruling


Kamala Harris to join President for Bay Area visit

California Attorney General Kamala Harris apparently will be joining President Barack Obama during his visit to the Bay Area tomorrow.

Harris had been scheduled to join former San Francisco Mayor and former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown to headline a $500-a-head fundraiser late tomorrow afternoon for the Alameda County Democratic Party, to be held at the Downtown Oakland office of Bell Investment Advisors.

But county party executive director Michael Colbruno just sent out a message that the event must be postponed:

I received notice from Attorney General Kamala Harris yesterday that she’s been asked to join President Obama during his visit to the Bay Area on Thursday. Therefore, she will have to reschedule the event scheduled for the same day. She asked that I let everyone know that she is extremely sorry for the late notice and for any inconvenience that it may cause, but that she will keep her commitment. Her office is working with me on scheduling a new time and I will send it to you as soon as it is confirmed.

Not surprising, given that Harris worked hard on Obama’s presidential campaign, and he in turn came out to support her campaign for attorney general last year.

It’s not clear whether she’ll take part in the meeting the President is scheduled to have with high-tech executives, or if she’ll be meeting with him at some other time and place.


Yee introduces online voter registration bill

Californians would be able to register online to vote, under a bill introduced today by state Sen. Leland Yee.

Some states already offer online registration but California has put it off, awaiting implementation of a “VoteCal” statewide online database system now delayed at least until 2015. Yee’s bill instead would allow online registration through county registrars’ offices.

Under his SB 397, citizens would input their voter information online and the county elections office would use the voter’s signature from the Department of Motor Vehicles to verify authenticity. That signature would have to match the voter’s signature at the polling place; currently, polling place signatures only need to match the paper registration signature, which Yee says potentially allows for greater occurrences of fraud. (Ed. note: Steve Weir, quoted below, correctly noted there’s no checking of signatures at the voting precincts against registration signatures unless there is an allegation of a problem with a voter; Yee’s office said it had misunderstood the process, but still believes matching registration signatures to DMV signatures will stymie fraud.)

“In the 21st century, especially here in California, it is long overdue to have online voter registration,” Yee, D-San Francisco, said in his news release. “SB 397 will not only help protect the integrity of the vote, but will allow many more individuals the opportunity to register and participate in our democracy.”

Yee says county elections officers believe this would save money and eliminate administrative errors from mistyping the data entry from a paper registration; after Arizona implemented online voter registration, he said, some counties saw their costs decrease from 83 cents per registration to 3 cents per registration.

If Yee’s bill becomes law, it would let counties start using online voter registration for the 2012 Presidential Primary and General Election. Paper registration would still be available.

Contra Costa County Voter Registrar Steve Weir agrees the bill would help with data entry error avoidance. “We make mistakes in data entry and sometimes, people’s handwriting is difficult. In addition, with the 15 day close of registration, we can still be receiving legitimate registrations 5 days before an election and for major elections, it is very difficult to get all registrations into our system so that the voters name appears on the roster (or supplemental roster).”

“I like the idea that people register themselves and don’t depend upon “drives” for registration and for signature gatherers as these folks bend the rules,” Weir continued. “We have a drive that did not pay the return postage. The SOS sent them to us this month even though the registrants actually registered in time for the November Gubernatorial General Election.”

But Weir said the DMV signature is key. People going to DMV for the first time must produce an identifying document – a birth certificate or some naturalization documentation, for example – whereas signatures on standard voter registration cards aren’t checked against citizenship/identifying documents.

“I am not convinced that the DMV is able (legally, we’re told that a private vendor owns those signatures) to physically attach those signatures to on line registrations,” Weir said. “So, in concept, we like this option, although we want to see the actual language of the bill. Our Association will have a Legislative meeting on March 4 where we’ll go over the details of the bill.”


Lawmakers urge banks to allow aid for jobless

Five Northern California members of Congress are pressuring mortgage servicers to work with a new federally funded program in California intended to help unemployed homeowners pay their mortgages and avoid foreclosure.

The Keep Your Home California Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program provides qualified unemployed homeowners up to $3,000 a month for up to six months to help pay their mortgage. But according to the office of Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, if the monthly mortgage exceeds $3,000, the servicers won’t accept any payment at all, even if the homeowner could send a second check to cover the difference between what is owed and what the program covers. As a result, unemployed homeowners who could avoid foreclosure proceedings thanks to this program are instead at risk of failing to pay their mortgage and landing in foreclosure.

“If this program is to have meaningful success, mortgage servicers are going to have to get on board with processing these payments,” Miller said in a news release. “Refusing to accept dual payments is unacceptable and is a disservice to the homeowners who are doing everything they can to stay in their homes while they look for work. Homeowners shouldn’t have to forfeit their homes because of bureaucratic intransigence by banks and servicers.”

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, another of the letter’s signers, said “it’s time that banks and servicers become part of the solution and not the problem.

“It’s ridiculous that servicers and banks are unwilling to participate in a program that will help protect the value of the very asset on which their loan is based on,” she said. “I find it deeply troubling that servicers would have borrowers default rather than simply accepting payment.”

In their letter – also signed by Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; and Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz – they wrote that, “we believe refusing to accept supplementary payments from homeowners is inexcusable and we strongly urge you to remedy this problem expeditiously… It is unacceptable that servicers in California are unwilling or unable to figure out a workable resolution to this problem, particularly given that two viable options to address the issue exist.”

Those options, they say, are either to accept two checks (one from the program and one from the homeowner) or to forebear the amount of the mortgage that exceeds the $3,000 program payment.


NRCC, Jerry McNerney joust over budget proposal

When I was rounding up East Bay House members’ feedback on the President’s budget proposal yesterday, the office of Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, said he was on a plane and couldn’t be reached. The National Republican Congressional Committee was quicker on the draw, sending this statement from spokesman Paul Lindsay to media in McNerney’s and about five dozen other Democratic districts across the nation:

“Jerry McNerney’s Democrat leaders have again shown they lack the courage to address the fundamental fiscal and economic problems that continue to hold back America’s small businesses from creating jobs. Instead, Democrats in Washington have made it clear that they will double-down on the policies that continue to push this country toward bankruptcy and place more burdens on job creators. It remains to be seen whether McNerney understands what his constituents already do, which is that more spending, taxing and borrowing does nothing but destroy jobs.”

The NRCC was at it again this morning, issuing this statement:

Since President Obama unveiled his budget plan on Monday, a bipartisan consensus has emerged that it fails to adequately change our country’s current fiscal course and lead the way back to job creation. Instead, the President’s budget plan proposes higher taxes, increased spending and more borrowing, which means if California Democrat Jerry McNerney supports the plan, it would be a clear sign he intends to follow party orders instead of responding to the demands of his constituents. Since several high-profile Democrats have already panned President Obama’s misguided budget plan, will McNerney do the same and finally listen to voters who want an end to higher debt, astronomical deficits and unbearable taxes?

“The fact that some Democrats are already distancing themselves from the President’s budget demonstrates that this irresponsible proposal takes us down an unsustainable path which weakens our economy and does nothing to create jobs,” said NRCC Communications Director Paul Lindsay. “Will Jerry McNerney support yet another failed Democrat policy that grows government and increases the burden of debt on every American, or will he finally listen to his constituents in California as he faces the threat of another challenging election?”

(Never mind that many Democrats’ problem with the President’s proposal seems to be that it cuts too deep into programs protecting vulnerable communities, not that it “weakens our economy and does nothing to create jobs.”)

This afternoon, McNerney spokeswoman Sarah Hersh forwarded me his statement:

“As I consider the president’s budget, I will be looking to see how these proposals will affect the people I represent, many of whom have been hit hard by the tough economy.

“Based on my initial review, I’m heartened to see the president’s commitment to investing in infrastructure and clean energy initiatives. I spent over two decades working in clean energy and know firsthand the potential this field holds for creating jobs. Our country can create the next generation of jobs if we make the right choices now and invest in research and development of new technologies.

“However, I’m also concerned about some of the cuts the president is proposing. At a time when many communities are struggling, cutting assistance to police departments, job training programs, and grants to local governments will have a negative effect.

“As I continue to go through the proposal, I want to see what steps are laid out to create jobs. I’m interested to hear from the people I represent regarding the president’s budget and look forward to their thoughts and ideas.”


Cowboy libertarian starts radio show



My favorite cowboy libertarian, former California GOP communications director Patrick Dorinson, has started his own radio show on Sundays 3-5 p.m. at NewsTalk 1530 KFBK in Sacramento.

Dorinson bills the show as, “saddle up for some straight talk, good old fashioned common sense and a little cowboy wisdom.”

Cowboy Libertarian fans may also want to read his blog on Fox about how the cowboy code is not frivolous.

Last week’s show featured Idaho Rancher Jennifer Ellis discussing the constant struggle to survive against Mother nature and radical environmentalists who want to stop ranching and all energy development on public lands.” He also talked with James Owen, author of “Cowboy Ethics, Cowboy Values and The Try” talking about the “need to return to the basic principles that made America exceptional.”