Dirty business - Page 5

Lawsuit illuminates corruption and crackdowns in City Hall and implicates top officials. A Guardian special report

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A top city official testified that then-Purchaser Ed Lee improperly approved a city contract with a "fraudulent" company
LUKE THOMAS/FOGCITYJOURNAL.COM

Meanwhile, Cobra had received the highest Human Rights Commission score of any bidder for a renewal on the Computer Store contract, an HRC document shows. Brady received a letter stating that his company would be awarded a new Computer Store contract — but shortly after, he got a second letter reversing that award.

Judith Blackwell, who oversaw city purchasing under Brown's administration, explained why during her deposition with Leigh. After Cobra's bid evaluation, Blackwell testified, her office moved to award the contract — but the controller intervened, saying Cobra shouldn't be awarded a new contract because of the Armstrong scandal. Blackwell wasn't willing to throw Cobra out, however.

"I learned from watching politics that I cannot afford to bend the rules," Blackwell testified. "If I step outside the precise boundaries in any way, or if any African American administrator does, they are probably not going to be interpreted in the same way as if anyone else did it. Based on the ... procurement code, there is no way that I could, as the purchasing director, just throw them out."

Blackwell testified that Zmuda requested that she sign paperwork denying Cobra the contract, and Blackwell received a warning when she refused. "She told me that I needed to remember that when [Mayor Brown] was gone that they, the Controller's Office, and [Chief of Staff Steve Kawa] — I knew that is what she was implying — were in charge," Blackwell said. Once Mayor Gavin Newsom replaced Brown, Blackwell was let go. She now lives in New York City.

Blackwell testified that losing her job came as a surprise, since she'd worked on Newsom's campaign and expected to keep her position. "I had asked him something about why it happened and he said ... he knew nothing about it and people were acting without, you know, basically not at his direction," Blackwell testified. "I said, well, Mayor Newsom, you are in charge. And his response was, oh, I wish that were so." 

 


ED LEE APPROVED UNQUALIFIED CONTRACTOR ACCUSED OF CORRUPTION

GCSI — a company accused of defrauding the city after improperly being given a city contract by Ed Lee, allegedly at the urging of then-Mayor Willie Brown — is long gone.

"I don't think they're around," Nancy Fineman, an attorney representing the city, told the Guardian. "We've just been focused on Cobra and TeleCon."

The story of how GCSI came to be a city contractor may be the most fascinating part of this case, one that could have repercussions today, even though it happened in the late-1990s.

Like Cobra Solutions, GCSI was a contractor with the city's Computer Store — gaining admission after being repeatedly rejected by city staff, according to a 2008 deposition with former COIT director Deborah Vincent-James, who has died.

Vincent-James testified that GCSI didn't meet the minimum qualifications and recounted how, during an interview with city officials about the bid, a member of the City Attorney's Office noticed a wire peeking out from the suit of a GCSI representative who had been surreptitiously taping the meeting.

"San Francisco was not aware of GCSI's wrongful conduct, financial problems, or legal difficulties at the time it hired GCSI to work on the DBI projects," a city lawsuit claimed. Nor had the city realized that, "GCSI's president and owner had been arrested and imprisoned by a federal judge for contempt of court and for disbursing funds in an effort to avoid ...efforts to collect its loan."

GCSI principal Robert Fowler resided in both Washington, D.C., and California, was believed to be a citizen of Sweden, and was also the director and owner of a bank located on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent, according to Herrera's complaint.

Comments

The corruption never ends.

Posted by Mark Barnes on Feb. 08, 2011 @ 7:07 pm

Let's set the record straight.....

Regarding the statement "that James and Debra Brady moved to the Bay Area from Denver Colorado with nothing" is incorrect.

The company I was employed with at the time was United Airlines. I received a company transfer, and UAL relocated James Brady, our daughter, and myself to the Bay Area from Denver Colorado as husband and wife in March 1982. We were living in a large house in Millbrae California, when he moved Debra out to California sometimes in 1985.

So he did have "something" when he moved to the Bay Area. Other than material things, he had a family.

Posted by Jennie Williams on Feb. 10, 2011 @ 4:23 pm

Thanks, Rebecca, for the detailed account.

This story seems rather complicated, with lots of charges and counter charges. It would have helped if you had done more to evaluate the merits of the various charges.

I was surprised to see that you had no comment from Ed Lee. Did you interview him for the piece, to get his side of the picture?

Also, you didn't talk much about Matt Gonzalez and Whitney Leigh. The two of them are inveterate haters and political opponents of Willie Brown. Shouldn't you have mentioned that fact?

Hopefully, some clarity will eventually emerge from this mess. But we're not there yet.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Feb. 08, 2011 @ 7:18 pm

Arthur, Gonzalez & Leigh as a law firm represents many people on many issues and does not soley consist of Matt Gonzalez and Whitney Leigh - oddly enough it's structured like many law firms.

You may want to brush up on their case history before putting your foot in your mouth.

Arthur Evans says:
"Hopefully, some clarity will eventually emerge from this mess. But we're not there yet."

You're not there yet Arthur.

Posted by Ian Waters on Feb. 08, 2011 @ 7:50 pm

One additional comment on one of your many, many comments, Arthur.

Arthur Evans says:
"This story seems rather complicated, with lots of charges and counter charges. It would have helped if you had done more to evaluate the merits of the various charges."

"evaluate the merits of the various charges."

I believe that is the job of the court, jury and judge. Not a reporter.

Posted by Ian Waters on Feb. 08, 2011 @ 8:01 pm

Well, whaddaya know! Arthur Evans is defending from corruption charges, the very same mayoral team of players who made sure that he got a 7,000 dollar grant from Willie Brown's Art Commission, to publish a very poorly written book which otherwise would likely never have reached print.

How deep does the corruption go I wonder.

Maybe some attorneys and reporters should dig a little deeper into the details of your book deal Arthur...

Posted by Eric Brooks on Feb. 09, 2011 @ 1:50 pm

In a post above, Ian Waters says:

"I believe that [evaluating the merit of charges] is the job of the court, jury and judge. Not a reporter."

Not so fast. A good reporter evaluates charges, especially in an editorial piece.

And this is an editorial piece. The headline is "Dirty Business."

Together with the photo at the top, this editorial implies that Ed Lee is involved in dirt. Which means that the reporter agrees with the accusations against him.

However, the material presented in the article is less clear. There is no convincing evaluation of the material by the reporter. Yet she draws the conclusion that Ed Lee is guilty.

It would have been better if the reporter had not drawn any conclusion in the matter about Ed Lee, or else evaluated the evidence in a way that justified her conclusion.

She did neither.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Feb. 08, 2011 @ 9:11 pm

Thank you for reading up on Gonzalez and Leigh, I'm sure now you'll recognize the fact that they represent more as a firm than you imagined.

The fact that you didn't mention them again is, in point of fact, editorializing.

You're a commentator like myself. As much as enjoy great debate about actual content in an article, you're providing advice and opinion, and as we all know opinions are like - [redacted lest it trifle with your stoic sensibilities, it begins with an "a" and ends with "holes"] - everybody's got one.

Arthur Evans says:
"Not so fast. A good reporter evaluates charges, especially in an editorial piece."

I beg to differ, especially when you can read the brief and affidavit yourself. The "charges" are for the court to decide and attorneys to opine upon. You are intent promoting yourself as judge, jury and executioner here and in every comment you make on sfbg.com, you've set your own precedent. When cornered you're blaming the messenger for the message.

Arthur Evans says:
"Together with the photo at the top, this editorial implies that Ed Lee is involved in dirt. Which means that the reporter agrees with the accusations against him."

Did you read the caption under the photograph?
"A top city official testified that then-Purchaser Ed Lee improperly approved a city contract with a "fraudulent" company"

I think the "opinion" is offered in that very claim.

I am amazed however Arthur, as I think this may be the first critical analysis you've ever offered. Now go back and read up on the political economy of the media, then read the content and advertising of the SFBay Guardian - you'll be really disgusted by the implications of the advertisements on the back pages. Presumably, you actually read the print edition?

Again with a deep breath take a moment and regard your comments about people you don't know and the associations you've inferred in the last year on this comment board and elsewhere. Should we take every comment you've made as an agreement?

Arthur Evans says:
"However, the material presented in the article is less clear. There is no convincing evaluation of the material by the reporter. Yet she draws the conclusion that Ed Lee is guilty.

It would have been better if the reporter had not drawn any conclusion in the matter about Ed Lee, or else evaluated the evidence in a way that justified her conclusion.

She did neither."

Again, I think you're wrong, did you read the part about the quotes being from a sworn affidavit? I don't know how much clearer you can get as a reporter i.e. quoting what is stated in an affidavit as opposed to offering an "what she really meant was" opinion. Nowhere in the piece did the author suggest Ed Lee was guilty. You are implying that from the transcript of the affidavit and its reporting and your predisposition and opinion. I'd love to witness your questioning on jury duty for a case like this.

Again, as I stated, the facts will be decided by a court, jury & judge and hopefully never in a comments section or newspaper. Trial by media is an insidious cancer that's ever present in comments sections moreso than editorial or reporting c.f. sfgate.

Lastly Arthur, please have some respect for the law, while it may be an ass, it is what we are bound by in civil society.

Posted by Ian Waters on Feb. 08, 2011 @ 11:14 pm

Arthur, you never respond to pointed, factual criticism.

I won't even begin to question your "books".

But I do question your "right" to critique or proclaim anything about a civil tongue, society or anything whatsoever to do with the word "progressive"

You have substantially demonstrated yourself as an un-civil, boorish, testoserone junkie.

Far be it from me to denounce a Stoic as the most irrational, hormone filled junkie in need of internet rehabilitation, but you are the epitome.

Arthur, please, shut the fuck up.

Pause.

Now take a moment to actually respond with something worthwhile, with your actual decent energy. Something engaging, real, factual, prolific? Or don't, it is entirely up to you.

Posted by Ian Waters on Feb. 10, 2011 @ 12:13 am

Terrific piece,

Wow Bowe! You've done some good work but this is the best. I've been a barnacle on the stern of the City ship for a long time and have never seen the inner-workings of the system better described. It surprised me that Monique Zmuda was relaying the threats to the Blackwell. I've been silly enough to believe she was one of the folks wearing a white hat under da Dome. Harrington's no surprise. He told SPUR in an interview that the toughest part of his job as Controller was taking illegal things Willie (he said, "powerful people") wanted to do and showing them how to do the same thing legally. I'd say it's Ed who's kept Willie out of prison for the pastA 15 years.

I went to court to watch Whitney Leigh argue motions in a case last week and he's sensational. Richard Kramer's court (he was a long way from the Same Sex Case hero that day). A nearly decade old case of a merchant (Joe Abuzaid) who resisted a shakedown by the Pier 39 master lessee. Kramer had a guard following Whit's client everywhere (even to the bathroom).

Gonzalez and Leigh fight for the little guy against the machine. They've had enough fascinating cases to fill a couple of seasons of 'Law and Order' in the 6 years or so they've been around.

Someone help me convince Matt to run for Mayor again.

Kudos again, Rebecca.

Go Giants!

h.

Posted by Guest h. brown on Feb. 09, 2011 @ 9:51 am

Apparently Rebecca Bowe never contacted Ed Lee for his version of the events that happened, or interviewed him.

If she did, she failed to mention that fact in her article. Did Lee decline to give her a comment. Did she talk to Lee, but did she decline to report his comments? Did she decide to avoid getting Lee's side of the picture?

This is a serious professional flaw in her article. A professionally competent reporter does not just give one side of a story. She or he gets comments from all sides and presents a fair, balanced picture, with analysis.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Feb. 09, 2011 @ 11:20 am

Hello, Arthur, and thank you for reading. Please pick up a print copy of the paper and look at the third to last paragraph of the sidebar. It says, "Neither Brown nor Mayor Lee's office responded to requests for comment." Somehow this sentence did not make it to the online version that initially posted; we will correct that soon. I contacted the mayor's office more than once, spelling all of this out in detail and requesting comment. I did not receive a response.

Posted by Rebecca Bowe on Feb. 09, 2011 @ 12:03 pm

Arthur, READ!

You are serious professional flaw.

A failed writer with the diseased mentality to "right wrongs" with your boring tired "stoic" "philosophy"

Earth to Mr. Evans - "No One is Interested!" Go Back to the PAST! Or read a new book. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Chomsky, Foucault, Hitler's diaries!

Anything but this nonsense that imbues you with this unqualified hatred of the common people.

Posted by Ian Waters on Feb. 10, 2011 @ 12:23 am

This smacks of the Fred Bekele, Convenient Parking case (which is also being handled by Matt Gonzalez' firm) It had Gavin Newsom's, and Willie Brown's fingerprints all over it. Nothing on this has been heard for months....perhaps its been swept under the (Willie's) rug!

Posted by John Robert on Feb. 09, 2011 @ 12:46 pm

"I contacted the mayor's office more than once, spelling all of this out in detail and requesting comment. I did not receive a response."

- Rebecca Bowe

Thanks for filling us in on this important point.

It won't do for the mayor and his staff to hide their heads in the sand. Out of respect for the reading public, the mayor should have made a response. Better yet, agree to an interview.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Feb. 09, 2011 @ 2:33 pm

READ!
READ!
READ!

Educate yourself!

Arthur Evans says:
"Thanks for filling us in on this important point."

Really? Really? Really?

Did you actually take the time to read and digest the article?

"It won't do for the mayor and his staff to hide their heads in the sand. Out of respect for the reading public, the mayor should have made a response. Better yet, agree to an interview."

No, No No!

It won't do for an armchair critic like yourself to admonish a mayor, no.

Get your lazy troll ass down to city hall and go on camera and post the link here or as they say GTFO.

Posted by Ian Waters on Feb. 10, 2011 @ 12:32 am

anger issues?

Posted by Patrick Brown on Feb. 10, 2011 @ 6:46 am

Not anger, just reached my limit for bullshit.

Mr. Evans has graduated from chronic troll to #1 offender of civility.

Its amazing that people put up with psuedo-intellectual old farts like this. Have you read his book? Its laughable.

Posted by Ian Waters on Feb. 10, 2011 @ 11:25 pm

This is one hell of a story!

It seems to be sitting on the top of the WEB page for a long time, is it the only story you have now?

Posted by Patrick Brown on Feb. 09, 2011 @ 9:20 pm

We change the main story at the top of the page once a day. Below that, you'll see our regularly updated list of blog posts, and if you click on "This Week's Paper" you'll see what we published in the issue that came out today.

Posted by marke on Feb. 09, 2011 @ 10:08 pm

I read this story last night on the top of the page

Posted by Patrick Brown on Feb. 09, 2011 @ 10:40 pm

I changed the website over to the current issue. Alas, I'm not here at work 24 hours a day. But you're a little stickler, aren't ya!

Posted by marke on Feb. 10, 2011 @ 9:35 am

You might want to read up on contemporary publishing.

Posted by Ian Waters on Feb. 10, 2011 @ 11:27 pm

Marke,

This is the best story you've had up this year. Last night at Daly's Dive it was the talk of the bar (a packed bar - thanks Gabe Haaland) amongst a crowd containing Campos and Avalos and Peskin and a large group of press corps. I keep waiting for the Chron or one of the TV stations to pick it up and ask Mayor Lee about his role in certifying a sham company for City contracts.

Go Giants!

h.

Posted by Guest h. brown on Feb. 10, 2011 @ 9:29 am

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