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Hall Monitor

Hello, Herrera: There certainly was a wide array of issues and interests represented in the crowd gathered in the Board of Supervisors' chambers at City Hall Jan. 8 to celebrate the inauguration of maritime lawyer Dennis Herrera as the first new city attorney since Louise Renne took office in 1986. For example, Ross Mirkarimi, the manager of the two public power campaigns and a foe of the entrenched interests of Pacific Gas and Electric Co., was standing in the audience – not far from where Walter Wong (one of the city's most active go-to guys for getting building permits quickly approved and a friend of the entrenched interests of developers) was seated in the "special invite" section on the chamber floor. As Mayor Willie Brown put it, Jan. 8 was the only day Herrera would have "universal acceptance." Or, as another city hall insider noted, "Herrera built such a broad coalition he's bound to piss off somebody soon."

It's hard to say who will be first. Herrera specifically mentioned establishing a "reliable and affordable source of public power" in his speech, and he drew heavily on quotations from Franklin Lane, a legendary, public interest-minded city attorney who served some 100 years ago. But then again, Herrera said he would make active use of the back door shared by the mayor's office and the city attorney.

Brown had bragged that the private door between his office and Renne's has always been unlocked during his administration. Herrera said the passageway "will be used frequently" – and that makes us nervous. (Savannah Blackwell)

New low for Lazarus: He got there less than three weeks ago, but we hear unsuccessful city attorney candidate Jim Lazarus resigned from the five-member Ethics Commission Jan. 10.

Lazarus, a Brown appointee, should never have been on that panel in the first place: he refused to abide by the campaign spending limits in his failed bid for city attorney and accepted thousands of dollars from the likes of PG&E executives and lawyers.

The reason he resigned only makes the point stronger: the former aide to Sen. Dianne Feinstein loaned $120,500 to himself for the campaign, and has $15,000 in outstanding debts. He says he wants to hold fundraisers to pay off the debts. The problem is, ethics commissioners aren't allowed to raise money.

But a city hall insider told us the rumor is that Laz won't be gone for long; the mayor plans to reappoint him to the commission Feb. 1, when, under the terms of a proposition passed by voters last November, the entire panel must be reappointed. Lazarus says the need to pay the debt will keep him off the commission until the end of June. (Blackwell)

S.F. v. PG&E: Both the former city attorney and her successor have ramped up efforts to make sure San Francisco has a legal role in PG&E Co.'s ongoing bankruptcy case. The city's outgoing top legal official, Renne, wrote a letter to Sen. Barbara Boxer Dec. 14 urging her to lean on Linda Stanley, the federal government's trustee in the case, to force the appointment of a committee of government creditors.

On Dec. 7, federal Judge Dennis Montali denied San Francisco's request to set up such a panel, saying that the interest of cities and counties was already adequately represented. He offered a little hope, though, when he said that the final decision should be Stanley's. Renne's letter says the city is worried about PG&E's plan to get out from under state regulation and stick ratepayers with the full cost of its wholesale power purchases.

Herrera has already put together a special 'energy group' of deputies who will work on joining Attorney General Bill Lockyer's Jan. 10 lawsuit against PG&E Corp. Lockyer is arguing that the corporation violated state regulations when it transferred more than $4 billion from the bankrupt utility to the holding company. Critics charged that the move made the utility's financial situation appear more dire than was the case. (Blackwell)

Nice try, Tammy: The reform-minded supervisors hit the roof Jan. 11 when Department of Elections chief Tammy Haygood appointed two chums of Brown – attorney Claudine Cheng and former supervisor Barbara Kaufman – to a special committee charged with redrawing supervisorial district lines. In November voters approved a measure that calls for a new, independent elections commission to appoint the members to that committee – but since Brown hasn't officially certified the election results yet, Haygood had a (dubious) legal opening. But it's not likely to last. Haygood admitted to us that the new elections commission could dump her appointments should it choose to, and Sup. Aaron Peskin introduced an ordinance Jan. 14 that would change the law creating the redistricting committee to reflect the recently passed measure. (Blackwell)