February 12, 2003

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talkback...

Washington's drug problem

Your editorial "Pot Verdict: Fight Back" (2/5/03) got it exactly right, but didn't go quite far enough.

The governments of San Francisco, Oakland, and other Bay Area cities should act aggressively to defend their seriously ill citizens who need medical marijuana and those who seek to help them. But the ultimate solution is for Congress to change the law. California's congressional delegation should be leading the effort to end the cruel and pointless federal war on medical marijuana patients.

Most of the Bay Area's members of the House of Representatives have been on the right side of this issue, but they need to be more aggressive. Sen. Dianne Feinstein is probably hopeless but needs to hear from her constituents anyway. And where, one wonders, is Sen. Barbara Boxer?

Readers can visit the Marijuana Policy Project's Web site, www.mpp.org/USA, to read more and also fax a letter directly to their representatives.

Bruce Mirken

Marijuana Policy Project

Washington, D.C.

Gallagher's fact problem

As Robert Haaland's attorney, I know that A.C. Thompson's latest piece on the San Francisco Examiner's "hit man," Frank Gallagher, is accurate ["The Ex's Hit Man Strikes Again," 2/5/03].

Gallagher has written several columns complaining about the city's settlement of Robert Haaland's lawsuit stemming from his sexual assault by a San Francisco police officer.

Some facts Gallagher continues to ignore: the officer who assaulted Haaland has been identified and deposed; significant details of the assault were corroborated by two witnesses, including a police sergeant; the officer admits Haaland's claims would amount to criminal sexual battery.

The story that Gallagher and the Examiner keep missing: What is the SFPD doing to ensure that this does not happen to anyone else?

Michael Haddad

Oakland

Why Ammiano didn't recuse

I appreciated the majority of your coverage regarding the settlement of Robert Haaland v. San Francisco, but I take strong exception to A.C. Thompson's conclusion that I "probably should have recused [myself]."

I stated publicly before the vote that I consulted with the city attorney on several occasions to determine whether I had any conflict of interest in this matter.

Haaland worked on my campaign for mayor in 1999, and I have known and consulted with him on policy matters for years. The city attorney stated publicly that the 1999 work Haaland performed for my campaign did not constitute a current conflict of interest. Several other supervisors who voted on the issue also had previously been endorsed by Haaland and enjoyed his assistance on their campaigns. They received the same advice.

I am a firm believer that we are elected to make difficult decisions and that the public does not appreciate it when elected officials sidestep votes based on manufactured conflicts. The lawsuit involved a charge of sexual harassment by a San Francisco police officer – a charge which I take very seriously. The city attorney advised a settlement of the lawsuit and explained the financial risk to the city of not settling. I joined a majority of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in accepting that advice.

Supervisor Tom Ammiano

District Nine

San Francisco

A word from Ethics

Re: "Free Joe Lynn!" (1/15/03).

The public needs to be clear that PG&E's late-filed amended report of spending an additional $800,000 to defeat the public power initiative on last November's ballot was made available to the public immediately by the Ethics Commission, the same as every other campaign finance report filed with the commission.] The disagreement between Executive Director Ginny Vida and Campaign Finance Officer Joe Lynn is over whether she should have put a letter in his personal file critical of his response to a phone inquiry from former San Francisco Common Cause head Charles Marsteller.

No adverse personnel action has been taken against Mr. Lynn by either the commission or Ms. Vida, and there is no basis for concluding that any is about to happen. Mr. Lynn has not been terminated, demoted, or denied any promotion or benefits, nor is there any reason to believe he will be because of Ms. Vida's letter.

While it may be fair game to question whether Ms. Vida should have written the letter, and it is understandable that Mr. Lynn would be angry about it, if, as he and Mr. Marsteller contend, the facts in the letter are inaccurate, there is no basis to conclude that the letter was the result of any collaboration between the commission and PG&E or anyone else to conceal the late report or to prevent the commission from taking proper enforcement action.

Paul H. Melbostad

Chair, Ethics Commission

San Francisco

For the record

Due to a misplaced decimal point, the Public Power Hall of Shame (1/22/03) incorrectly stated how much Pacific Gas and Electric Co. spent to defeat public power Proposition D last fall. PG&E spent more than $2.7 million.

In last week's Valentine's Day article "In the Mood for Love," a sentence about the Eros Guide should have described it as "the Bay Area's largest listing of BDSM providers."