Bay Area Briefs

Wednesday January 09, 2002

Supervisors may call for massive recount 


SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is moving closer to ordering an unprecedented recount of two elections in hopes of getting at the root of problems plaguing the city’s voting operation. 

All ballots for city races in November 2000 and November 2001 would be recounted under a proposal by Supervisor Matt Gonzalez that came before the board’s Rules Committee on Monday. 

Gonzalez and the committee’s other two members directed the city attorney to draft legislation to re-examine the ballots from the two elections. The job could fall to an independent auditor, the civil grand jury, District Attorney Terence Hallinan’s office or another investigative agency. 

In the case of the November 2000 election, the passage of time makes it highly unlikely that the results of any contests would be overturned. In that election, supervisors were elected by district for the first time in two decades and voters considered two highly charged growth measures. 

Still, Deputy City Attorney Buck Delventhal said the review could prove helpful for two reasons: “to make a better accounting of what happened and, second, to decide whether the board needs to change the way elections are done.” 

As for the November 2001 election, there is still time under state law to challenge the results through an official recount conducted by the Department of Elections. 






Lab hired to investigate bridge scaffold collapse 


OAKLAND — An engineering laboratory has been hired to determine why scaffolding collapsed last Friday morning on the Bay Bridge, killing a painter, state officials said Monday. 

FTI Anamet Laboratory of Hayward will conduct the tests on the scaffolding, which buckled in the center as it was being lowered onto a truck, trapping Daryl Clemons, 33, and three other workers against the bottom of the bridge’s upper deck. Clemons was killed, and the other three received minor injuries. 

The 18,000-pound scaffolding was being used on the bridge’s seismic retrofitting project. The state Department of Transportation has suspended all work on the retrofitting until further notice, and the state Occupational Safety and Health Administration has ordered the painting subcontractor, Robison Prezioso, not to lower or lift any of the three remaining overhead scaffolds on the bridge until the cause of the collapse is determined. 






Superintendent sues district again 


PITTSBURG — A year after school trustees sacked Superintendent Robert Newell for the second time, he has slapped the Pittsburg district with another lawsuit, this time alleging slander. 

Among its many allegations, the suit accuses the Pittsburg Unified School District of ruining Newell’s reputation by leaking information about a poor job review to the public and violating Newell’s privacy by releasing information about his health. 

Newell has no grounds for a suit, according to Laurie Juengert, an attorney for Pittsburg schools. 

This will be Newell’s second legal battle with the district. After he was dismissed in 1997, Newell sued the district. In a settlement, he won back his job and $135,000 in damages. 

The district fired him again in December 2000, just as he returned from several months of sick leave, and paid him to finish the remaining year and a half of his contract.  

That cost the district $189,000. 

Newell then took a job as a teacher in the district, a right reserved for administrators under California law, but he did not teach and remained on medical leave until he resigned from that position last June. 

All told, the district has paid Newell about $600,000 in its two attempts to remove him. 

While he was superintendent, Newell was accused of ruling by intimidation.  

Many blamed Newell when, after two years of failed contract negotiations, teachers went on a weeklong strike in June 2000.