In the backstabbing world of politics, Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson comes across as one of the nicer guys around unquotably earnest, but nice. So it comes as a surprise to hear someone accuse Mr. Nice Guy of playing political hardball. Or maybe it isn't that much of a surprise if you consider the source: Gwen Rowe-Lee Sykes, Carson's former appointee to the Alameda County Medical Center board of trustees.
Since February, when Carson kicked Sykes off the medical center board, the two have feuded publicly. Carson says he gave her the boot because of constant complaints from her colleagues that she was impossible to work with she didn't play nice in the sandbox, in other words. Sykes, however, claims Carson removed her after she threatened to take her concerns of fiscal mismanagement and cronyism in the county hospital system to the district attorney. She even sued Carson and the county, challenging Carson's authority to dismiss her.
Sykes' attorney, Hab Siam, now accuses Carson of holding up funding to his client's nonprofit, the Bay Area Black Consortium for Quality Health Care, in retaliation for the suit. According to Siam, a Carson aide recently notified the consortium that its six-figure contract was "postponed indefinitely" due to the lawsuit. The lawyer argues that Carson is fulfilling a veiled threat he'd previously made in the press when he said Sykes "was only damaging herself" by making such a fuss over her removal from the board. "That to me is a personal threat by a public official É to retaliate," Siam says.
An exasperated Carson insists he's done nothing against Sykes or her group. He acknowledged that a $100,000 grant to her organization was put on hold temporarily by recommendation of the county counsel after she filed her lawsuit, which was dismissed by a judge last week. But the supe says he told a rep for the consortium just last week that he's still committed to giving them the promised funds. "Never once did I tell them they were not going to get it," Carson says.
The supervisor similarly denies Sykes' charge that he booted her to stymie an investigation. In fact, Sykes did raise serious allegations about the financially troubled county hospital system, Carson says. She detailed some of them in her lawsuit: that CEO Wright Lassiter created a $180,000-a-year job for a friend; that favored doctors are being paid $826,100 a year plus extras while working two days a week; that crony contracts are doled out to people and companies with ties to trustees; and that management has falsified documents. "I think they desperately need to be looked into and be proven right or wrong," Carson says.
Lawyer Siam doesn't seem persuaded that Carson really wants to find out the truth. He even warned that it wouldn't surprise him if people began circulating a petition to recall Carson in the not-too-distant future.
Brown's Backroom Barbecue
Whether or not you believe Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown reneged on a backroom deal with the owner of Everett & Jones Barbeque, Everett diva Dorothy King suggests there's one thing you can be sure of: Her food is hella tastier than the pub grub offered by San Francisco's Beach Chalet Brewery.
In case you haven't heard, Brown cast the deciding vote last week to lease the Lake Merritt Boathouse space which is slated for a $12 million facelift to the Beach Chalet instead of the hometown BBQ chain. Three days later, King called a press conference in which she accused the mayor's press flack Gil Duran of getting her to sign a letter he ghost-wrote to the Oakland Tribune defending Brown against charges of racism. King said she believed that in return for signing the missive, the mayor would guarantee she got the lucrative lease.
Duran adamantly denies it. He says King called the mayor's office following the vote and threatened to declare war unless Brown reversed himself. "The first casualty of war is truth," Duran sniffed, "and these are absurd lies she is telling."
At the press conference, King apologized for cutting the backroom deal and then promptly attacked Brown ... and the Beach Chalet. "I heard their food is real nasty," she told a group of six reporters.
While this could be a case of "sour ribs" Duran's phrase King apparently wasn't just waxing bitter. Councilwoman Jean Quan, who backed Everett & Jones, points out that the Beach Chalet got only a "lukewarm" review from Zagat. Indeed, Zagat's review says, "Critics beach [bitch] about 'anemic service' and 'lackluster' New American pub grub," describing its food and service as "fair to good."
Meanwhile, Zagat rates Everett & Jones' food as "very good to excellent," although the critics didn't think much of the rib joint's ambience apart from the Jack London Square location, which the review describes as "seedy ... takeout windows" with "cheeky" service.
Oakland readers who get cable can see Feeder grill the city's mayoral candidates on KTOP as the station rebroadcasts the League of Women Voters-sponsored debate over the next few weeks. I was among four local journalists invited to pose questions to mayoral hopefuls Ignacio De La Fuente, Ron Dellums, Nancy Nadel, and Ron "Oz" Oznowicz. Actually, I was surprised the League invited me to participate. I mean, let's face it: I write a column called Bottom Feeder. What do I expect respect?
As it turns out, apparently not all of the candidates were pleased with Feeder's presence on the panel After the taping, KTOP operations chief Mike Munson casually mentioned he'd heard that the Dellums and De La Fuente campaigns had complained to the League that this columnist is "over the top" and expressed concerns that I'd be "profane" on TV.
Now, I can certainly understand the Dellums folks objecting I've been critical of his lobbying work, among other things (a Dellums spokesman pled ignorant of any complaints about Feeder from the ex-congressman's campaign). But De La Fuente? How could potty-mouthed Nacho have the cojones to say he's worried about me cussing on TV?
When Feeder called De La Fuente to query the council prez about what I'd heard, he retorted, "That's a bunch of fuckin' bullshit." Nacho went on to admit that he did object at first to the presence of former Trib columnist Peggy Stinnett whom he views as a Dellums partisan but backed off when he learned she was just going to moderate.
Guess I'll have to give Nacho the fuckin' benefit of the doubt.
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