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Koret Foundation Criticized for Sexism in Lawsuit Against Susan Koret

Koret Foundation Should Apologize for Statements Against Immigrant and Domestic Workers

Partner of the San Francisco law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

Partner of the San Francisco law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

 

Anita Friedman, JFCS

Anita Friedman, JFCS

 

San Francisco—A diverse group of immigrant, domestic worker, labor and Jewish advocates demanded the Koret Foundation apologize for and withdraw negative comments directed against Susan Koret, the widow of Koret Foundation founder Joseph Koret, who sued for the Foundation for misdirecting and misusing monies from her husband’s fortune that were meant for the poor.

“The comments by the Koret Foundation and its spokesperson denigrate not only Ms. Koret, but they demean people of color, women, and those workers who tirelessly give their lives to improving the lives of others,” said Alysabeth Alexander.

At issue was a statement by official Koret Foundation spokesman Nathan Ballard who told the media, in response to Ms. Koret’s lawsuit, that “Susan was a housekeeper to Joe Koret and his first wife, Stephanie, and was only married to him for a brief period.” Mr. Ballard is also the spokesman for the Golden State Warriors NBA basketball team.

The group said Ballard’s “denigration of Susan Koret’s background as a housekeeper in an attempt to discredit her is both sexist and classist and should have no place in the public discourse in San Francisco. His statement and language is purposely designed to demean and denigrate women, immigrants, and domestic workers and is unacceptable under any circumstance.”

The group also wrote the Foundation in its letter, saying “While we cannot speak to Ms. Koret’s service on your Board of Directors, we can say that some of the Koret Foundation’s contributions to conservative, right-wing causes that were highlighted in recent news articles are anathema to those of us who work every day to lift up low-wage workers, immigrants, women, and communities of color.”

The letter was sent to the entire Koret Foundation board, including real estate investor Tad Taube; Richard L. Greene of Greene Radovsky Maloney Share & Hennigh; Anita Friedman, the executive director of director of Jewish Family and Children’s Services in San Francisco; Richard Atkinson, former president of the University of California; Michael J. Boskin, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution; and Abraham D. Sofaer, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution.

The Koret Board is expected to attend  the opening next week in Warsaw, Poland, of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. There may be protests in Warsaw against the Koret Foundation because of  the alleged misdirection of Koret funds to the museum by Taube and the Koret Board and their alleged discrimination against Mrs. Koret.

The full text of the letter is below:

 

Open Letter to the Koret Foundation Board of Directors

October 17, 2014

It is with great concern we write to you regarding comments made by your spokesperson, Nathan Ballard, in the San Francisco Chronicle on October 8th about Susan Koret.

“Susan was a housekeeper to Joe Koret and his first wife, Stephanie, and was only married to him for a brief period. Susan is an incompetent director who lacks even a basic understanding of the foundation and its operations.”

Mr. Ballard’s denigration of Susan Koret’s background as a housekeeper in an attempt to discredit her is both sexist and classist and should have no place in the public discourse in San Francisco. His statement and language is purposely designed to demean and denigrate women, immigrants, and domestic workers and is unacceptable under any circumstance.

From reports, we understand that Susan Koret is an immigrant from Korea who began her career as a housekeeper. While we can’t speak to her personal experience or to the legal dispute at the Koret Foundation, we know that the contributions of millions of immigrant women–a great many of whom are domestic workers–should never be slighted.

Domestic workers care for our children, our parents, our elderly, and our communities. Many of us in San Francisco have fought to get the importance of domestic work recognized, so that the workers can enjoy many of the same right that the rest of us take for granted. With a significant legislative victory this year in Sacramento, now is not the time to go backwards.

We know that millions of immigrant women work tirelessly to improve the lives of their families and communities. This experience provides a critical perspective that is often-times missing when important decisions are made.

While we cannot speak to Ms. Koret’s service on your Board of Directors, we can say that some of the Koret Foundation’s contributions to conservative, right-wing causes that were highlighted in recent news articles are anathema to those of us who work every day to lift up low-wage workers, immigrants, women, and communities of color.

We demand that the Board of Directors and Nathan Ballard immediately apologize for and withdraw the negative comments directed against Ms. Koret that demean all people of color, women, and those workers who tirelessly give their lives to improving the lives of others.

Sincerely,

National Domestic Worker Alliance

Alysabeth Alexander, Vice-President of Politics, SEIU Local 1021*

Juanita Flores, Co-Director, Mujeres Unidas y Activas

Katie Joaquin, Campaign Director, CA Domestic Workers Coalition

Hene Kelly, Jewish Labor Committee*

Andrea Lee, Co-Director, Mujeres Unidas y Activas

Shaw San Liu, Tenant and Workers Organizing Center, Chinese Progressive Association*

Kay Vasilyeva, Former Board Member, SF Women’s Political Committee*

*organization listed for identification purposes only — does not imply organizational endorsement

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Koret Foundation Sued by Widow Who Claims Board Members Uses Charity as “Personal Piggy Bank”

Jewish  Family and Children's Services

Anita Friedman Jewish Family and Children’s Services

President of Koret Foundation

Tad Taube, President of Koret Foundation

Partner of the San Francisco law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

Richard L. Greene, Partner of the San Francisco law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

Board Member and Silicon Valley Real Estate Investor Tad Taube, San Francisco Attorney Richard L. Greene, JFCS Director Anita Friedman, Other Board Members Shun the Poor, Bay Area, Jewish Causes—in Favor of Spending Foundation Resources on Conservative and Pet Projects at Half-Billion Dollar Charity

 

San Francisco—The Jewish community from San Francisco to Poland was rocked this week when the widow of Koret Foundation founder Joseph Koret filed a lawsuit against the Koret Foundation and its Board of Directors for conflicts of interest and self-dealing.  The lawsuit says the Koret Board is illegally funding pet projects that include right-wing conservative causes in the United States to wrongly spending $10 million to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews.

The lawsuit said the wrongdoing is being orchestrated by Koret Foundation President Tad Taube, a native of Poland and well-known right wing conservative Republican.  The suit also lays blame on Taube’s personal attorney and Board member Richard L. Greene of Greene Radovsky Maloney Share & Hennigh LLP and Anita Friedman, the executive director of director of Jewish Family and Children’s Services in San Francisco as well as board member Richard Atkinson, former president of the University of California; board member Michael J. Boskin, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution; and board member Abraham D. Sofaer, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution.

The suit filed October 7, 2014 in San Francisco Superior Court by Mrs. Koret alleges that under Taube’s direction the board has ignored the priorities established by her late husband to help the poor and assist Jewish causes in the Bay Area and Israel.

Instead, her suit claims, the Koret board is using foundation funds to promote programs closely affiliated with individual board members and is purposely confusing the public by putting signage that prominently features Taube’s name alongside the Koret Foundation name on buildings and grants for which the Koret Foundation is the principal funder.

“Defendants’ duty of loyalty to the Foundation has been corrupted by these directors’ close affiliations with many of the Foundation’s recent grants, resulting in tens of millions of dollars distributed due to self-interest,” according to the lawsuit.

The suit demands the removal of the Koret board members and calls for their replacement with the appointment of an independent board with a majority of Jewish directors.

“Taube says publicly that giving to the poor is “a bottomless pit.” Instead he has led the Koret Foundation by focusing its giving to organizations identified with him, creating a corporate culture of directors who rubber stamp his decisions as long as their favored organizations are also supported.  “In elevating their own and affiliated interests while ostensibly making decisions for the Koret Foundation, defendants are breaching duties of loyalty that require them to serve faithfully the interests of the Koret Foundation” the lawsuit claims.

“Alleviating suffering and misfortune were my husband’s top priorities,” said Mrs. Koret. “Joe and Stephanie’s money shouldn’t be used for Tad Taube’s pet projects in Poland or to help conservative economic and policy think tanks–not when so many in the Bay Area go to bed hungry every night and Jewish causes need support.”

Supporting her lawsuit is Joe and Stephanie Koret’s closest surviving family member, nephew Merv Brown of Walnut Creek, who worked with the Korets for decades.  He said about the suit:

“With all respect to Mr. Taube, if he wants to spend money on Poland, he should use his own money–not my uncle’s and my aunt’s–to assist his homeland. I am proud to stand with Susan Koret to support and endorse the directions and wishes of my family that their fortune be spent as Uncle Joe wished: to help the poor and Jews in Israel and the Bay Area.”

The San Jose Mercury News reported that: “Mrs. Koret is doing a favor for the entire Bay Area community with her lawsuit,” said longtime friend Julie Goodman. “She has a lot of courage. No one else has had the guts to take on Mr. Taube, who has used his power, plus his and the Koret Foundation’s money, to bully a lot of people and organizations into subservience.”

Mrs. Koret’s lawsuit alleges that others, including “philanthropic civic leaders and former and current staff members will support Mrs. Koret in her efforts to restore the Koret Foundation’s purpose and dignity free of the control of Mr. Taube.”

The lawsuit claims that, at Taube’s direction, the Koret Foundation has donated approximately $9 million to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, a pet project of Taube, who was born in Poland.  “

While the Polish Museum commemorates significant Jewish history, the diversion of Koret funds to Poland is not in keeping with my husband’s charitable mission…and in effect drains funds that could benefit the needy in communities in the Bay Area and Israel,” the lawsuit states.

Sam Singer of Singer Associates, Inc., who is acting as a spokesman for Mrs. Koret in the lawsuit, said the lawsuit will attempt to claw back the $9 million in money from Taube that was given to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews and return it to the Koret Foundation. The Museum of the History of Polish Jews is scheduled to open Oct. 28 in Warsaw. The Museum is reported facing financial difficulties, according to Polish media reports.

Mrs. Koret noted her husband was a native of Odessa, Russia, who immigrated to America, struggled growing up poor in the U.S., and then struck it rich later in life in clothing and real estate. He was deeply committed to humanitarian causes such as alleviating hunger,  and would “be deeply angered and offended by Tad Taube and the board’s strong support of conservative  causes and grants that divert money needed for the local community and Jewish causes.”

The lawsuit asks the court to prevent the spending down of the Foundation’s assets by Taube and the board members with whom he has surrounded himself and allow the appointment of a new, independent board to carry out its mission and save the Foundation.

Mrs. Koret was named a lifetime director and chairwoman of the Foundation prior to her husband’s death in 1982. She was entrusted by her late husband to carry out the family legacy of caring for the poor and supporting Jewish and community causes through the Koret Foundation, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also recites that the board has rejected a series of Asian and African-American candidates for board membership, including their rejection last month of former Mayor Willie Brown as president of the Foundation.

Mrs. Koret said she has been marginalized as Taube, a Silicon Valley real estate investor, and his hand-picked supporters on the board steer donations toward causes in which they have affiliations.

Mrs. Koret said she filed the suit as a last resort after her efforts to diversify the board, get independent legal advice, confirm the perpetual nature of the Foundation and redirect funds back to her late husband’s mission were rebuffed.  She fears the Koret Foundation is facing destruction of its mission and eventual collapse unless changes are made.

She said in the last 12 months, Taube has undertaken three major real estate transactions:  the sale of the Foundation’s largest real estate asset; marketing of another Foundation property; and refinancing a significant loan on a third Foundation property. The collective value of the real estate involved in these transactions is several hundred million dollars, according to the lawsuit.

“Over Mrs. Koret’s objections, defendants approved engaging a broker associated with defendant Taube’s real estate businesses to sell, market and refinance the Foundation’s properties and split its commission with Taube Investments, without disclosing the percentage commission split.  This conduct violates state and federal law and is breach of fiduciary duty,” the lawsuit states.

The Foundation’s general counsel and Taube attorney Richard L. Greene, over Mrs. Koret’s objection, failed to advise that an independent appraisal or broker was needed to market the Foundation property and refinance the loan, even though the same broker associated with Taube’s businesses was engaged for both these real estate transactions, according to the suit.

“Greene’s conduct … may expose the Foundation to claims of self-dealing, is contrary to California professional rules for attorneys in avoiding conflicts of interest, and causes economic injury to the Foundation,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit alleges that Taube is a shameless self-promoter who has personally selected board members to rubber stamp his decisions in exchange for support of their own pet projects. Additionally, the suit says Taube established his own foundation, called Taube Philanthropies, but uses money and staff from the Koret Foundation to pay for and enhance joint projects of Taube Philanthropies and the Koret Foundation.   A review of the Koret Foundation’s public filings shows reported annual salaries and compensation of officers exceeded $1.9 million in 2011, while Taube Philanthropies showed no such expenses for the same period, according to the lawsuit.

Mrs. Koret’s lawsuit charges that out of the $64 million gifted by the Koret Foundation between 2010 and 2012, nearly 60 percent was spent on causes outside the stated mission of her husband, the late Joseph Koret.

The lawsuit claims conflicts of interest, self-dealing, and breaches of duty abound on the board:

  • The Koret Foundation’s Executive Director Jeffrey Farber provides no independent management, reaps a large salary and perks at the Foundation, has little involvement in grant-making and does only what Taube asks him to do.  Farber is also a member of the Taube Philanthropies board, creating a serious conflict of loyalty and duty.   His wife works for Koret Board member Anita Friedman at Jewish Family and Children’s Services, yet another conflict.

Koret Board Member Anita Friedman, director of Jewish Family and Children’s Services, JFCS, sits on the Taube Philanthropies board as a director. Friedman makes up to $380,000 per year as executive director of JFCS, which is a major recipient of Koret funds. During September’s Koret Foundation meeting, she oversaw and participated in a vote granting $1.2 million to the Shalom Hartman Institute, where she also sits on the board.

While JFCS and Shalom Hartman are worthwhile causes, Friedman has failed to recuse herself in any discussions of massive grants to entities where she is on the board or employed. Friedman sees no conflict in directing millions in additional funds to entities where she has other interests and has no inclination to resign her JFCS position. Friedman has voted against every initiative by Mrs. Koret over the past two years seeking to bring independence, balance and transparency to the Koret board.

  • Michael J. Boskin is a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, which has received millions from the Koret Foundation over the years. Earlier this month, the board approved another $280,000 grant to the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research where Boskin is also a Senior Fellow and former director. Since 1992, Koret has approved grants totaling $4.5 million to support SIEPR, and millions to Hoover through Stanford.

 

  • Abraham Sofaer is another interlocking director on the board of Taube Philanthropies, and is also a Senior Fellow Emeritus at the Hoover Institution, based at Stanford University.  From 2010-2012, the Koret Foundation’s funding to Hoover and Stanford of nearly $4 million was about equal to its total support of all social welfare causes in the Bay Area combined.

 

In the lawsuit, Taube, a member of the Board of Overseers and the Executive Committee of the Hoover Institution, is alleged to have misused Foundation money to pay consultants to write editorials opposing Obama administration policies and to attend trips in support of Hoover.

The lawsuit also alleges that Taube:

  • Reduced funds targeted for Koret Foundation grantees and increased funds to organizations that are his personal favorites.

 

  • Used Koret funds to pay millions of dollars to entities affiliated with him or his close associates to manage the Foundation’s real estate holdings.

 

  • Without board approval, commissioned and installed a life-size mural depicting himself and now hung inside the Koret Foundation’s new headquarters in San Francisco at a cost to the Foundation of $80,000.

 

  • Paid more than $75,000 in Foundation money for promotional materials about himself, including booklets and newspaper advertisements.

 

  • Subsidized the operating costs of Taube Philanthropies by using Koret staff and resources for joint grant projects, and used Koret Foundation resources for travel, marketing and personal expenses.

 

  • Terminated a $35,000 contract of an independent publisher of a book about the life of Joseph and Stephanie Koret, the founder’s first wife. Taube was reportedly angry that the book was not about him or his contributions.

 

  • Along with counsel and board member Richard L. Greene, discriminated against and ridiculed Mrs. Koret and prevented her from speaking with Foundation staff.

Mrs. Koret in her lawsuit pledges to maintain the priorities of her husband by broadening the Koret board to include community leaders while maintaining a majority of Jewish directors.  She is committed to maintaining support for the anchor institutions in the Bay Area that Koret has supported over many years and to prevent any continued diversion of funds to out of mission organization and countries.

 

Jewish  Family and Children's Services

SUED: Anita Friedman, Jewish Family and Children’s Services

Partner of the San Francisco law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

SUED: Richard L. Greene, Partner of the San Francisco law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

President of Koret Foundation

SUED: Tad Taube, President of Koret Foundation

 

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Ro Khanna Campaign Silent Following Homophobic Rant by Republican Supporter Ernie Konnyu: Editorial

 

Ro Khanna Campaign Silent

Ro Khanna Campaign Silent

Congressional candidate Ro Khanna should  immediately take action and publically denounce the support of homophobic former Congressman Ernie Konnyu, Khanna’s highest-profile Republican endorser.

Konnyu, a one-term Silicon Valley Congressman who was voted out of office following a sexual harassment scandal, made news last week for orchestrating Tea Party support for Khanna, who is hoping to unseat longtime U.S. Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose.

But this week Konnyu took his right-wing vitriol a step further, using Facebook to publically attack the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce PAC for supporting openly gay Campbell Mayor Evan Low in his State Assembly race against former Saratoga mayor Chuck Page.

Konnyu waged his attack last Friday on a Facebook comment by former Chamber CEO Jim Cunneen, calling it “sick” that the Chamber PAC would support “a liberal so left that he wants to change the law to allow blood donations by gays. This, even though the current law forbids it since such blood has a risk of transferring the deadly AIDS virus. Yes! Gay pride is worth more with Evan Low than our citizens’ lives.”

Despite Cunneen’s efforts to prevent Konnyu from doing more damage by “counting to 10 before posting on Facebook,” Konnyu instead redirected his attack on Cunneen. “I am wiser, more experienced, and a lot older than you,” he said.

The San Jose Inside blog broke the story Wednesday but so far we’ve heard nothing from the Khanna campaign. By contrast, following last week’s news about the Tea Party’s support, Khanna’s campaign immediately responded with a “with friends like these…” shake of the head.

Konnyu is becoming a tremendous liability for Khanna, and we’re shocked that Khanna hasn’t denounced Konnyu’s misguided statements and support.

Let’s face it; Khanna doesn’t have a shot at defeating Honda, a seven-term incumbent with a proven track record of fighting for civil rights and same-sex equality.  However, that’s no excuse not to stand up and speak out against this kind of discrimination and homophobia – in his district and on his endorsement list.

 

 

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Splunk Technology Co. To Occupy 270 Brannan St.–Groundbreaking Draws Mayor Lee, SKS Partners, Mitsui Fudosan America

001 (1) 

Mayor Ed Lee today joined SKS Partners, Mitsui Fudosan America and more than 50 dignitaries at a ceremony today to officially break ground on 270 Brannan St. – the new 213,000 gross sq. ft. office building located in the heart of San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood.  The space is already 100 percent leased to machine data player Splunk, which has another leased office building within the block of the new development.

“Our City’s South of Market neighborhood is going through an exciting renaissance, transforming an underutilized warehouse district into a growing, modern mixed-use area with office space, housing and small businesses,” said Mayor Lee. “I am thrilled to break ground on the 270 Brannan St. office building with SKS Partners and Mitsui Fudosan America who are committed to working with the community to ensure this neighborhood thrives economically yet maintains its historic presence.”

The building is being developed as a joint venture between San Francisco’s SKS Partners and Mitsui Fudosan America. The building was designed by prominent local architect, Peter Pfau, and Charles Pankow Builders is the general contractor.

Splunk, the big data technology company, will occupy the building when it opens in Dec. 2015.

“270 Brannan is the realization of the City’s 2008 Eastern Neighborhoods plan, creating a new office building for the growing economy that respects the historical context of the South Beach neighborhood,” said Dan Kingsley and Paul Stein, the Managing Partners at SKS.

City planners have praised the design of 270 Brannan St. for incorporating the character and history of the neighborhood while meeting the needs of its tenants.

The building will include a 5,000 sq. ft. internal atrium which will connect the building’s five-story front section and seven-story rear section. The building is targeting LEED Platinum Certification by the US Green Building Council and has many environmentally-friendly features such as roof-top solar panels.  It also includes spaces for 52 bikes along with adjacent showers and lockers in its basement. Automobile parking is limited to 12 spots in the building’s underground garage.

The building’s design will feature a pattern of alternating aluminum curtain wall windows and terracotta cladding on its Brannan Street façade, consistent with the surrounding South End Historic District. The rear façade, which fronts on DeBoom Street, will feature terracotta cladding on the lower floors with a floor-to-ceiling glass curtain wall on the top two floors.

“This groundbreaking is happening during a truly important time for environmental responsibility, both locally and globally. We are making real and lasting investments to improve our city, while protecting our environment and creating new jobs,” said Yukio Yoshida, President of Mitsui Fudosan America. “This building is believed to be one of the first to feature more bike parking spaces than car parking stalls in the history of San Francisco real estate developments and that, in and of itself, is a huge indication that we are opening a new chapter in San Francisco’s history of progress.”

The new 270 Brannan St. is scheduled to open in December 2015.

For more information, visit www.270brannan.com

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The Gorilla Foundation Announces New Focus, Key Hires and Important Organizational Changes

KoKo gorilla

Koko gorilla

San Francisco–The Gorilla Foundation announced a series of important changes today, including anticipated new management positions, potential new Board members and a certain new focus, all designed to strengthen one of the world’s leading organizations for great ape understanding, care and conservation. “We have come to a crossroads in our Foundation’s history, and we have recognized the need to do more for the cause of the great apes through building global empathy for their preservation and care”

These improvements, made after an extensive internal review with the help of the Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Board, Governing Board and outside consultants, seek to balance the vital goals of caring for and protecting the gorillas (Koko and Ndume) while refocusing and reinvigorating the organization’s core mission of learning about gorillas through direct communication, and applying that knowledge to advance great ape conservation and prevent their extinction through education, compassionate care and empathy worldwide.

“We have come to a crossroads in our Foundation’s history, and we have recognized the need to do more for the cause of the great apes through building global empathy for their preservation and care,” said Dr. Penny Patterson, the lead researcher behind the Foundation’s groundbreaking “Project Koko,” which is to date the longest running interspecies communication project in history and the only one involving gorillas.

“Koko and her family have taught us so much over many decades and now, more than ever, we feel it is incumbent on this organization to share what we’ve learned with people across the globe, as a way to help put an end to poaching and build compassion for enhancing the care of gorillas and other great apes everywhere,” she said.

The Gorilla Foundation was founded in 1976 by Dr. Patterson, Ron Cohn and philanthropist Barbara Hiller to expand the groundbreaking and unique work of “Project Koko,” the first-ever project to study the linguistic capabilities of gorillas through sign language. Today, after decades of research and learning, Koko is able to use more than 1,000 signs, understands as many words of spoken English, and demonstrates the amazing ability to communicate her thoughts and express her feelings through sign language.

With the goal of protecting and honoring this legacy for generations to come, the Foundation’s leadership today announced, in addition to organizational changes, a series of goals and programs that are designed to make better use of what Koko and her family have taught us over the years. These include:

RESEARCH:

1. Gorilla Emotional Awareness Study (GEARS) will provide an analysis of Koko’s awareness of her emotions (introspection) and the emotions of others (empathy), in research made possible by her unique communication abilities.

2. Digital Data Archival of Project Koko for Future Crowd-Sourced Research will involve a partnership with a major university to digitize and preserve four decades of unique Gorilla Foundation data and archive it in a form that will facilitate analysis and collaboration.

EDUCATION:

3. Koko Signing App will allow the public to learn to sign with Koko and to understand her in videos designed to advance the public’s knowledge about gorillas and learn about their need for compassionate conservation.

4. Project Koko Interactive Database will be made available to scientific colleagues and great ape facilities so that they can make use of our direct experience and data, gained through years of communicating with gorillas.

CONSERVATION:

5. Publication of new book (with video), Michael’s Dream, about the remarkable life of Koko’s gorilla friend Michael, who, on several occasions, communicated (in sign language) his memory of witnessing his gorilla mother being killed by poachers in Africa. This was documented on video.

6. Wide Distribution of Koko’s Kitten & Michael’s Dream Books and Educational Curricula throughout Africa, to strengthen compassionate conservation values and support the preservation of endangered gorillas In their homelands. This builds on our successful distribution of Koko’s Kitten (and curriculum) to over 100,000 students in Cameroon.

CARE AND WELLNESS:

7. Enhancement of Koko & Ndume’s facilities to enrich their lives, expand their options for exploration and privacy, and create capacity for a larger gorilla family.

8. Gorilla Interspecies Communication Work/Play-Station will provide the gorillas with the use of interactive computer technology (including “tough tablets”) to allow them to have fun, express their preferences and have more control over their environment.

ORGANIZATIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE:

9. Expanding the Foundation’s Board of Directors to include more experts in our highly specialized field, as well as strategically selected business, finance and fundraising experts.

10. Developing a new executive team for leadership, fundraising and building strategic alliances.

These changes are being made as part of a focused process with three primary goals: 1) to ensure the care and protection of Koko and Ndume now and into the future and 2) to better apply the lessons learned by the Foundation to protect and enhance the lives of gorillas and other great apes worldwide, and 3) to allow our enlightening dialogues with Koko, Ndume and other gorillas to continue.

The Foundation’s leadership is tremendously appreciative of the contributions of its Board of Directors, Advisory Board, and its many consultants and colleagues, who were integral to the development of this new vision.

For more information about the Gorilla Foundation, visit www.koko.org.

 

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Third Highest Winner At Twin Pine Casino Slot Machines

The second largest jackpot ever at Twin Pine Casino & Hotel was won on August 3rd, 2014. The lucky patron hit a slot machine jackpot of $3,060,857. The winning pull was on an IGT progressive “Mega Bucks” machine. This is coming off of a July win, which was the 3rd highest jackpot payout month at Twin Pine Casino & Hotel. This is also the second time that a “Mega Bucks” machine at Twin Pine has created an instant Millionaire. Back in December of 2012, a lucky guest hit a staggering 8.4 million dollar jackpot. In the last 5 years alone, there have been 3 winners of up to $8 Million and 3 of up to $600,000K with lots of other big winners in between. They call Twin Pine Casino the Home of the Big Jackpots.

The lucky winner was from the East Bay. He and his wife had only been here for a short time when fortune came calling. The gentleman repeatedly asked staff “is all of this real?” He is a regular patron at Twin Pine Casino & Hotel and knew that the Home of the Big Jackpots would someday call his name. With a big smile he said, “my daughter is going to college and I will be paying her tuition”.

Twin Pine Casino & Hotel is owned and operated by the Middletown Rancheria of
Pomo Indians of California, located in Middletown, California.

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Oakland Mayor’s Race: Candidate Bryan Parker is Focus Of Unfair Domestic Violence Attacks

Bryan Parker, Candidate for Oakland Mayor, Faces Unfair DV Attacks

Bryan Parker, Candidate for Oakland Mayor, Faces Unfair Domestic Violence Attacks

Bryan Parker, the man I’m backing in the Oakland Mayor’s Race, is the focus of an unfair and hidden attack, writes Oakland blogger Zennie Abraham in his Zennie62.com blog. The rest of his post from yesterday is a fascinating overview of the silent attacks in political campaigns in Oakland, and in general.  We publish the column here for our readers:

For months, there’s been a whisper campaign brewing among Oakland insiders about the problems and issues of most all of the candidates. One of the most insidious rumor campaigns is about Bryan Parker. With 20 candidates now in the race for Oakland Mayor (not including Charlie The Dog) it was only a matter of time before the attacks started.

Soon after those whispers started, I received an anonymous package with two unverified, but authentic looking police reports filed against Parker a decade ago that describe two separate domestic issues between him and two different women, one in 2003 and one in 2006.

I have reached out to both of these women for comment and noticed that one is actually a volunteer on his campaign. I have chosen not to identify the women involved until at least I have the chance to discuss it with them.

As for the allegations in these reports, they show heated arguments between Parker and the women involved. They paint a less-than pretty picture and allege such things as harsh words and the brandishing of a hand gun used for intimidation purposes.

Bryan and I have talked about this issue before.

I reached out to Parker and he provided me with the statement that appears here (Bryan Parker Statement On Smear Campaign), saying he, too, had also received these police reports anonymously several months ago when someone left them in his fiancé’s mail box (which, if you think about it, is a form of harassment and intimidation).

 

Although Bryan was not surprised these incidents had come forward given the competitive mayoral campaign, he also had no awareness that these reports existed until now.
This made me curious as to the source of the information.

Considering the timing, all logic would suggest it was an operative of Mayor Jean Quan who was distributing these reports in an attempt to eliminate potential competition. Parker was one of the first candidates to announce and has remained a formidable frontrunner, although the field has recently grown widely.

Whether or not Quan’s campaign is behind this (and I’m told that it is, so Mayor Quan’s going to have to stop texting and driving and talking) there’s no doubt that the distribution of these reports are tactics being used by an opposing campaign.

For me, the question becomes should this be an issue?

These police reports were taken at the request of the women involved. No follow up investigation or reports exist about whether Parker was ever personally contacted by police about these allegations.

More important, no charges were ever filed against him because it appears the facts of both cases did not merit further investigation or action.

If all that is true – and these reports do in fact document heated disagreements between Parker and past partners – should they matter in this Mayor’s race?

As so often the case in politics, opponents are prone to cast broad and damaging allegations supported by little proof. Those of us who cover politics are accustomed to smear campaigns.

Character does matter and while it seems that Parker may have had some anger issues as a young man, but by all accounts there is just no semblance of that by anyone who has worked or dealt with him currently, including his fiancé Kamala Peart. (Kamala Peart Statement On Smear Campaign)

When reached for comment, Peart told me that she and Parker have shared the ups and downs expected of long-term relationships, saying: “While Bryan is not perfect, I know he is a man of kindness and compassion who has never been in trouble with the law or otherwise. I am proud to know that I am marrying a man who cared enough about his own self-improvement to seek counseling and work on his spirituality so that he could learn how to be the best man and partner he can be. I would never expose my children to a person who was anything other than kind and loving.”

I also spoke to some of my friends in law enforcement. They said that that they take and such reports seriously – if they had any merit, they would have followed up on them with urgency. The fact that they did not can only mean that officers found the allegations to be less than credible.

As I considered my pick for Oakland’s next mayor, I’ve weighed all of the issues against my own experience as Economic Advisor to Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris, and President Of The Super Bowl XXXIX Bidding Committee, including character, vision and, more important, a candidate’s ability to lead. Bryan Parker is still my top contender, and in rank choice fashion followed by Oakland Councilmember Libby Schaaf and Joe Tuman, 1, 2, and 3.

Not only does this latest incident demonstrate personal growth in Bryan, but it also shows integrity – here’s a candidate who is not shying away from his past and who is using personal experience to become a better person and leader in the future.

Meanwhile, Mayor Quan still has to talk about the active lawsuit filed against her by Donna White, who asserts that an “entourage” representing Oakland Mayor Jean Quan blocked Ms. White from sitting in an area that’s normally designated for the disabled.

Stay tuned.

By Zennie Abraham of Zennie62.com, an Oakland political blogger and opinion leader.

 

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Editorial: Good Riddance to George Lucas Vanity Museum: Chicago Be Careful What you Pray For

 

Alfred E. Neuman artwork is part of George Lucas 'art collection."

Alfred E. Neuman artwork is part of George Lucas “art collection.”

 

It was great to read the San Francisco Chronicle today and see two of its leading writers, Chuck Nevius and John King, both essentially say “Hasta la Vista, Baby!” to the vanity museum that Star Wars filmmaker George Lucas wanted to build in San Francisco’s Presidio.

The real story isn’t that Chicago “won” the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum, but rather that San Francisco was victorious in rejecting a poorly-designed monstrosity that would have housed the personal collection of George Lucas’ kitschy art collection.  Chicago has “won” Lucas’ oversized ego, his childish behavior, his grumpy development team, and his collection of art that would be best exhibited in a suburban mall.

All we can say is: Thank goodness for the leadership of the Presidio Trust which turned down this monument to Lucas’ bad taste.

The Presidio park is a jewel and is enjoying nearly 20 years of success by doing the right thing and planning properly for this National Landmark and Bay Area treasure.  The cheap and cheesy museum proposed by Lucas didn’t belong on a bluff overlooking the Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean.  We should all thank The Presidio Trust for acting in the best interest of the public and not in the interest of a vein Hollywood millionaire and rejecting what Chicago has all-too-quickly accepted.

Bravo Presidio Trust. Good luck Chicago.

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Recology Wins Resounding Victory Over False Claims by Disgruntled Ex-Employee

San Francisco, Calif. – A San Francisco jury today cleared Recology, San Francisco’s recycling and resource recovery provider, of all 154 allegations of filing false claims to the State of California in a lawsuit filed by a disgruntled former employee that claimed the company mischarged the State of California’s recycling redemption program.

The same jury returned a verdict against the recycling company on one of the five separate allegations of filing a false claim to the City and County of San Francisco. This verdict, if it stands, claims the company wrongly benefited in the amount of $1,366,933. Recology disagrees with this finding and will appeal.

“We are thankful for the jury’s determination that cleared Recology of 158 of the 159 allegations of false claims,” said Sam Singer, a spokesman for Recology. “This is a resounding victory for our company and its employee-owners.”

“Unfortunately, the complicated nature of this case has resulted in one finding against the company,” he added.  “We will be appealing the one verdict, as the facts simply do not support it.”

Recology is an industry leader in recycling and resource recovery programs and has helped San Francisco become the greenest city in North America, diverting 80 percent of its waste away from landfill. Recology programs have been replicated throughout the country and serve as a national model for resource recovery initiatives.

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CPUC PG&E Chicanery? California Commission Sudden Halt into PG&E Gas Pipeline Safety Raises Serious Questions, San Bruno Says

San Francisco, Calif. – The City of San Bruno today criticized a decision by the California Public Utilities Commission to halt its investigation into thousands of missing Pacific Gas & Electric Co. pipeline strength test records – a sudden and shocking reversal that’s prompted concerns of a possible backroom deal brokered between PG&E and the state agency tasked with regulating it.

 

The CPUC’s Safety Enforcement Division this week quietly halted its inquiry into the safety of 435 miles of gas pipelines across California after PG&E refused to turn the information over to regulators— causing speculation that PG&E may have applied outside pressure to compel the regulatory agency to end its investigation.

 

San Bruno officials are now calling upon the CPUC to immediately re-open the investigation to force PG&E to produce accurate strength test records for 23,761 segments of pipe covering more than 435 miles – records that PG&E explicitly told the CPUC it would produce by 2013.

 

State and federal investigators identified PG&E’s faulty recordkeeping as a leading cause of the fatal 2010 pipeline explosion and fire in San Bruno that killed eight, injured 66 and destroyed 38 homes.

 

“PG&E continues to play a lethal game with the lives of the public. We are deeply concerned by their persistent failure and unwillingness to produce accurate pipeline records, without which we cannot know whether our communities remain at risk for the same devastating and fatal explosion that we experienced in San Bruno,” said San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane. “Yet even more troubling is the CPUC’s decision to not pursue an investigation of these missing records even after preparing a motion to do so.”

 

“We question the CPUC’s sudden decision this week and are concerned it may be the result of inappropriate pressure applied by PG&E at the expense, once again, of public safety,” Ruane said.

 

The CPUC’s latest inquiry came about as part of the ongoing penalty proceeding to determine how much PG&E will be forced to pay for its gross negligence that caused the fatal explosion and fire in San Bruno. The CPUC’s administrative law judges are now considering penalties and fines against PG&E of up to $2.45 billion.

 

Yet, following unsuccessful attempts to obtain missing strength test records for more than 435 miles of pipeline directly from PG&E, the CPUC’s safety and enforcement division submitted a motion on May 30 to re-open the penalty proceeding’s record for the sole purpose of forcing PG&E to produce the documents.

 

San Bruno strongly supported the CPUC’s motion and its inquiry of the missing records, which city officials say are critical to instilling the public’s confidence in the safety of PG&E’s embattled pipeline system. San Bruno filed its own motion officially supporting the safety enforcement division’s request to obtain the missing records.

 

City officials are now questioning the division’s sudden decision to withdraw the motion and suspend the inquiry – a decision the city can only speculate as resulting from outside attempts by PG&E and its proxies to influence the CPUC’s actions.

 

“We are concerned that this decision is just further evidence of the cozy relationships that continue to jeopardize the CPUC’s ability to objectively regulate PG&E,” Ruane said.

 

San Bruno officials say this latest incident further underscores the need for an Independent Monitor, who would serve as a vigilant third-party watchdog over both PG&E and the CPUC.

 

“Only an independent monitor – free of the CPUC’s conflicts of interest and cozy relationships with PG&E that have jeopardized pipeline safety – can help guarantee that PG&E maintains good records and ensure that the CPUC provides the adequate and consistent oversight needed to keep our communities safe so that what happened in San Bruno never happens again,” Ruane said.

 

Ironically, PG&E has been spending millions of dollars on advertising its new “culture of safety,” with advertisements that stress the utility’s gas pipeline safety improvements since the San Bruno explosion and fire.  Yet, Ruane said, the utility can’t back up their advertising with proof that what they are telling the public is true.

 

Also this week, PG&E revealed that the U.S. Federal Prosecutor’s office expects to file additional legal actions against the utility for its gross negligence in the San Bruno case.  In April, the federal government charged PG&E with 12 felony violations of federal safety laws.

 

Is there a dirty deal between CPUC Michael Peevey and PG&E Executives?

Is there a dirty deal between CPUC Michael Peevey and PG&E Executives?

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Ecuador Plaintiffs, Steven Donziger, Committed Fraud against Chevron in Ecuador Case

Berlinger and Donziger

Joe Berlinger’s (left) Film “Crude,” paid for by Ecuador Plaintiff Attorney Steven Donziger, ultimately led to a crushing victory for Chevron Corporation in the Ecuador Case

Chevron Corporation won a major victory today when a New York federal judge ruled that the case against the oil company in Ecuador was procured by fraud.

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in New York found that lead plaintiff attorney Steven Donziger used bribery, coercion, fraud and other illegal means to create a fraudulent case against Chevron in Ecuador.

Donziger, whose fraudulent lawsuit was supported by environmental organizations such as AmazonWatch in San Francisco, Rainforest Action Network, Earthrights International, and other alleged environmental groups, might have gotten away with the crime if it were not for the sloppy work of Hollywood movie director Joe Berlinger.

Berlinger, who was paid by the plaintiffs to produce a film that lambasted Chevron for alleged pollution in Ecuador, ultimately and ironically, became Chevron’s savior.

Berlinger’s movie “Crude” produced evidence that led Chevron to its important court victory today in New York.

In making his ruling, Judge Kaplan  said Donziger and the Ecuador plaintiffs used “corrupt means” to secure a multi-billion-dollar pollution judgment against Chevron Corp in Ecuador, giving a major setback for attorneys hoping to collect on the award.

Kaplan said he found “clear and convincing evidence” that attorney Steven Donziger’s legal team bribed an Ecuadorean judge to issue an $18 billion judgment against the oil company in 2011.

The villagers had said Texaco, later acquired by Chevron, contaminated an oil field in northeastern Ecuador between 1964 and 1992.  Ecuador’s high court cut the judgment to $9.5 billion last year.

Kaplan’s decision bars Donziger and environmental groups like AmazonWatch and public relations agent Karen Hinton from enforcing the Ecuadorean ruling in the United States. It may also give Chevron legal ammunition in other countries where the plaintiffs could try to go after Chevron’s assets.

At a six-week trial last year, Chevron accused Donziger of fraud and racketeering and said Texaco cleaned up the site, known as Lago Agrio, before handing it over to a state-controlled entity.

Below is the full text of U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan’s opening judgement today against Steven Donziger and the Ecuador plaintiffs:

“Steven Donziger, a New York City lawyer, led a group of American and Ecuadorian lawyers who brought an action in Ecuador (the “Lago Agrio” case) in the names of 47 plaintiffs (the“Lago Agrio Plaintiffs” or “LAPs”), on behalf of thousands of indigenous peoples of the Orienté region of Ecuador, against Chevron Corporation (“Chevron”).

They claimed that Chevron was responsible for extensive environmental damage caused by oil activities of Texaco, Inc. (“Texaco”), that ended more than twenty years ago and long before Chevron acquired Texaco’s stock.

After years of pressuring Chevron to settle by a variety of both legitimate and illegitimate means, Donziger and his clients obtained a multibillion dollar judgment (the“Judgment”) in the Ecuadorian courts and now seek to enforce it around the world.

Chevron then brought this action, contending among other things that the Judgment was procured by fraud.  Following a full trial, it now seeks equitable relief against Donziger and the two of his Ecuadorian clients who defended this case in order to prevent any of them from profiting from the alleged fraud or from seeking to enforce the Judgment in the United States.

This case is extraordinary. The facts are many and sometimes complex. They include things that normally come only out of Hollywood – coded emails among Donziger and his colleagues describing their private interactions with and machinations directed at judges and a court appointed expert, their payments to a supposedly neutral expert out of a secret account, a lawyer who invited a film crew to innumerable private strategy meetings and even to ex parte meetings with judges, an Ecuadorian judge who claims to have written the multibillion dollar decision but who was so inexperienced and uncomfortable with civil cases that he had someone else (a former judge who had been removed from the bench) draft some civil decisions for him, an 18-year old typist who supposedly did Internet research in American, English, and French law for the same judge, who knew only Spanish, and much more. The evidence is voluminous.

The transnational elements of the case make it sensitive and challenging. Nevertheless, the Court has had the benefit of a lengthy trial. It has heard 31 witnesses in person and considered deposition and/or other sworn or, in one instance, stipulated testimony of 37 others. It has considered thousands of exhibits. It has made its findings, which of necessity are lengthy and detailed.

Upon consideration of all of the evidence, including the credibility of the witnesses– though several of the most important declined to testify – the Court finds that Donziger began his involvement in this controversy with a desire to improve conditions in the area in which his Ecuadorian clients live. To be sure, he sought also to do well for himself while doing good for others, but there was nothing wrong with that. In the end, however, he and the Ecuadorian lawyers he led corrupted the Lago Agrio case.

They submitted fraudulent evidence. They coerced one judge, first to use a court-appointed, supposedly impartial, “global expert” to make an overall damages assessment and, then, to appoint to that important role a man whom Donziger hand-picked and paid to “totally play ball” with the LAPs.

They then paid a Colorado consulting firm secretly to write all or most of the global expert’s report, falsely presented the report as the work of the court-appointed and supposedly impartial expert, and told half-truths or worse to U.S. courts in attempts to prevent exposure of that and other wrongdoing. Ultimately, the LAP team wrote the Lago Agrio court’s Judgment themselves and promised $500,000 to the Ecuadorian judge to rule in their favor and sign their judgment. If ever there were a case warranting equitable relief with respect to a judgment procured by fraud, this is it.

The defendants seek to avoid responsibility for their actions by emphasizing that the Lago Agrio case took place in Ecuador and by invoking the principle of comity. But that warrants no different conclusion.

Comity and respect for other nations are important. But comity does not command blind acquiescence in injustice, least of all acquiescence within the bounds of our own nation.

Courts of equity long have granted relief against fraudulent judgments entered in other states and, though less frequently, other countries. Moreover, the United States has important interests here. The misconduct at issue was planned, supervised, financed and executed in important (but not all) respects by Americans in the United States in order to extract money from a U.S. victim.

That said, considerations of comity and the avoidance of any misunderstanding have shaped the relief sought here. Chevron no longer seeks, and this Court does not grant, an injunction barring enforcement of the Lago Agrio Judgment anywhere in the world.

What this Court does do is to prevent Donziger and the two LAP Representatives, who are subject to this Court’s personal jurisdiction, from profiting in any way from the egregious fraud that occurred here. That is quite a different matter. Indeed, the LAP Representatives’ lawyer recently conceded before the Second Circuit that the defendants “would not have a problem” with “the alternative relief that [Chevron] would be seeking, such as enjoining the person who paid the bribe from benefitting from it,” assuming that the judge was bribed.

Defendants thus have acknowledged the propriety of equitable relief to prevent individuals subject to the Court’s jurisdiction from benefitting from misdeeds for which they are responsible. And while the Court does enjoin enforcement of the Judgment by these defendants in the United States, that limited injunction raises no issues of comity or international relations. It is the prerogative of American courts to determine whether foreign judgments may be no different conclusion.

Comity and respect for other nations are important. But comity does not command blind acquiescence in injustice, least of all acquiescence within the bounds of our own nation.

Courts of equity long have granted relief against fraudulent judgments entered in other states and, though less frequently, other countries. Moreover, the United States has important interests here.  The misconduct at issue was planned, supervised, financed and executed in important (but not all) respects by Americans in the United States in order to extract money from a U.S. victim.

That said, considerations of comity and the avoidance of any misunderstanding have shaped the relief sought here. Chevron no longer seeks, and this Court does not grant, an injunction barring enforcement of the Lago Agrio Judgment anywhere in the world.

What this Court does do is to prevent Donziger and the two LAP Representatives, who are subject to this Court’s personal jurisdiction, from profiting in any way from the egregious fraud that occurred here. That is quite a different matter. Indeed, the LAP Representatives’ lawyer recently conceded before the Second Circuit that the defendants “would not have a problem” with “the alternative relief that [Chevron] would be seeking, such as enjoining the person who paid the bribe from benefitting from it,” assuming that the judge was bribed.1

Defendants thus have acknowledged the propriety of equitable relief to prevent individuals subject to the Court’s jurisdiction from benefitting from misdeeds for which they are responsible. And while the Court does enjoin enforcement of the Judgment by these defendants in the United States, that limited injunction raises no issues of comity or international relations. It is the prerogative of American courts to determine whether foreign judgments may be laws of any nation that aspires to the rule of law, including Ecuador – and they knew it. Indeed, one Ecuadorian legal team member, in a moment of panicky candor, admitted that if documents exposing just part of what they had done were to come to light, “apart from destroying the proceeding, all of us, your attorneys, might go to jail.”2

It is time to face the facts.”

Link to the judgement: http://tinyurl.com/o8p6gve

 

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PG&E Attempt to Improperly Influence California PUC Should Result in Penalty, City of San Bruno Demands in Legal Filing

Jack Hagan, CPUC Safety HeadElizaveta Malashenko

Jack Hagan and Elizaveta Malashenko of the CPUC Safety Enforcement Division made allegedly illegal deal with PG&E

San Bruno, Calif. – An attempt by Pacific Gas & Electric Company to broker what appears to be a secret deal with a California Public Utilities Commission staffer should result in significant penalties and fines for the utility company and the creation of an independent monitor to ensure transparency and accountability of the CPUC, San Bruno demanded in a legal filing with the CPUC today.

The apparent backroom deal, revealed in a report by Jaxon Van Derbecken San Francisco Chronicle newspaper, detailed how PG&E hoped to quietly pay  a $375,000 fine to avoid paying a proposed $2.5 billion in penalties and fines for the 2010 San Bruno explosion and fire that killed eight, injured 66, destroyed 38 homes and left a giant hole in the center of the city.

In a legal motion filed with the CPUC on Friday, San Bruno officials demanded that PG&E face a significant fine for violating CPUC rules when, in December, it paid a $375,000 fine imposed by the CPUC’s safety enforcement division – and then quietly asked that the fine count against the multi-billion-dollar penalty it faces for violations stemming from the San Bruno pipeline disaster.

It was revealed that no parties involved in the more than three-year San Bruno penalty proceeding were made aware of PG&E’s secret payment. Instead, the CPUC withdrew the fine and refunded the $375,000 payment amid concerns that PG&E had attempted to broker a backroom deal that could have triggered a form of regulatory double jeopardy, preventing the CPUC’s administrative law judges from levying a sufficient future penalty.

“Instead of being transparent and forthcoming, PG&E appears to have consciously elected to conceal an ill-fated attempt to quietly settle for the fatal and tragic pipeline disaster in San Bruno,” said San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane. “We believe PG&E should be fined and reprimanded for trying to undermine the ongoing penalty investigation and possibly jeopardizing more than three years of work to ensure that what happened in San Bruno never happens again, anywhere.”

“This attempt to circumvent the legal and public process also raises troubling questions about the CPUC safety division and its staffer who attempted to conceal this backroom deal,” representatives for the city added. “This action is just the latest attempt by the PG&E and some members of the CPUC safety division to hide from public view the unholy alliance and power PG&E has with our State’s regulatory agency.  That is why San Bruno demands an independent monitor to ensure the CPUC is operating properly and transparently.”

The $375,000 fine was originally levied in December by the CPUC’s safety enforcement division in response to a 2012 audit, which concluded that for more than four decades PG&E lacked the proper procedures to monitor its gas-transmission pipelines. Reliable reports indicate that CPUC safety division deputy director Elizaveta Malashenko, who made this deal with PG&E, has a longstanding personal relationship with PG&E outside of her CPUC job.

Because the infraction related directly to the ongoing San Bruno-related penalty proceeding, it should have been handled as part of that process. Instead, it was handled and paid separately, without notification to any parties and in violation of CPUC’s own procedures.

San Bruno officials say they suspect that a backroom deal, involving illegal ex-parte communications between PG&E and the CPUC, played a role in this mishap. Attorneys for San Bruno have filed a public records request to determine whether PG&E officials spoke directly with CPUC leadership to arrange for the fine that PG&E paid – and later tried using to reduce their overall penalty.

In December, the CPUC fined PG&E $14 million for failing to disclose faulty pipeline records in San Carlos to both the CPUC, the public and the City of San Carlos for nearly a year, creating a possibly dangerous public safety issue that one of its own engineers likened to possibly “another San Bruno situation” in an internal email to PG&E executives.

San Bruno officials say this latest attempt to undercut its obligation to the public further underscores the need for an Independent Pipeline Safety Monitor to serve as a vigilant third-party watchdog over both PG&E and its regulator, the CPUC.

“The Commission lacks the resources to effectively comprehend and oversee PG&E’s compliance,” said the city’s filling. “An Independent Monitor would partner with and provide additional resources to the Commission in order to have more robust regulatory oversight necessary to protect the safety of the public.”

The San Bruno filing came on the same day as the announcement that CPUC Commissioner Mark Farron will be resigning from the Commission to concentrate on beating prostate cancer.

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San Francisco Christmas Eve Day Toy Drive for Children at Handlery Hotel by Firefighters is a Success

 

San Francisco Firefighters Union Local 798 held a successful toy drive to make sure no child went without a toy in San Francisco this Christmas, thanks to Jon Handlery and his family’s landmark San Francisco hotel.

 

Dressed as Santa Claus, San Francisco Firefighter Bob Cuff and costumed characters accompanied by off-duty firefighters were in front of the Handlery Union Square Hotel, 351 Geary (between Powell and Mason), San Francisco from 9 a.m. to midnight on Christmas Eve day.

 

Beloved hotel owner Jon Handlery and Handlery hotel staff served as “Santa’s Helpers” and assisted with the collection of thousands of toys for needy San Francisco kids.

 

The Handlery Hotel has raised $3,500 and donated two barrels of toys to the drive this year to ensure no kid were without a Holiday present.

 

Firefighters Union Local 798 asked people to bring unwrapped toys which were collected in front of the Handlery Hotel. Everyone who brought a toy got free pictures with Santa and many children brought their lists of Christmas wishes to Santa in person.

 

An additional toy drive was held just next door to the hotel at Lefty O’Doul’s bar and pub, a property which is also owned by the Handlery family.

 

SF Firefighters Local 798 Toy Program

 

The Local 798 San Francisco Firefighters Toy Program is celebrating its 64th year of providing toys to San Francisco children in need during the holidays.  The San Francisco Firefighter’s Toy Program is San Francisco’s largest and the nation’s oldest program of its kind.  Since 1949 it has evolved from a few firefighters repairing broken toys and bikes for 15 families to, in 2012, 300 firefighters and friends volunteering their time to distribute over 200,000 toys to more than 40,000 disadvantaged children.

 

Besides helping individual families in need, the Toy Program serves many community organizations, including shelters for abused women and children, inner-city schools, children’s cancer wards, and pediatric AIDS units.

 

The Toy Program is made possible through public donations and the efforts and contributions of Local 798 members.

 

Firefighters Union Local 798 wishes to thank Jon Handlery & the staff of the Handlery Union Square hotel for welcoming the Toy Program at their property.

 

 

The Handlery Union Square Hotel

 

Located at Union Square, the Handlery Union Square Hotel offers the perfect San Francisco lodging for vacationers and business travelers.  As a fourth generation family-owned hotel, the Handlery has created great experiences for guests by offering personal service, beautifully appointed rooms, and a warm atmosphere.  Ideally located right next to the world famous Powell Street cable car line, the Handlery Union Square Hotel is a beloved San Francisco institution.

 

 

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Canvasback Missions Takes a Major Step in the Fight Against Diabetes in the Marshall Islands

By Alexander Hirata

Canvasback Missions has spent years working to reverse the diabetes epidemic in the Marshall Islands. They’ve brought specialty medical care to the islands for over 30 years, and have run the Diabetes Wellness Center on Majuro since 2006. Now, Canvasback is working to reverse the epidemic of diabetes in the Marshall Islands by preventing the onset of the disease before it begins.

 

Made possible by a generous grant from the World Diabetes Foundation, Canvasback is working with Antonia Demas, Ph.D., and Marshall Islands health officials to bring health education into the classroom. Dr. Demas has visited the Marshall Islands twice so far, traveling last with Canvasback co-founder Jacque Spence and employee Jaylene Chung to implement trials of the new food education curriculum in the public schools on Majuro and Ebeye in October. The team trained instructors how to teach from the curriculum, which involves special hands-on activities to engage children and make food education fun.

 

Dr. Antonia Demas studied education, nutrition, and anthropology at Cornell University. She has developed food-based curricula for schools for over 40 years, successfully implementing her “Food is Elementary” program in over 3,000 schools. Demas is also the founder and president of the New York-based Food Studies Institute, a not-for-profit created to improve children’s health through food education.

 

One of Demas’ key beliefs is that the food we eat directly affects our health. Processed foods have replaced natural ones, and chemical preservatives are now a regular part of our diets. Demas believes that children are the ideal group to teach food literacy to: they don’t have established diets that are difficult to change; they are open to new ideas, especially if taught using sensory (taste, touch, and visual) methods; and healthy habits now would prevent illnesses later.

 

Canvasback is proud to work with Demas, because both know that food education is essential to reverse diabetes in the Marshall Islands. It is cost-efficient, slipping into the existing educational system, yet its effects will last for a lifetime. And once established, local schools and teachers will be in full control of the program. The most difficult part of the program won’t be getting kids interested in healthy eating–it will be waiting years to see how well it pays off.

 

To learn more about the work of Canvasback Missions, contact them at: 940 Adams St., Suite R, Benicia, Calif. 94510. Phone: 800-793-7245 or email them at info@canvasback.org

 

 

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California PUC to Consider Historic Fine Against PG&E and Orrick Herrington Law Firm Attorney in Faulty Gas Line Case

Joseph M. Malkin

PG&E and its Orrick Herrington Attorney are Facing Historic Fines and Legal Sanctions for Misleading the California Public Utilities Commission

The California Public Utilities Commission will vote on historic sanctions and a fine of up to $17 million against the Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. Thursday, Dec. 19 for failing to disclose faulty pipeline records in San Carlos to both the CPUC, the public and the City of San Carlos for nearly a year, creating a possibly dangerous public safety issue that one of its own engineers likened to possibly “another San Bruno situation” in an internal email to PG&E executives.

PG&E and its attorney Joseph M. Malkin of Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP law firm are facing a fine of up to $17 million for violating CPUC rules and discreetly filing an “errata” – the legal term for a minor correction – on the status of two pipelines, located in San Carlos and Millbrae, nearly a year after a gas leak unexpectedly revealed faulty records for those pipelines.

Pipelines listed as “seamless,” as in the case of the line that ruptured in San Bruno, were in fact a 1929 vintage welded and reconditioned gas pipe with a strength test less than records showed. The legal correction was made quietly on the afternoon of July 3, 2013, a day before the CPUC took off for the July Fourth holiday, disclosing the fact that PG&E had relied on faulty records to determine the specifications for those pipelines to handle gas at high pressure.

The Commission will make this decision three weeks after PG&E CEO and Chairman Tony Earley made a special presentation before the CPUC in an attempt to convince commissioners and the public of the company’s renewed commitment to safety. Earley was met with a skeptical commission, which challenged PG&E’s credibility in the face of mounting recordkeeping errors and threats to public safety. “We find ourselves here today with a public that doesn’t believe you and in many respects doesn’t believe us,” Commissioner Mike Florio said to Earley at the hearing.

City of San Bruno officials have agreed with the proposed fine against PG&E and are calling on the CPUC to uphold proposed sanctions against PG&E for deliberately covering up the facts after it used faulty records to determine that two Bay Area pipelines could safely operate – a decision demonstrating the continued problem with PG&E record keeping practices. Bad record keeping was one of the causes of the 2010 PG&E disaster in San Bruno and continues to threaten public safety.

Calling the July 3 PG&E filing a “brazen and calculated act of damage control,” San Bruno attorneys say PG&E’s legal maneuver illustrates PG&E’s ongoing attempts to cover its tracks as it continues to use natural gas pipelines at inappropriate operating pressures, without accurate records and with the same flawed materials that caused a tragic explosion and fire in San Bruno that killed eight, destroyed 38 homes and damaged scores more.

City officials were shocked to discover that, after gross negligence and bad recordkeeping by PG&E resulted in the fatal tragedy in San Bruno, PG&E paid its legal team to perpetuate their deception at the risk of public safety. They are now calling on the CPUC to issue sanctions and send the strong message that such behavior will not be tolerated. Officials question how many communities must endure tragedy before PG&E and our state utility regulators wake up and put safety first.

Faulty recordkeeping was found to be a major contributor to the explosion and fire in San Bruno after federal and state investigators found that PG&E had maintained bad or nonexistent pipeline safety records for much of its 1,000+ miles of urban natural gas transmission lines. As a result, state regulators required PG&E to lower pressure on its other Peninsula gas pipelines until safety records could be verified.

In 2011, PG&E declared that the pipeline construction records were accurate for both Line 101, which runs from Milpitas to San Francisco, and Line 147, which runs in the San Carlos area. Based on PG&E’s representations, the CPUC allowed PG&E to increase the pressure back to pre-explosion levels.

In reality, PG&E’s pipelines were not rated to operate at higher pressure, as revealed after an October 2012 corrosion-related leak in San Carlos revealed seams in the pipeline previously not thought to exist. Yet, it took nine months for the company to admit – by way of the subtle “errata” filing — that the records it had relied on to make that determination were faulty.

At previous CPUC hearings, regulators pressed PG&E over the “profoundly troubling” oversight, which occurred despite “the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars for record review and validation.” PG&E now faces fines of up to $17 million, on top of a possible $2.25 billion penalty and fine stemming from the fatal 2010 explosion and fire in San Bruno.

San Bruno officials say this is just the latest example of PG&E expending millions on top attorneys – more than $120 million by PG&E’s own admission – to subvert the truth and put profits over people.

 

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CPUC Should Fine PG&E, Orrick Law Firm Millions for Gas Pipeline Safety Cover-Up Says City of San Bruno

CPUC Should Sanction and Fine PG&E and its law firm Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe and Attorney Joseph M. Malkin in Public Gas Line Safety Cover-up

San Francisco, Calif. – City of San Bruno officials this week called on the California Public Utilities Commission to sanction Pacific Gas & Electric’s legal team for deliberately covering up for PG&E after it used faulty records to determine that two Bay Area pipelines could safely operate – a decision demonstrating the continued problem with PG&E record keeping practices. Bad record keeping was one of the causes of the 2010 PG&E disaster in San Bruno and continues to threaten public safety.

In a filing late Sept. 26 with the CPUC in response to an order to “Show Cause Why It Should Not Be Sanctioned,” San Bruno asked that PG&E’s legal team, including top attorney Joseph M. Malkin of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, be sanctioned for discreetly filing an “errata” – the legal term for a minor correction – on the status of two pipelines, located in San Carlos and Millbrae, nine months after a gas leaked revealed those pipelines. The legal correction was made quietly on the afternoon of on July 3, 2013, a day before the CPUC took off for the July Fourth holiday, as a strategy to hide the fact that PG&E had relied on faulty records to determine the specifications for those pipelines to handle gas at high pressure.

Calling the July 3 filing by Malkin a “brazen and calculated act of damage control,” San Bruno attorneys say PG&E’s latest legal maneuver illustrates PG&E’s ongoing attempts to cover its tracks as it continues to use natural gas pipelines at inappropriate operating pressures, without accurate records and with the same flawed materials that caused a tragic explosion and fire in San Bruno that killed eight, destroyed 38 homes and damaged scores more.

“Gross negligence and bad recordkeeping by PG&E resulted in a fatal tragedy in our community, and now we’re discovering that PG&E is paying its legal team to perpetuate their deception at the risk of public safety,” said San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane. “PG&E and its lawyers continue to play Russian roulette with people’s lives, and we are calling on the CPUC to issue sanctions and send the strong message that this behavior will not be tolerated. How many communities must endure tragedy before PG&E and our state utility regulators wake up and put safety first?”

Faulty recordkeeping was found to be a major contributor to the explosion and fire in San Bruno after federal and state investigators found that PG&E had maintained bad or nonexistent pipeline safety records for much of its 1,000+ miles of urban natural gas transmission lines. As a result, state regulators required PG&E to lower pressure on its other Peninsula gas pipelines until safety records could be verified.

In 2011, PG&E declared that the pipeline construction records were accurate for both Line 101, which runs from Milpitas to San Francisco, and Line 147, which runs in the San Carlos area. Based on PG&E’s representations, the CPUC allowed PG&E to increase the pressure back to pre-explosion levels.

In reality, PG&E’s pipelines were not rated to operate at higher pressure, as revealed after an October 2012 corrosion-related leak in San Carlos revealed seams in the pipeline previously not thought to exist. Yet, it took nine months for company attorneys to admit – by way of the subtle errata filing — that the records it had relied on to make that determination were faulty.

At a Sept. 6 hearing at the CPUC, state regulators pressed PG&E attorney Joseph Malkin over the “profoundly troubling” oversight, which occurred despite “the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars for record review and validation.” PG&E now faces fines of up to $250,000 for its mistake, on top of a possible $2.25 billion penalty and fine stemming from the fatal 2010 explosion and fire in San Bruno.

San Bruno officials say this is just the latest example of PG&E expending millions on top attorneys – more than $120 million by PG&E’s own admission – to subvert the truth and put profits over people.

At the Sept. 6 hearing, the PG&E legal team was selectively unresponsive to questions posed by the CPUC’s administrative law judges, invoking “attorney-client privilege,” which allowed them to dodge tough questions. Attorneys for San Bruno are asking that the CPUC conclude that PG&E waived its attorney-client privilege.

“Enough is enough. San Bruno will not sit by and watch PG&E willingly take advantage of public trust any longer,” Ruane said. “Three years after tragedy struck our community, we will continue to serve as a vigilant watch dog for public safety so that what happened in our community never happens again anywhere.”

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Drakes Bay Oyster Co: Judge Slams Majority Opinion, Calls it a “Hand Waving” decision

INVERNESS, CALIF. — Owners of the Drakes Bay Oyster Company today said they strongly disagree with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision to eject the historic oyster farm, and that attorneys for Drakes Bay are now reviewing all options before announcing the farm’s plans moving forward.

The Ninth Circuit’s three-judge panel ruled 2 to 1 today against the oyster operation, with Justice Paul J. Watford writing a dissenting opinion in support of the oyster farm. In the dissent, Watford wrote that Drakes Bay should have prevailed on its claim that Secretary Salazar’s decision was, “arbitrary, capricious or otherwise not in accordance with law.” Watford also stated that the majority opinion consisted of “hand waving” containing “nothing of any substance”, and that the injunction should have been granted (see pg. 47 from the Ninth Circuit decision).

The well-loved oyster farm asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to prohibit the Federal Government from ejecting Drakes Bay from its property, destroying its business and taking away the jobs of its 30 employees before the case was even fully litigated.

“As community farmers and environmentalists, we continue to hold firmly in our belief that we have taken the appropriate measures to protect and preserve the waters of Drakes Estero and the wildlife that calls the National Seashore home,” said Kevin Lunny, owner of Drakes Bay.

For years, Drakes Bay has been fighting against false science and unsupported accusations from the Interior Department and the National Park Service in their attempts to close down the farm.  In a decision made last November, then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar refused to issue a permit to allow Drakes Bay to continue farming upon the expiration of its 40-year-lease. The lease allowed the farm to operate on public land within the Point Reyes National Seashore, which was created decades after the oyster farm’s inception.

Drakes Bay asserts that the Ninth Circuit panel failed to consider several critical issues in their decision. Drakes Bay alleges that Salazar illegally determined that the Estero’s “potential wilderness” designation prevailed over Congress’ more recent direction, which authorized the renewal of the farm’s permit due to the fact that Salazar’s decision relied heavily on scientific misconduct and false science.

“The Ninth Circuit’s decision to deny this injunction is a step backwards not only for Drakes Bay, but also for Marin County, proponents of sustainable agriculture and farmers around the country. Our attorneys are now reviewing all of our options before we announce our plans moving forward.” Lunny said.

About Drakes Bay Oyster Company

Oyster farming in Drakes Estero, located in Point Reyes, Marin County, has been part of the region’s history for nearly 100 years. The Lunnys, a fourth-generation ranching family, purchased Drakes Bay in 2004 to revive a historical part of the local community and ensure the continued environmental health of Drakes Estero.  Drakes Bay currently employs nearly 30 community members, and farms sustainably in Drakes Estero, producing approximately one-third of all oysters in California. The Lunny family works hard to participate in keeping the agricultural economic system in West Marin alive. Drakes Bay actively participates in the creation of a more sustainable food model that restores, conserves, and maintains the productivity of the local landscapes and the health of its inhabitants. For more information, please visit www.drakesbayoyster.com.

 

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America’s Cup Race Jury Decision Makes Oracle Team USA Underdog in Most Contested America’s Cup in History

 

Oracle Team USA Now Is The Underdog in Most Heated America's Cup in History

 

An international jury has levied the harshest penalties in the 162-year history of the America’s Cup, docking defending champion Oracle Team USA two points in the finals against Emirates Team Zealand and expelling a key sailor.

The penalties announced against the syndicate Tuesday are for illegally modifying prototype boats in warmup regattas last year and earlier this year.

Oracle Team USA must win 11 races to retain the silver trophy. Team New Zealand must still win nine races in the series, which starts Saturday on San Francisco Bay.

Dirk de Ridder, who trims the wing sail, is barred from sailing in the regatta, and two shore crew members also have been expelled. Grinder Matt Mitchell has been barred from the first four races.

Oracle Team USA also was fined $250,000.

“The rules infractions involved only a few of our 130 team members, and were done without the knowledge of either our team’s management or the skippers who were driving the boats,” said team CEO Russell Coutts in a statement. “While we disagree with the unprecedented penalties imposed by the Jury, we have no choice but to make the necessary changes to personnel on our race boat and do our best to use the next four days for the new team to practice and get ready for the start of the 34th America’s Cup.”

The scenario creates the most hotly contested America’s Cup race in the storied history of the sport, clearly placing the Oracle Team USA as the underdog in the series against Emirates Team Zealand.  Despite the stupidity of Team USA members for participating in the boat weighting affair, the hard lesson learned has created a more than healthy rivalry with the Kiwi team.

The Kiwi team and the New Zealand media may have overplayed their hand and protested too much, creating an animosity with the American team.  American’s fight best when they are down, and they are assuredly down now, having lost three members of their team and two match points.

The New Zealander team has been together for four years and now the Oracle Team USA has only been selected and together for four days.  That’s quite a contrast, and, combined with the jury’s penalties, puts them in a fight, win or die position.  And, it also adds excitement and a new angle to what has been, up until now, a rather lackluster sporting event in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Hand it to Larry Ellison. Even when his team screws up, they make the best and most exciting things out of it.

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America’s Cup: Is Emirates New Zealand Team Celebrating America’s Cup Jury Decision Too Soon?

America’s Cup: Jury Rigged?

The level of glee by the Emirates New Zealand  team and news media over foibles of Oracle Team USA has taken such a decidedly nasty turn that members of the International Jury have delayed their decision over what penalties, if any, should be given to defending America’s Cup champion team in the “weighting scandal.”

Clearly, Oracle Team USA made a serious mistake. Who in Hell puts weights on a ship to make it go faster? And, who in Hell does it in “pre-season” matches when it doesn’t matter in scoring America’s Cup races?

It was a stupid move by someone/s on Team USA, but it shouldn’t impact the most sought after silver trophy in the World, The America’s Cup.

But the New Zealand team, and the media down-under, have gone “John Bull Mad” over the alleged scandal and created such an ugly scene they have brought disrepute on themselves as much as Team USA. It’s embarrassing to read the ‘homer” news copy from the Kiwis.

The N.Z. media’s fawning stories about the “cheating scandal” and how it has harmed the sport are hogwash.  The America’s Cup is always controversial and the Kiwi’s namby-pamby media patter has made the entire sport look amateurish, low-class and soft.

The jury should make its decision and it should be fair and square–something that has not been so far with leaks from the Jury and other questionable allegations making their way into the media.

The Jury’s pending decision should not be delayed any longer and the decision must be commensurate with the alleged wrong doing: if no harm and no impact was had on the America’s Cup race itself, why should any of the sailors or Team USA be penalized? Really?

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Did PG&E CEO Tony Earley Lie to Bloomberg News on Bankruptcy Statement on CPUC San Bruno Fine?

 

Did PG&E CEO and Chairman Tony Earley Knowingly Mislead Bloomberg News and Wall Street?

 

Pacific Gas & Electric Company CEO Tony Earley’s statement to Bloomberg News this week has landed the utility executive between a rock and hard place.

The City of San Bruno today criticized statements by the top executive of Pacific Gas & Electric Company who told Bloomberg News on Tuesday that a proposed penalty and fine by the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) for the deadly 2010 PG&E gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno could force the utility into bankruptcy – statements that contradict the sworn legal testimony of PG&E’s own finance expert.

PG&E Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Tony Earley told Bloomberg in a news interview the proposed $2.25 billion penalty and fine for the Sept. 9, 2010 explosion in San Bruno that killed eight, destroyed 38 homes and damaged the community could not be funded with equity alone. He told the news service the penalty would require PG&E shareholders to sell billions in additional stock and, if shares failed to sell, could land PG&E in bankruptcy.

San Bruno city officials said these comments contradict the findings of multiple experts, including PG&E’s own paid finance consultant.

“Mr. Earley’s comments are inconsistent with the company’s own sworn testimony made before the CPUC on March 5 this year,” said San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane. “PG&E’s own expert said the company has the financial capability to withstand a penalty of this magnitude. We are deeply concerned that these comments could mislead the market, shareholders, and the public, and we hope these were not made in a deliberate attempt to influence the outcome of the ongoing penalty process.”

Earlier this year, PG&E’s paid expert, Eric O. Fornell of Wells Fargo Securities, said during a penalty proceeding under oath that it was “doable” for PG&E to issue equity or raise enough capital to cover a $2 billion penalty. His statements followed a separate, impartial report by Overland Consulting, independently commissioned by the CPUC in 2012, which similarly found that PG&E would be able to afford a $2.25 billion penalty without hurting its creditworthiness.

Meanwhile, PG&E stock prices remain strong. PG&E Corp.’s second-quarter earnings rose 39 percent as the utility reported stronger revenue and lower charges related to its natural-gas pipeline efforts, among other items.

The company’s solid financial footing and multiple expert findings are partly what guided the $2.25 billion recommendation of the CPUC’s safety division, which issued its revised penalty proposal in July. The proposed $2.25 billion penalty would fund ongoing safety improvements and include a $300 million fine to PG&E shareholders, which is not tax deductible and would be paid directly to the State of California’s general fund. In addition, the proposal also curtails PG&E’s ability to deduct “credits” for safety repairs made since the 2010 explosion and fire – a provision San Bruno has advocated strongly for.

San Bruno officials said they support elements of the CPUC’s proposed penalty, but given the scope and magnitude of PG&E’s misconduct, they are pushing for a penalty of $3.8 billion, which would amount to $2.45 billion in after-tax dollars. This penalty would also fund ongoing safety improvements and give no credits for past expenses. San Bruno based its recommendation on the Overland report, which determined that PG&E could bear a maximum financial consequence of $2.45 billion and remain solvent.

San Bruno said it will also continue pushing the CPUC to direct PG&E to adopt and fund a series of remedial measures that will ensure systemic regulatory change in the future. These include $5 million per year for a “California Pipeline Safety Trust,” an Independent Monitor to make sure PG&E follows its own safety plan in the face of possible lax enforcement and the installation of lifesaving Automated Shutoff Valves.

The CPUC’s five-member commission is expected to issue its final recommendation in coming months.

“As we approach the three-year anniversary of this devastating tragedy, we remain firm in our belief that the only way to prevent future accidents is by penalizing PG&E to the maximum,” Mayor Ruane said. “The independent experts – even PG&E’s – have agreed that PG&E is financially able to weather a penalty of this magnitude—and then some. We are now looking to the CPUC to do the right thing and penalize PG&E in order to send a strong message that public safety cannot be compromised by the bottom line.”

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Centerplate and Teamsters Reach Agreement for Employees at AT&T Park, Other SF Venues: New Pressure on Local 2 UNITE HERE to Bargain in Good Faith

San Francisco—Centerplate, one of the largest hospitality and concession companies in North America, and San Francisco’s Teamsters Local 853 recently announced the ratification of a collective bargaining agreement for 200 retail and food service employees working at AT&T Park, Candlestick, and the Cow Palace. The agreement, which extends through March 31, 2016, includes an immediate wage increase, a signing bonus and excellent health and welfare benefits.

The announcement comes as Local 2 Unite Here refuses to respond to Centerplate’s proposals for a wage increase and bonus for food service workers at AT&T Park and Candlestick. Rather than negotiating a fair deal with Centerplate, Local 2′s Union boss, Mike Casey, has stated for months he will not agree to Centerplate’s economic proposal while at the same time refusing to provide a counter proposal.

“Centerplate would like to thank the Teamsters for working with us to achieve a deal for our employees and provide our team with the wages and benefits they deserve,” said Sam Singer, spokesperson for Centerplate. “It is bizarre to us that we can come to terms with the Teamsters in a matter of hours for an agreement that provides for improved wages, while Local 2 continues to focus on irrelevant issues. We invite Local 2 to return to the table with a renewed sense of urgency to accept our proposal that immediately puts money in the pockets of our employees—their members,” said Singer.

The agreement reached between Centerplate and the Teamsters took a total of 6 hours and includes the following terms:

1)      An immediate $1.50 per hour increase and a minimum of a $.40 per hour increase in years 2 and 3 of the contract for Food Service workers;

2)      A $500 signing bonus for Food Service workers who worked at least 40 events last year;

3)      An immediate $1.40 per hour increase and a $.30 per hour increase for years 2 and 3 of the contract for Merchandise workers;

4)      A $100 signing bonus for Merchandise workers who worked at least 40 events last year; and

5)      A $5,000 increase in pension contributions per year, raising Centerplate’s annual pension contribution to $20,000 per year.

Last month, Local 2 union leaders walked out on contract negotiations with Centerplate and a Federal Mediator, once again failing to make an economic counter proposal, thereby denying, for the time being, Centerplate’s employees at AT&T Park and Candlestick the economic benefits that would flow from a new contract.

“We hope this sends a clear message to Unite Here’s labor boss, Mike Casey, that it’s possible that we can reach a fair and reasonable deal, but that doing so requires both parties to focus on the best outcome for Centerplate’s employees, not on third parties,” said Singer. “These past few months, Mike Casey has spent almost as much time picketing and demonstrating as he has sitting at the negotiation table where a fair deal awaits Centerplate employees. Ultimately, it’s the employees who are paying the price. Centerplate’s deal with the Teamsters demonstrates again that we are willing to deliver bonuses, salary increases, and the health and welfare security that our employees deserve,” said Singer.

Under Union boss Casey, Local 2 continues to make non-economic demands outside of the concessionaire’s control and has threatened years of potential labor strife and demonstrations. In May, Local 2 was sued by Centerplate for attempting to illegally force the San Francisco Giants into signing a “successor addendum” that would bind the baseball team, and any future concessionaire at AT&T Park, to the same terms Local 2 negotiates with Centerplate. This action is illegal under federal labor law, Centerplate officials said, because the foodservice employees at AT&T Park are employed by Centerplate and not the San Francisco Giants, who are being unfairly dragged into a fight that is not theirs to have.

As a seasonal, part-time labor force, Centerplate’s employees currently earn the highest wages in the nation, making an average of approximately $15 to $20 per hour. These part-time employees also receive some of the best benefits, with fully paid healthcare individually and for their families. Most of these workers do not work enough hours to qualify for health benefits under Obamacare, but Centerplate has provided it to them all along.

To ensure seamless exceptional service for fans, Centerplate has made an offer than includes:

  • A ratification bonus of approximately 4.5 percent—$500—for those who worked more than 40 games in 2012;
  • A 1.7 percent annual wage increase on top of what already is the best compensation package in the industry;
  • Increased contribution of 9.2 percent to the Unite Here benefit plans; and
  • Employer paid health care for employees and their families.

For months, Centerplate has been in negotiations over a new contract. Local 2 delayed requesting negotiations for nearly two years and, even after it first offered to bargain, Local 2 dragged its feet and delayed negotiations. Throughout this time, Centerplate has been encouraging Local 2 to move quickly to find a solution.

“Nothing is more important to Centerplate than our employee partners and the customer service experience we provide guests. Local 2’s actions and demands are an attack on our guests and the community groups we partner with at AT&T Park and Candlestick. It is time for Local 2 to come back to the table and focus on a realistic agreement,” Singer said.

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Major Victory for Drakes Bay Oyster Co. as Marin Court Allows Farm to Remain Open Until Federal Lawsuit is Resolved

Amy Trainer, Environmental Action Committee of West Marin executive director, discredited by false statements against Drakes Bay Oyster Co. Court makes favorable  judgement for DBOC

A Marin County Superior Court Judge put two orders by the California Coastal Commission on the back burner that would have forced the historic Drakes Bay Oyster Company (DBOC) to shut down prior to the resolution of a pending federal lawsuit.

“We are pleased that the court stayed the restoration order, recognizing that it was inappropriate for the Commission to act while the federal permit is still  under review by the Court,” said DBOC owner, Kevin Lunny.  “We are  troubled, however, that the Commission continues to misrepresent the oyster farm operations to the public and the Court. We are confident that theirmisrepresentations will be revealed for what they are—completely unfounded and contradictory with their own reports—when the hearing on the merits occurs,” he said.

In February 2013, the Commission issued a Cease and Desist Order and Restoration Order against Drakes Bay, alleging that the historic farm was not complying with required standards and was harming harbor seals, eelgrass and the environment of Drakes Estero. These allegations were  repeatedly proven to be false by the Nation’s top scientists and the Commission’s own reports.

A special Commission Trip Report, prepared in 2007, directly contradicts the two major claims the Commission has made in court. The Commission argued that the oyster farm harms harbor seals because “there are boats cruising around near harbor seals”, but its report admits that “servicing the oyster bags located several hundred yards away from the haul-out sites probably would not result in disturbance to the seals.”  The Commission also argued that DBOC is “expanding” operations, but its own report admitted that the historical production cap was 700,000 pounds/year, a recommended level of production which DBOC has not violated.

Even the Commission’s own vice-chair, Steve Kinsey, has called the Commission’s treatment of DBOC “morally disturbing.” Kinsey stated that the Commission has “repeated the same disproven assertions that the operation was harming harbor seals and eelgrass” and “chosen to portray the Lunnys as irresponsible operators to aid and abet the Park Service’s myopic interest in terminating the lease.”

“With the support of our employees, thousands of environmentalists, community members and elected leaders around the nation, we will continue to fight and remain confident and hopeful that we will be successful in the next stages of our legal battle,” Lunny stated.

Recently,  Amy Trainer, Director of the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin, has been  exposed in a series of false statements against Drakes Bay Oyster Co.  Trainer has issued a series of false news releases and made statements regarding  the scientific evidence about the benefits of oyster farming.  She and the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin, were also behind the false statements that the DBOC was being funded by the conservative Koch brothers.  It has been proven there was no tie or link between the Koch brothers and DBOC and Trainer and her environmental group have been discredited.

About Drakes Bay Oyster Company

Oyster farming in Drakes Estero, located in Point Reyes, MarinCounty, has been part of the region’s history for nearly 100 years. The Lunnys, a fourth-generation Point Reyesranching family, purchased Drakes Bay Oyster Company in 2004 to revive a historical part of the local community and ensure the continued environmental health of Drakes Estero.  DrakesBaycurrently employs nearly 30 community members, and farms sustainably in Drakes Estero, producing approximately one-third of all oysters in California. The Lunny family works hard to participate in keeping the agricultural economic system in West Marin alive. DrakesBayactively participates in the creation of a more sustainable food model that restores, conserves, and maintains the productivity of the local landscapes and the health of its inhabitants. For more information, please visit www.drakesbayoyster.com.

 

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San Bruno Commends Improved CPUC Recommendation to Punish PG&E, Demands Even Tougher Remedies from Regulators

San Francisco—The City of San Bruno today commended the latest legal filing by the California Public Utilities Commission’s safety division and called the improved penalty and fine proposal of $2.25 billion against Pacific Gas & Electric Company “a step in the right direction” to punish the utility for its gross negligence that caused the Sept. 9, 2010 San Bruno explosion and fire.

 

San Bruno officials have long demanded that PG&E pay the maximum for the tragic explosion and fire that took eight lives, destroyed 38 homes, and damaged scores more.  The City today said it will continue its push for additional remedies, including lifesaving fully automated safety shutoff valves and an independent safety monitor to serve as a watch dog for the completion of required system safety improvements.

 

San Bruno is also asking that the CPUC mandate that PG&E fund a Pipeline Safety Trust in California, an independent group that would advocate for pipeline safety and would serve as a legacy to the tragic explosion.  San Bruno has until Aug. 1 to file its formal response to the CPUC.

 

“The latest penalty proposal is a long-awaited step in the right direction for public safety, and we commend the attorneys within the CPUC’s safety division for exhibiting the courage to significantly strengthen the division’s previous, and inadequate, penalty recommendation,” said San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane. “While we wholeheartedly support the tougher penalty and fine, the City of San Bruno will continue to fight for additional and ongoing safeguards to protect the public and help us ensure that what happened in San Bruno never happens again, anywhere.”

 

The City cautioned that it just received the CPUC safety division filing this morning and needs to review it thoroughly before fully commenting on the revised proposal.

 

The CPUC’s revised $2.25 billion penalty and fine proposal replaces the CPUC’s original — and now discredited — recommendation announced with much hype by Jack Hagan, director of the CPUC’s safety division, in May but which was soon revealed to be 100 percent tax-deductible and littered with credits and perks to benefit PG&E, amounting in a net penalty of almost nothing for the utility.

 

Not one of the CPUC safety division’s senior attorneys agreed to sign the original penalty recommendation, calling it “unlawful” and “contrary to what our team had worked to accomplish in the last two and a half years.” Those attorneys were reassigned off the investigation as a result of their protest.

 

The shocking internal turmoil at the CPUC led San Bruno to call for an investigation by the California Attorney General and the State Legislature and, ultimately, forced the recusal of the CPUC’s chief counsel and the lead attorney on the case, Frank Lindh, a former PG&E attorney.

 

The formerly reassigned attorneys returned to the investigation and last week they requested to withdraw the old filing and “correct certain inaccuracies,” characterizing the events as “unorthodox.”

 

The amended filing not only imposes a tough penalty of about $2.25 billion that will fund ongoing safety improvements but it also incorporates a $300 million fine to PG&E shareholders, which is not tax deductible and would be diverted into the State of California’s general fund. In addition, the proposal also curtails PG&E’s ability to deduct “credits” for safety repairs made since the 2010 explosion and fire – a provision San Bruno has advocated strongly for in the past.

 

And while city officials say they generally support the monetary component of the CPUC’s revised proposal, given the widespread dysfunction at the CPUC, they will continue to push for PG&E to adopt and fund a series of remedial measures to ensure systemic regulatory change in the future. These include funding for a California Pipeline Safety Trust advocacy organization, an Independent Monitor to make sure PG&E follows its own safety plan in the face of possible lax enforcement, and the installation of lifesaving fully Automatic Shutoff Valves.   The City also opposes the proposed $435 million credit to PG&E shareholders which effectively reduces the  penalty against PG&E to $1.815 billion.

 

“While we continue to applaud those CPUC attorneys who displayed exceptional courage in their effort to uphold justice for the people and victims of San Bruno, we believe the level of chaos and disarray at the CPUC is proof that additional, going-forward remedies are needed, specifically an Independent Monitor to oversee the CPUC’s activities and correct the overly cozy relationship with the CPUC,” Ruane said. “We will continue to fight for additional safeguards so that, as the legacy of the City’s involvement in this process, we can feel confident that the state’s regulatory and public utility systems are changed for the better.”

 

 

Contact: Connie Jackson, City Manager

Phone: (650) 616-7056

Sam Singer, Singer Associates

Office: (415) 227-9700

 

 

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America’s Cup Shocker in San Francisco: Louis Vuitton Wants its Money Back for Race Sponsorship

One of the most prestigious and longest running sponsors of the America’s Cup wants some of its money back, according to the San Francisco Business Times.

Louis Vuitton, the posh French retailer that has been a primary financial backer of the competition, wants $3 million refunded because so few teams have entered.

Louis Vuitton’s initial sponsorship was for $10 million, according to an America’s Cup source. Its contract was based on at least eight teams taking part in the Louis Vuitton Cup, a round-robin playoff to determine which team will ultimately sail against Oracle Team USA in the America’s Cup championship.

There are three teams entered in the Louis Vuitton Cup: Italy’s Luna Rossa, Sweden’s Artemis Racing and Emirates Team New Zealand.

Since the 1980s, there have been anywhere from 7 to 13 teams taking part in the competition. Several potential challengers — from Korea, France, Australia, Spain and Italy — pulled out of the America’s Cup, many citing the financial burden of competing at sailing’s highest level.

Louis Vuitton can get a $1 million rebate for each team less than six that participate, the Cup source said. That would mean the company is entitled to get $3 million back.

Should any of the remaining teams pull out of the competition — which they have hinted they might do — Louis Vuitton would be entitled to even more money back.

A spokesman for the America’s Cup, which began this week and runs until September, was not immediately available for comment.

A Louis Vuitton spokesman was not immediately available for comment. But a Louis Vuitton representative told a New Zealand newspaper that the company was “not happy” with the Louis Vuitton Cup so far.

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Audubon Society Accused of Fraudulent Land Grab By Ranchers: How Audubon Society Used “White Out” To Change Boundries

MAYACAMAS MOUNTAINS, Calif. — A group of California families are accusing the National Audubon Society of whiting out parts of maps to swindle them out of their best land. This is property that in some cases has been in the families’ hands since the 1920s.

The Cervieres brothers, immigrants from France, came to California in 1895. By 1924 they had money to buy beautiful plots of land high up in the Mayacamas Mountains, towering over Sonoma wine country in northern California.

They wanted a place of retreat and refuge for what they hoped would someday be a large and extended family of Cervieres. Their descendants became five families who bought even more land in the Pine Flat area of these mountains.

And they did form a tradition across the decades of enjoying almost every major family occasion, summers and holidays in this mountain paradise. They built five homes they collectively dubbed “the ranch.”

“The ranch was like the lifeblood, the glue that held the family together,” said Lea Raynal, now one of the extended family’s matriarchs.

But a fire swept through in 2004 and burned down three of the houses.

“Torched this whole thing,” Lea’s son Mike Raynal said, looking up at a bare chimney that’s all that’s left of one home.  “We lost everything.”

Family members felt horrible but fanned hope by deciding to rebuild as quickly as possible.

Another Blow

Then came another devastating blow from a surprising source. A neighbor had bequeathed thousands of acres next door to the National Audubon Society, best known for its love of birds and conservation.

To rebuild, the families would need to upgrade the roads leading across Audubon land to accommodate their heavy construction equipment.

But after decades of everyone sharing these roads, Audubon said no and then hit the families with yet another bombshell: It said it had proof their very best acres, the flat ones where their houses had been, were actually Audubon land.

“It was like being hit in the stomach, the wind knocked out of you,” Lea recalled.

Audubon representatives showed the family survey maps that appeared to bolster Audubon’s claim, maps that years later family members would find had parts whited out by Audubon.

According to the family’s lawyer Peter Prows, the reps gave them an ultimatum:  “We’re not going to let you rebuild your homes unless you agree to the boundary as we’re claiming it to be on our drawings.”

Mike’s brother, Phil Raynal, said that would have pushed family members’ new houses “approximately 300 yards up the hill, way up in an upper meadow – virtually impossible to build on.”

“This is the only flat area,” he said, pointing to the area around him where their houses had been.

Prows said Audubon then informed the families, “If you don’t agree, we’re going to go out and build a fence on that line, and if you try to interfere, we’re going to call the police.”

Legal Battle Begins

In court documents later, Audubon insisted it believed its claim that it truly owned the best acres of its next-door neighbors.

And since it was legally bound to preserve the wilderness acres bequeathed it, the company said it couldn’t just hand those acres back to the families if it really owned them.

Audubon said it held meetings and bent over backwards to work out a deal with the families.

But here’s what Phil heard from an Audubon representative at one of those meetings: “This property has never, ever been yours. Get over it.”

“That haunts me. I tell you what, that haunts me every day,” he said.

Phil and his family accuse Audubon of simply coveting their land.

“It really bothers me that they’d come up here and try to take something that’s ours,” Phil’s young son Ryan said.

So the families decided to fight, with Mike and Phil Raynal leading the way. They threw themselves into a years-long effort to prove the ancient boundaries were correct and their land was indeed theirs, not Audubon’s.

A Costly Fight

Their efforts cost them and their families hundreds of thousands of dollars across several years, and much more than just money but “thousands and thousands and countless hours,” Phil said, shaking his head.

The brothers for years cut their way through rugged brush to find the original surveyors’ landmarks, facing rattlesnakes, ticks, poison ivy, and exhaustion.

They both already had full-time jobs. This fight became another one. Mike’s daughter Danielle feels it cost her her father.

“I’ve lost a father pretty much,” she said. “Me and my dad were very close, and it’s been hard. We’ve all drifted apart.”

Some family members were not only spending every spare hour fighting to prove Audubon wrong. But while all this was working its way through the legal system, the families couldn’t rebuild and were cut off from their piece of paradise and all those family gatherings like they’d had for decades.

“You have family reunions. You’re always having holidays,” Danielle remembered as she recalled how the five families would spend months of each year together on the ranch.

“And then it’s just an abrupt stop,” she said.

“Everybody getting together. It was just absolutely amazing,” Danielle’s mother Carin Raynal recalled. “And this whole debacle has just torn all of it apart.”

Another family member, Bruce Young, testified in a sworn declaration.

“There’s no doubt in my mind whatsoever that the emotional stress and aggravation to which Audubon subjected me is the cause and underlying reason for the three strokes I have suffered and survived,” he said.

‘White Out’ Gate

Then another stunning surprise in 2010 after years of legal wrangling: Audubon caved and said it would accept the original property lines and let the families use the roads unimpeded.

“They completely capitulated,” Prows stated.

No one outside of Audubon knows why this capitulation, but one more shock was ahead. In 2012, the families’ lawyers discovered with a subpoena that at the start of all this, Audubon had held back from family members some of the surveying maps it had commissioned.

They had also altered the maps they presented to prove Audubon’s claim.

“Audubon had actually doctored the drawings that it showed to our clients,” Prows said. “It took white out, and we have emails from Audubon’s very top people talking about putting white-out on the maps – removing the lines that its surveyors had put on the maps that Audubon didn’t like, showing that the boundary really was in the right place all along.”

This screamed lies and coverup to the families.

“We actually call it ‘White Out Gate’ now,” Phil said.

He still gets mad thinking of those thousands of hours he and Mike spent researching, gathering documents, combing through the thick brush on their land.

“Really what sunk in was all those years – seven, eight years of hard work when they knew from day one this was never their property. Ever! They knew it,” Phil fumed.

“I couldn’t believe anybody would do that,” Mike Raynal said. “I wouldn’t do that to another human being, period.”

A Bid for Restitution

Now the families are suing for fraud. Audubon admitted in court documents it didn’t give them all the surveyor’s maps but said that was because not all were relevant. It said it did white out lines on the maps but only lines it said were extraneous.

Audubon calls this lawsuit frivolous, demanding the families pay its legal bills.

Family members refuse to give an inch because all these years of legal war have certainly cost them.

“It’s affected everybody mentally, physically, emotionally,” Carin Raynal said.

When CBN News asked repeatedly for an interview or written comments, Audubon suggested researching the court documents and would only give the following mission statement:

“Audubon is fully committed to its mission as a non-profit organization dedicated to faithful care of the earth. We believe that every person on earth is a steward of land, air, water and wildlife. We believe that safeguarding America’s great natural heritage builds a better world for future generations, preserves our shared quality of life, and fosters a healthier environment for all of us.”

Lea Raynal summed up her family’s feelings about Audubon: “They came in and stirred up all this mess, and we’re left with nothing.”

From a CBN News Report

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