A week ago, SF Weekly reported on the curious case of former mayor -- and current Chronicle columnist -- Willie Brown carrying the water
for a massive engineering firm that the city shut out of a Hetch Hetchy irrigation project.
In a nutshell, Parsons Corp. served as a consultant for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission in drawing up the specs for a portion of the gargantuan, $4.4 billion project -- which led the city attorney to rule in December that San Francisco could not award that $26 million job to Parsons without potentially violating the state's conflict of interest laws. So, Brown -- who is not registered as a lobbyist -- handed San Jose Assemblyman Joe Coto a bill that would change those laws, retroactively undo last year's city attorney decision, and enrich Parsons.
Today, the San Francisco Chronicle opined that this is no way to run a railroad, and urged the state Senate to quash the bill
-- a suggestion also unanimously espoused by the Board of Supervisors yesterday. We couldn't help but notice, however, that the Chron
's piece, while acknowledging Brown's column at the paper, reported that the paper couldn't get a hold of him for a comment -- not that he refused
to comment, mind you, but that they couldn't even track him down. This is more than a little jarring; Brown famously keeps his number in the book, has an e-mail with "@sfchronicle" in the address, and you'd think his editors would have a way to get a hold of him in a hurry if he included questionable details in his column about hats, political backbiting, or who was literally lighting wads of money ablaze at a lavish party.
In our article last week, we described the convoluted situation involving Brown, Assembly Bill 746, and Parsons to ethics expert Bob Stern of the Center for Governmental Studies without using the names of any people or businesses. Yet when we revealed we were talking about Willie Brown, Stern laughed out loud. Now he was sure no rules had been broken.
"Willie will make sure he is complying with the law," said Stern. "I'm
sure Willie knows what all the rules are. He is very, very careful."
So, in brief, Brown's involvement with this bill likely isn't unlawful, but it sure looks horrible.
You could say the same about blowing off your employer's messages -- or a newspaper that can't get a hold of its own columnist.