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The Last Tycoon (Part II) 

Walter Shorenstein's skyscrapers shaped San Francisco. His cash configured City Hall. Publicly, he's pristine. But there's more than meets the eye to the man behind the megaliths.

Wednesday, May 10 1995
Nowadays, a charge of sexual harassment is a serious one indeed, particularly for a prominent man with a pristine public reputation. It can - and in this case, it did - provoke a seven-day interrogation. Novack's deposition produced 39 hours of videotape. In the part of that deposition that is included in the public record of the case, Lieber asks Novack a series of detailed questions about her personal sexual behavior, ostensibly focusing on conversations she had on the subject in the workplace. Some implied sources of his information, according to his pharsing of the questions: Cindy Testa, a longtime Shorenstein employee who coordinated the UN50 event, and Shorenstein's son, Douglas, president of the Shorenstein Company.

For example, Lieber asked Novack:

Attorney Lieber: Did you ever discuss with Cindy Testa having sex with somebody ona date where the person fell asleep but maintained an erection?

Attorney Lawless: Object. It is the same objection. This is outrageous, counsel.

Attorney Lieber: Did you discuss with Cindy Testa, at work, discovering that your date had a penile implant and feeling humilated?

Attorney Lawless: Same objections. Counsel, how is this relevant to the case?

Nancy Novack was prohibited by her lawyer from responding to Lieber's questions. Her attorney protested the line of questioning, in fact, by saying this:

"I believe you are engaging in an activity that has been a lifelong way that defendants have been able to sexually harass females for centuries, and that is by saying, if you tell we are going to go into your entire sexual history and make you look bad, we are going to make an issue of your entire sex life, and we are going to embarrass and hu,iliate you publicly."

But Lieber maintained that it was relevant. "We are not putting th eplaintiff's past sexual history on trial. We are questioning her about statements that we have every reason to believe she made in the workplace to employees."

Lieber also raised questions about the money itself. Technically, he said, an advance under the circumstances Novack described could not be properly called sexual harassment, since the money in question was a gift or loan and therefore not a quid pro quo arrangement, the way a salary arrangement would be, a position that Novack's lawyer disputed. And, he argued, why would Novack have continued to take money from Shorenstein if he was harassing her, unless that was part of the deal?

Attorney Lieber: I don't think it's a legal matter. I think it's a factual matter. I think it goes to the issue of welcomeness or unwelcomeness. What do you do to protect yourself? Why do you keep going back and asking for money in a situation in which you know is exposing you to the sexual advance? What else did you do, is the question.

Attorney Lawless: I'm not going to permit her to answer that question.
(Sotto voce discussion between the witness and her counsel).
Attorney Lawless: There were many sexual advances that were unrelated to money and I think the record is replete with such instances.

Attorney Lieber: That may or moy not be depending on whose belief. But the issue is also what steps were taken and how did those others, if they occurred, relate to any express or implied understanding about what behaviors was going to be in the workplace in exchange for receipt of certain money?

Attorney Lawless: If that's Mr. Shorenstein's testimony, that he gave money in exchange for sexual favors, I"ll wait and see and then we will reconsider our objection.

Attorney Lieber: We'll be in court long before that, I can assure you.

In fact, the case didn't reach court.
And while Lieber won't discuss the settlement amount, he does have a question for me. He wants to know where he can get a copy of the paper with this story in it.

"You can find the paper on many street corners in San Francisco," I tell him.

"I assume I can't find you on any street corners in San Francisco," he replies.

Now, that's not the public image of Walter Shorenstein. The public image of Walter Shorenstein is much more refined. The public image of Walter Shorenstein involves opera stars, White House state dinners, incumbent presidents, private airplanes, art museums, private dinners in fancy restaurants and overnight stays in the house of the ambassador to France. When Walter Shorenstein appears at all in the Chronicle, for example, chances are it's in black tie, in Pat Steger's column. Shorenstein's daughter, Carole Shorenstein Hays, also makes reguar appearances in Steger's column. When the Shorensteins are interviewed, it's likely to be by one of their own: Last fall, the Examiner's own multimillionaire publisher applied the thermometer to Walter's son, Douglas Shorenstein, in a Sunday business section Q-and-A session that ran with this introduction: "Examiner publisher Will Hearst sat down with [Douglas] Shorenstein recently to take Shorenstein's temperature on San Francisco's business climate, the Giants, and his own aspirations." The Examiner ran a story with descriptive details about Nanvy Novack's lawsuit, as well as a short piece on the settlement; the Chronicle reported only that the case had been settled.

In addition to helping publicize Walter Shorenstein's social life, the Chronicle Publishing Co. has helped pay for it: The newspaper is listed along with Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, City Attorney Louise Renne, socialite Ann Getty and the Shorenstein Company itself as a sponsor of the Catholic Youth Organization's 1994 awards banquet in honor of Shorenstein.

And chances are, when Walter Shorenstein's name appears in the dailies, it's in connection with political fundraising. Because more than anything else - certainly, in any case, on the national stage - Walter Shorenstein is known for writing checks to Democrats.

Here's Sen. Edward Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, on the CYO dinner's videotaped tribute to Walter Shorenstein:

"I wish I could be with all of you in person tonight but it's a privilege to join you by video in honoring our great friend. No one is more deserving of our tributes and praise. Few people have done as much for their community and their country, and as all of you know we wouldn't have a Democratic Party without Walter Shorenstein."

About The Author

Ellen McGarrahan


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