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Monday, August 15, 2011

Don Casper, Who Saved State Billions, Killed in Hit-and-Run

Posted By on Mon, Aug 15, 2011 at 10:24 AM

click to enlarge Don Casper
  • Don Casper

Don Casper, a deeply involved San Franciscan who managed to save taxpayers billions of dollars by blowing up a cockamamie state scheme, was killed last night. He was struck by a pickup truck as he went on a jog Sunday evening in western Sonoma County. Casper was 63.

He had been spending an evening with his friends, Eugene and Linda Payne. An avid jogger, Casper told Linda Payne he was heading out for a run a bit before 7 p.m.-- but when he didn't return for 90-odd minutes, Linda went out looking for him. She ended up identifying his body on the side of River Road at the behest of California Highway Patrol officers. Eyewitnesses said Casper was hit by a white Ford extended cab pickup, which then fled the scene.

"A distinctive skidmark in the eastbound lane of River Road comes to a stop at a running shoe and sock in the road, with the body of the victim coming to rest 10 to 15 yards farther down the lane," according to a Santa Rosa Press Democrat reporter on the scene.

Casper was a graduate of St. Ignatius College Prep; his father, Andrew, was the city's fire chief and his mother, Dorothy, was a library commissioner.

For the past 11 years, he served on the city's civil service commission, arbitrating labor disputes and establishing wages, work rules, and benefits for city employees. But his most prominent brush with the public came when he refused to acquiesce to a bizarre plan from then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to sell off a slew of state buildings for some quick cash and then lease them back at an astronomical loss.

As a member of the little-known San Francisco State Building Authority, Casper objected to the plan -- which led to his being axed. But Casper was just getting started: Along with fellow fired whistleblowers, he took the state to court, winning a stay of the controversial plan -- which killed the Schwarzenegger administration's drive to hurriedly sell off, then lease back, the 11 buildings prior to Jerry Brown taking over. Brown subsequently nixed the plan. Last month, he reappointed Casper to his former position.

Per Casper, the sales and leasebacks would have resulted in a loss of $644 million in 20 years and $1.4 billion

in 35 years."The state office buildings are back in safe hands," he told SF Weekly last month.

"They're back in the hands of those who consider that public assets

belong with the public."

Casper was a former chair of the city's Republican Party. His high school buddy and longtime law partner, Dick Spotswood, described him as -- "though he would cringe at this" -- a moderate Republican. "He knew the civil service life of San Francisco better than anyone."

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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