San Jose's new downtown "bikini bar," the Gold Club, not only has a councilman with Victorian sensibilities harping on it about what gals should be allowed to wear on the job in his district -- now it's been slapped with a trademark infringement suit.

Owners of an unaffiliated gentlemen's club of the same name up in San Francisco don't appreciate what they consider a copycat on San Jose's Santa Clara Street. So the Gold Club SF filed a federal lawsuit against Gold Club SJ, accusing the San Jose outfit that opened earlier this month of using "multiple elements of plaintiff's Gold Club-SF marks, causing confusion."

The lawsuit notes not only the identical name but also the similar designs that include "a gold-colored image of a leonine creature standing on two paws with what appears to be a spear or mace."

Gold Club SJ owner Platinum SJ Enterprise's lawyer, however, says that it is a licensed affiliate of the trademark's true owner, a South Carolina outfit called PML Clubs, Inc. According to attorney Greg Guillot, a former owner of the San Francisco club was once a PML licensee but hasn't been involved since 2004.

"It's weird that they're claiming that it's somehow developed trademark rights of its own," Guillot said, calling the San Francisco club's suit "completely baseless."

"If any infringement is happening, it's Gold Club SF infringing PML's rights," Guillot said.


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So perhaps things are looking up for the San Jose bikini bar, located in an old bank building that used to be the Vault lounge. Downtown Councilman Sam Liccardo's call for the city to pursue new fees and regulations on gentlemen's clubs he calls a "nuisance" got a chilly reception even from his allies on the council's agenda committee.

Councilman Pete Constant ridiculed his idea of banning table dancing by "performers in very high heels."

"So Sam," Constant said, "wouldn't you admit that telling people what kinds of shoes to wear is inappropriate? Should the city really care if somebody's wearing flats, two-inch heels, three-inch heels?"

Even Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen, acknowledging her status as the committee's only woman and stating she doesn't "appreciate establishments that potentially could exploit young women," wouldn't join Liccardo's crusade.

"We consistently talk about wanting to create a vibrant downtown," she said.

Water district hires new director of ethics

While we have been doing other things this summer at IA -- OK, we took a little time off -- we've overlooked a significant change at the Santa Clara Valley Water District, aka the Golden Spigot. The sometimes free-spending district last month hired a new director of ethics and corporate governance, LeeAnn Pelham. Pelham comes with 10 years experience as the executive director of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission, a solid credential in the world of ethics police. In the City of Angels, someone is always trying to cut a corner.

What's intrigues insiders at the Spigot is a reorganization: Pelham is also in charge of the office of CEO support, district communications and government relations. That means that she will be the boss of ex-supervisorial candidate Teresa Alvarado and government relations manager Rick Callender. Is it an effective demotion for Alvarado and Callender? Maybe not. But there is another layer of management between them and CEO Beau Goldie.

Pelham, 53, will make $168,646 per year, with the usual sweet package of vacation and benefits.

About that finance director demotion ...

Earlier this month we told you that Santa Clara County Executive Jeff Smith effectively demoted Finance Director Vinod Sharma in the aftermath of Supervisor George Shirakawa Jr.'s spending scandal. Shirakawa's criminal misuse of funds somehow failed to raise alarms among Sharma and his crew who oversee the books.

County Executive Jeff Smith had said he was going to send Sharma to a lower-level controller job in the public hospital system and that deputy county executive Emily Harrison will take Sharma's job in the interim.

Well, our spies tell us Sharma isn't cool with that, and continues to occupy his office.

"He still signs documents as 'director of finance,'"‰" one tipster reported. "Why wasn't he escorted out of the building? He should have been fired."

What gives?

Sharma told us his transfer is "in the process." When we asked about word that he's trying to stop the move from happening, he declined to comment.

Smith said that "when lawyers get involved, voluntary reassignments can easily become 'involuntary.'"‰"

"Vinod's issue is now a personnel issue," Smith said. "That is all I can say."

Sharma's new job was expected to pay significantly less than his current $181,929 salaray. Smith had not given a reason for the reassignment except to say that "Vinod has a skill set that complements the new position better than the current position."

County board raises cap for campaign donors

Santa Clara County's Board of Supervisors voted last week to raise the cap on contributions they can collect from their campaign donors -- just in time for next year's election cycle in which several of the county's eight elected officials are running.

The contribution limits, established in 1997 and unchanged since, were $250 per donor for candidates who refused voluntary expenditure limits or $500 for candidates who did. Now, the caps will be $500 and $1,000, when they go into effect in late September.

The limits apply to the five supervisors, assessor, district attorney, and sheriff.

Another change: Donors to county elected officials' "office holder accounts" (intended to defer the cost of holding office, not campaign expenses) now have a limit of $1,000 each per calendar year. There previously was no limit.

Coincidentally, the San Jose City Council on Tuesday will discuss its own campaign contribution and expenditure limits. Mayor Chuck Reed has long been concerned about unlimited spending by independent expenditure groups during campaigns, arguing it gives outside interests and committees more power in an election than the candidates. He suggested suspending the voluntary expenditure limits and campaign contribution limits for candidates, raised by the council in 2011 to $500 per donor per election for council candidates and $1,100 for mayoral candidates.

But the city's elections commission recommended no change, noting pending state legislation dealing with disclosure of top donors in political ads.

Internal Affairs is an offbeat look at state and local politics. This week's items were written by John Woolfolk, Scott Herhold, Tracy Seipel and Paul Rogers. Send tips to internalaffairs@mercurynews.com, or call 408-975-9346.