We've been remiss in updating IA readers about the job status of Xavier De La Torre, the Santa Clara County schools superintendent who's rumored to be on the outs with some of his seven-member board.
IA caught up with Dr. X at the county school board meeting last week and asked him about the rumors.
"I am not aware of any rumors," De La Torre responded.
Really? Besides speculative posts in other media, IA has tried for more than a month to reach De La Torre, who has refused to return phone calls and sent word through his new communications chief that he wouldn't talk to us.
In fact, we heard, he's not talking to many people at all.
Ken Blackstone, the county office's new communications chief, even denied that employees were speculating about their boss's tenure. Last month Blackstone wrote, "Our staff is working hard and focused on their tasks at hand " and also excited about the upcoming holiday season!"
So to clue in Dr. X, IA noted that the rumors were that he might be leaving office.
"I'm here and coming to work every day," he said tartly.
Yes, but what about the future?
"I usually don't discuss personnel matters, especially my own."
So there, more grist for the rumor mill.
We also asked him about the investigation at the district he previously headed, Socorro Independent School District, where recent immigrants and special-education students were held back in ninth grade, then placed in 11th grade -- skipping the 10th grade and a crucial Texas state standardized test.
"I was not aware of the practice," said De La Torre, who moved into his Santa Clara County job in 2012.
Outside investigators hired by the Socorro district reported that Dr. X did not remember any discussions about the practice. Perhaps that clears him, or perhaps it says something about his management -- or his memory.
Herrera didn't want that endorsement anyway
You have to hand it to San Jose Councilwoman Rose Herrera. Handed a lemon, she knows how to make lemonade. You may remember that the Santa Clara County Democratic Central Committee recently changed its rules to allow an early endorsement for mayor. That endorsement is widely expected to go to Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese, which will mean more money for his campaign. Herrera, who deserted labor to back Mayor Chuck Reed's Measure B pension reform, resides in one of the deeper circles of hell among central committee members, who form an alter ego for organized labor.
What to do? Well, make a virtue of not having a chance at an endorsement. Herrera sent out a news release last week saying that she would not submit her name for endorsement by the central committee. (In a separate email, Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio said he would not seek the endorsement, either.)
"We need candidates who are strong enough to do what is best for the people of San Jose, even if it means bucking the political parties," Herrera said. The councilwoman added that Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy would not be endorsed by their respective parties in today's hyperpartisan environment. We're willing to entertain that thought. But just as a matter of historical record, didn't Reagan have a movie career going for him?
Honda foe Khanna calls in the Truth Squad
A generation or so ago -- who's counting? -- newspapers pioneered the use of "truth boxes'' to measure the truth of claims by political candidates. Given all the flimflamming in campaigns, this was naturally a growth opportunity. So guess who's launching a startup in the truth business? A candidate himself -- in this case, former Obama commerce official Ro Khanna, who is running for Congress in District 17 against incumbent Mike Honda. On Facebook and Twitter (see www.ca17truth.com), Khanna has unveiled his own "Truth Squad,'' which he says is staffed with campaign volunteers. His first target: a claim by some Honda backers, including former presidential candidate Howard Dean, that Khanna is "corporate-backed."
The Truth Squad, no surprise, declares this calumny false and points out that Khanna has declined to take money from PACs. Of course, the Truth Squaders don't delve deeply into Khanna's support from corporate leaders like Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, Eric Schmidt of Google or Marissa Mayer of Yahoo. And they don't stop just at measuring the truth: They take a shot at Honda's junkets to South Korea and Turkey. But then, truth is in the eye of the beholder, right?
Prosecutor gets nod from outgoing judge Brown
Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Gilbert T. Brown confirmed Tuesday he is retiring after nearly 25 years, leaving prospective candidates until Feb. 10 to file for the open seat.
But prosecutor Stuart Scott has already won Brown's blessing, as well as endorsements from nearly 30 other judges and most local police unions.
"I'm very excited, but very humbled by Judge Brown's endorsements and the rest of the support I've received," Scott said, referring to endorsements from the judges such a Phil Pennypacker, as well as from police in Gilroy, San Jose, Morgan Hill, Milpitas, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara and Los Gatos.
"Judge Brown is a great judge and those are big shoes to fill."
Scott, 48, is a veteran prosecutor with the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office. He has 100 jury trials under his belt, including big gang and sex cases.
"He has a lot of integrity," Brown said.
Rumor has it that at least one other local judge (Judge Kevin E. McKenney) may retire, leaving another open seat. No word yet on whether he's also hand-picked a leading candidate to succeed him.
Brown has been on the bench since 1990 when he was appointed by Gov. George Deukmejian after serving for nearly 11 years as a public defender in Los Angeles County and 4.77 years (his words) as a local prosecutor.
Among Brown's big claims to fame was sentencing towing company scam artist Vincent Cardinalli -- whom he called "worse than Madoff" -- to 14 years in prison.
Cardinalli used the legal system to defraud hundreds of people by filing phony lawsuits against them for towing and storage fees on vehicles they no longer owned or in some cases never owned.
Brown, who will be 66 next month, said he plans to spend his retirement riding his horses and enjoying his five grandchildren, as well as serving part-time as an assigned judge.
Internal Affairs is an offbeat look at state and local politics. This week's items were written by Sharon Noguchi, Scott Herhold, Tracey Kaplan and Paul Rogers. Send tips to email@example.com, or call 408-975-9346.
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