Usual Suspects

February 15, 1996

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Usual Suspects

Something's Gotta Give

In the press, District Attorney Mike Mullins has voiced his heartfelt support for a new domestic violence policy created by the Sonoma County Law Enforcement Chiefs Association and intended to ensure that every case of spousal abuse--not just the most serious ones--is reported to the D.A.'s office. But around the office some staff members report Mullins is grumbling about the massive workload the get-tough program is expected to generate. There's no denying that the policy is putting Mullins--a frequent target of women's rights advocates who complain that he has reneged on a 1993 campaign pledge to get tougher on domestic violence cases--between a rock and a hard place. In 1992, the department (under his predecessor, former D.A. Gene Tunney) won just 58 convictions, a figure Mullins has admitted was "unacceptable." That figure has jumped to 703 convictions in the first 10 months of 1995. This year, the number of spousal abuse cases reported to the D.A.'s office is expected to double from 1,473 last year. The new policy comes at a time when Mullins and his swamped prosecutors are strapped by three high-profile capital punishment cases and are making a laudable effort to beef up its prosecutions of environmental and consumer fraud cases.

Moon Morass

Millionaire landowner Peter Pfendler has been successful in peddling his 380-acre Moon Ranch to the county Open Space District to the tune of $1.2 million--he could collect the dough sometime this month--but he may not want to start counting his cash quite yet. The large contingent of opponents of the controversial plan to swap the city-owned Lafferty Ranch--valued at $670,000 and perched atop Sonoma Mountain adjacent to Pfendler's own 800-acre ranch--is considering legal action that could block that 11th-hour deal. Under the recent arrangement, the county will receive the conservation easement rights to Pfendler's old dude ranch (see "Daybreak" on page 4 for more details) and Pfendler stands to gain the cash and Lafferty Ranch. In stark contrast to the contentious Jan. 25 meeting, the Open Space Authority Board OK'd the payment Feb. 8 with little protest this time around. However, local environmentalist David Keller echoed the sentiment of many of those who are fighting the deal, calling the action "shameful" and claiming it was "hatched in the back room." Meanwhile, it is rumored that Petaluma's city manager, John Sharer, once a staunch proponent of the swap, is working behind-the-scenes to convince Pfendler to take the money and run, leaving Lafferty out of the bargain. It seems the council is starting to feel the heat of the organized opposition, loss of political collateral, and mounting legal challenges--and Sharer, who is planning to retire next year, may be worried about facing future lawsuits charging that city officials haven't been working in the public's best interest over this matter. The only problem is that, spurred by his success with the county, Pfendler appears to have retrenched in his efforts to get Lafferty. And folks think Bosnia is a quagmire.

The Alioto Show

Foes of the Lafferty/Moon swap revealed last week that Citizens for Lafferty is packing a big legal gun: famous ex-San Francisco Mayor Joe Alioto, a friend of local anti-trust attorney Jim Dombroski and a member of the four-man Ad Hoc Committee of Lawyers for Petaluma Taxpayers. That group has filed a 17-page brief with the Petaluma City Council, challenging the swap on the grounds that it violates the city's General Plan and raising other similar issues. Joe is the third Alioto to become involved in Sonoma County politics of late: his daughter, San Francisco Supervisor Angela Alioto, is running in the Democratic primary race against John Burton for the 3rd Assembly District seat vacated by State Sen. Milton Marks, which covers Petaluma, Cotati, Rohnert Park, and southern Santa Rosa. And his niece Michaela Alioto has drawn criticism in the local press for carpetbagging after she moved to the county several weeks ago and threw her hat into the crowded ring for the 1st Congressional District Democratic primary.

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From the Feb. 15-21, 1996 issue of the Sonoma Independent

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