RE: Press Democrat on Gallegos Recall
May 20, 2003 12:06 PDT
From Michael Shellenberger:
This article really pissed me off. I called Mike to ask him why he didn’t refer to yesterday’s ruling which changes everything! I haven’t heard back from him yet. If doesn’t write about the ruling for tomorrow I’d like to ask people to swamp the PD with letters to the editor.
Michael Twombly wrote:
May 20, 2003
By MIKE GENIELLA
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
EUREKA -- Only five months in office, Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos finds himself at the center of the biggest political storm to lash the county since the tumultuous days of the 1990 "Redwood ummer" of anti-logging protests.
His critics include local business, civic and timber industry leaders, and on Monday, a 40-member committee followed up on recall threats by formally launching a petition drive.
The campaign needs 11,000 signatures of registered county voters by October to force an election, perhaps as early as November.
The recall campaign blames Gallegos for a multitude of wrongs: the filing of a civil fraud case against Pacific Lumber Co., the region's biggest private employer; his pro-medical marijuana stance; and his "too soft" handling of a criminal case involving two men charged in a Eureka drive-by shooting spree.
Pacific Lumber President Robert Manne has denounced Gallegos.
"Unfortunately, the district attorney demonstrates a signficiant misunderstanding of the facts surrounding the Headwaters agreeement and its approval and implemention," he said. "In fact, the D.A.'s most recent press release misstates the true contents of the frivolous complaint he has filed against our company."
Gallegos and his supporters blame "shady political operatives" for mounting the recall effort on behalf of the "rich and powerful."
Gallegos, a surfing Southern California attorney who moved to Eureka 10 years ago, staunchly defends filing the contentious civil case against Pacific Lumber. He accused the company of committing fraud by falsifying data during negotiations for public purchase of Headwaters Forest in 998.
"It's truly frightening to see a tiny group telling lies in a recall campaign to thwart our prosecution of Pacific Lumber," Gallegos said.
His supporters lauded a Humboldt County Superior Court decision issued Monday that concluded state approval of Pacific Lumber's long-term timber management plans was flawed -- a contention Gallegos made in his fraud case.
Gallegos' public declarations are combative, but away from the local TV cameras and news media microphones his demeanor is more subtle.
Soft-spoken and affable, the 40-year-old Gallegos admitted that despite his apparent bravado, he's an amateur when it comes to the rough-and-tumble politics typical of the North Coast, and especially in big timber country.
He has never held public office before, nor has he been involved in political campaigns or community activism at any level.
"I've never joined a local chamber of commerce or a Rotary Club, and until now, I've never been involved in environmental law or related issues," he said.
Gallegos and his supporters see that as a sign of virtue.
But the new district attorney's dearth of experience has some people predicting his new political career may be short-lived.
On April 25, the Eureka Times Standard newspaper editorialized that Gallegos could be recalled before his first term is over.
It noted Gallegos, during his short time in office, "has managed to monopolize the front page of this newspaper as no other politician in recent memory. He may have gotten more ink in a few weeks than his predecessor received in years of service to the people of Humboldt County."
Gallegos scoffed at such criticism.
He said the editorial reflects the shock Humboldt's political establishment is still feeling after his unexpected victory last year by a 52 precent to 48 percent margin over 20-year District Attorney Terry Farmer.
"After the election, the feeling was palpable. The establishment was badly shaken," Gallegos said.
He denied he ran for district attorney on an anti-Farmer, or for that matter, an "anti-establishment" platform, in an appeal for votes from the county's environmental community. He makes clear, however, that he considers himself an outsider looking in.
Gallegos said he suspected he might have a fight on his hands when he took office in January.
"I was cognizant that once knocked to its knees, the establishment would work hard to get back up and take some swings," he said.
For now, Gallegos is settled into his fourth-floor courthouse corner office, which offers sweeping views of Humboldt Bay, including the ocean surf that still beckons him despite a recent serious surfing injury.
Gallegos warmly welcomes visitors and happily shows them multiple photos of his wife, Joan, and their three young children -- two girls and a baby boy.
Gallegos grew up far from the California coast, on a small farm adjacent to the historic Bull Run Battle Field near Washington. His father worked at the Pentagon and his mother owned a private school offering Montessori teaching methods.
Gallegos, the third youngest of 11 children, described his family life as "blessed."
He recalls a happy childhood, including helping his older brothers during summers bale hay on the Civil War battlefield that adjoined the family farm. In high school, Gallegos was a wrestling star. Later, while attending the University of Southern California, he was a competitive swimmer and a fledgling surfer.
Gallegos and his wife met when they were both law students at the University of LaVerne in Los Angeles County.
They moved to Eureka 10 years ago and opened the Gallegos Gallegos law office in Old Town.
Gallegos decided to run for district attorney at the urging of his wife and a group of close friends.
"We knew we had to think out of the box, and we did," he said.
Since his election, Gallegos has found a new political mentor -- Mendocino County District Attorney Norman Vroman.
"Norm's been very helpful. He's been through some of this," Gallegos said.
Vroman, in fact, was the target of a recall effort soon after he took office five years ago, but it faltered and the he easily won re-election in 2002.
"I just tell Paul to keep his head down and keep moving straight ahead,"
Vroman said. "That's about all you can do. Things will take care of themselves."
Gallegos has circulated to local newspapers a letter of support from Vroman. The letter concludes, "It's important for the people of Humboldt
County to know that other district attorneys applaud your efforts."
Working at Gallegos' side is Tim Stoen, one of Vroman's former prosecutors and now Gallegos' chief deputy.
Stoen, with Gallegos' blessing, on Feb. 24 filed the controversial case against Pacific Lumber, a lawsuit pulled together in less than two months. Stoen accused Pacific Lumber of hatching a "bait-and-switch scheme" involving falsified environmental data.
Stoen said the alleged scheme allowed the company to obtain more favorable logging volumes from state and federal agencies as part of the $480 million public acquisition of Headwaters Forest in 1998.
Pacific Lumber and government agencies deny the allegations, arguing Gallegos and Stoen simply misunderstand the facts surrounding the Headwaters agreement.
A few weeks after the lawsuit was filed, Humboldt County supervisors delivered a stinging rebuke to Gallegos by voting 4-1 against providing his office with additional money to retain outside legal counsel to assist in the case.
Now, Pacific Lumber lawyers have moved to have a Humboldt County Superior Court dismiss the case and requested that sanctions be imposed on Gallegos for filing a "frivolous" lawsuit. A hearing is set Friday.
Despite pressure from unhappy timber industry representatives, Pacific Lumber workers and local vendors, Gallegos said he's determined to pursue the fraud case.
"My response is that if you're complying with the law, there's no reason to feel angry," he said.
As for Stoen's role in the case, Gallegos professed not to understand why that may have raised eyebrows in some Humboldt quarters.
Under Vroman, Stoen engaged in litigation targeting some timber harvest operators. He successfully won a $150,000 settlement in a case completed after he went to work for Gallegos.
In addition, Stoen nearly three decades ago was chief counsel to cult leader Jim Jones. Stoen eventually turned against Jones and led a well-publicized but unsuccessful effort to retrieve his 6-year-old son from Jonestown before the boy and more than 900 followers died in the jungles of Guyana.
"Tim Stoen is a fine attorney. I feel the criticism of him is unfair," Gallegos said.
Gallegos is unrepentant about his or Stoen's conduct since taking office.
"When I was sworn in last January, I promised to put the interests of the community over my own personal interests," he said. "I'm doing that.
I'm not embarrassed by anything I've done."
You can reach Staff Writer Mike Geniella at 462-6470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.