Grave Errors

When Peralta officials get tough, your tax dollars get going; Good fences thwart bad neighbors; and the Chronicle is tight, yo!

The eggheads running Peralta Community College District definitely proved they are hardboiled in their vicious legal battle with former anthropology instructor Boatamo Mosupyoe. Unfortunately for students and taxpayers, they also proved hardheaded, spending more than forty times what they originally stood to lose.

It all began with a dispute over the instructor’s $2,375 purchase of African artifacts — which later were declared practically worthless — and morphed into an ugly lawsuit over her subsequent termination, which in turn triggered a costly international investigation by the district’s hired guns.

A South African native who fled apartheid in the late ’80s with the help of Bishop Desmond Tutu, Mosupyoe was a popular teacher during her short stint at the College of Alameda. When she was abruptly fired mid-semester in November 2001, her stunned students demanded to know why. Juan Vazquez, then the interim college president, was quoted in a local newspaper as cryptically explaining, “Think about the most serious things [you can imagine]; that is what caused this.”

The “most serious things” imaginable, as it turned out, involved four seven-inch African artifacts allegedly supplied by her ex-husband. Mosupyoe used $2,375 in authorized district funds to score the items for use in her classes. The dean later got a valuation by auction company Butterfields, which said the items weren’t artifacts but “airport art” worth only $205.

Vazquez and then-Chancellor Ronald Temple secretly asked the board of trustees to fire Mosupyoe, who claims she was never warned her head was on the block, or given a chance to defend herself. A sympathetic vice-chancellor later reinstated her, but put a letter of reprimand in Mosupyoe’s personnel file, and the district refused to rehire the instructor after her teaching contract expired.

Feeling the district had treated her unfairly, Mosupyoe proceeded to hire a lawyer and file a civil rights lawsuit in U.S. District Court last year. The suit prominently cited Vazquez’ quote, and accused the district of defamation, and of cutting her loose before she had a chance to clear her name.

Seeing they might be on the hook for some serious Krugerrands, district brass set out to prove, apparently at any cost, that Mosupyoe had scammed Peralta and deserved her fate.

The district pulled no punches in its battle with Mosupyoe, going so far as to hire a private investigator and Bell Dewar & Hall, a firm that, according to Peralta trial lawyer Jeffrey Sloan, was retained to “provide legal advice and oversee an investigation in South Africa.”

Bottom Feeder couldn’t get Sloan on the phone, but in court papers he justified the investigation as necessary to verify Mosupyoe’s “personal and business dealings.” Mosupyoe, who has two daughters, says investigators called her relatives in South Africa and paid them surprise visits. She says they even went to the graveyard where her late husband and son were buried — they were slain by the old apartheid regime — to make sure they were really dead.

Was all this really necessary? “I would have handled it differently,” concedes Chancellor Elihu Harris, who took over as Peralta’s interim chancellor in March. Now trustees for the cash-strapped district have decided to settle with Mosupyoe for $200,000. According to Harris, the district will pay Mosupyoe and her attorney $100,000, while Peralta’s insurance company will cover the other $100,000 in addition to the district’s legal fees.

Mosupyoe, who recently started teaching at Sacramento State, denies she ever tried to swindle the district, and insists she never profited from the purchase. “If what they were saying is true,” she reasons, “I wouldn’t have fought them like I did … with no resources, without a penny to my name.”

Internz ‘N the Hood

Fences are keeping us divided, people. And maybe it’s for the best.

Just look at what’s happening in Richmond. The city council there has been considering whether, among other things, to get tough on homeowners with front-yard fences taller than the legally allowed height of three and a half feet. To crudely sum up the dispute — and what else would you expect from Bottom Feeder? — affluent Richmond hills-dwellers don’t like the tall fences because they find them aesthetically repugnant. Those living in the ‘hood, however, like the tall fences because they help keep burglars, stray dogs, and crackheads off their property.

Bottom Feeder thinks the flatland folks may have a legit point after it heard about what happened to an intern from the city planning department a few weeks ago. Hector Rojas signed out a city vehicle and went out delivering fliers notifying fence-owners of an October 21 council meeting at which the height issue was on the agenda. While handing out fliers in Richmond’s notoriously dangerous Iron Triangle neighborhood, Rojas was carjacked. In broad daylight.

According to his co-worker, planner Tanya Boyce, Rojas was not actually in the car when the crime went down. He was passing out the notices when a guy claiming to have a gun came up to the intern demanding the keys to the city car. Rojas understandably complied. Neither he nor the car, which has since been recovered, was hurt.

It’s unclear whether the carjacker made it to the council meeting.

We’re Hip, Daddy-O

In a perhaps desperate and likely futile pursuit to win over MTV-generation illiterati, the middle-aged mooks at the San Francisco Chronicle are contemplating a new youth-oriented section or magazine — or something. The paper’s young editorial assistants (young at the Chron means those whose stomachs can still handle a half-decaf latte prior to a saucy vaudeville show) have apparently even formed an ad hoc group to generate ideas for this new new new thing. There’s even a working title: The Chronic.

Bottom Feeder swears it ain’t blowin’ smoke. But, yes, it does seem pretty edgy for a newspaper that really should display a “May Cause Drowsiness” warning label for readers. As sex advice god Dan Savage might point out, the Chron, like most dailies, is burdened by its image as a family newspaper and still won’t print uncensored quotes from people who use naughty words such as “f—,” “s—,” and “s——-” for fear that sensitive readers might take offense. (Secret decoder ring results: “fuck,” “shit,” “santorum.”)

Chronicle deputy editor Narda Zacchino acknowledges it’s a tricky proposition to try and be more hip while not totally alienating older readers. And The Chronic, she says, may not be the ultimate title of its hipster thang, which at this point is barely a twinkle in executive editor Phil Bronstein‘s cataracts. “We’re so far away from doing something,” she explains.

Just so you Chronicle cats are aware, “chronic” is street slang for a very potent form of the substance you guys know as grass, reefer, or Mary Jane.

Take Out

Come out and play-yay

Sportswriters seek out colorful details about the players they cover, and Warriors press handlers are glad to oblige. Some details, however, are more colorful than others. A few excerpts from the team’s 2003 media guide:

Calbert Cheaney #40: Always eats spaghetti for his pre-game meal.

Speedy Claxton #10: Avid bowler in the off season. Top score: 224.

Erick Dampier #25: Dreams of owning a landscaping business.

Mike Dunleavy #34: Played Ping-Pong as a kid.

Avery Johnson #6: Enjoys the two ‘Bs’ (Bible study and biking).

Popeye Jones #54: Likes watching NASCAR.

Troy Murphy #1: Favorite actress is Denise Richards.

Jason Richardson #23: Plans to take piano lessons.

Clifford Robinson #3: Enjoys paintball, camping, and snowboarding.

Nick Van Exel #37: Middle name Maxwell. Collects baseball cards, hats, and books.

Derrick Zimmerman #22: Uses a computer for e-mail and to surf the Internet.

Source: Golden State Warriors Media Guide

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