Crime lab tech kerfuffle resonates 

Anyone with a sibling winced a little after learning that Deborah Madden’s sister apparently blew the whistle on her sibling’s alleged enjoyment of one perk of being a San Francisco Police Department crime lab technician — access to cocaine. I’d like to think my sister would helpfully bring over a bag of lye if I told her there was a dead body in my bathtub, but obviously not every family is that loving.

While the District Attorney’s and Public Defender’s offices sort through the fallout from cases that must be re-examined and the lab is shut down for an audit, Madden has been allowed to retire. According to Gary A. Amelio, executive director of the Retirement System, at the Retirement Board’s March 10 meeting, Madden was granted retirement benefits effective March 1. 

A retiree found guilty of a crime involving moral turpitude (and I believe allegedly snorting one’s illegal work material qualifies) is limited to recouping his or her own contributions to the retirement system, not any city funds. This could still happen to Madden. Of course, she has to be arrested first, and then be convicted of the drug charge. That would require a functioning crime lab.

And not that there’s ever a good time for this to happen, it really could not have come at a worse time. See, The City’s crime lab is currently going through the process of reaccreditation by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors Laboratory Accreditation Board. Oh, this is so embarrassing.

I spoke with board Executive Director Ralph Keaton, who said The City’s accreditation expires Aug. 25. While no law mandates that the lab be accredited, without the accreditation, defense attorneys can play the “why the baking soda found in my client’s possession wasn’t tested in a competent laboratory” card.

The board doesn’t mandate background checks (Madden had a prior domestic violence conviction) or across-the-board drug tests for technicians. And it doesn’t advise on the type of discipline that should be meted out in cases like this. However, Keaton did say the board expects Madden to be removed from her position in the laboratory. “From an accreditation standpoint, our responsibility is to ensure lab work is conducted in accordance with our standards,” he said. “This may be a situation that work was good, but after it was done, some sample was taken for personal use.”


Google wants fast and easy setup for network, so SF is out of picture

For the entire month of March, Topeka, Kan., has renamed itself Google, Kan. Duluth, Minn., made fun of Topeka’s pandering with its own Google brown-nosing skit on YouTube. Why? Because Google is offering to build a greased-lightning Internet fiber network for one lucky area, called the “Google Fiber for Communities” project. And cities are vying for it like teenagers for “Twilight” stars. 

Recently, the Federal Communications Commission announced its commitment to facilitating better Internet access as part of its National Broadband Plan. I suspect Google is getting in on the broadband action in an effort to undercut major Internet service providers. Remember, this is the same company that released the Google phone directly to consumers, forcing phone companies to compete for subscriptions.

Supervisor David Chiu, in conjunction with the Mayor’s Office, has proposed a resolution directing the Department of Technology to nominate our fair city for Google’s program. The deadline to apply is March 26. Chiu’s resolution was passed at the Land Use and Economic Development Committee on Monday and likely will be heard by the full board Tuesday.

The whole thing is like watching my nephew try to build a real spaceship out of Lincoln Logs — adorably hopeful, yet futile.

When you search for “San Francisco” and “free Internet” and “Google,” some of the first links that pop up are “Google offers S.F. Wi-Fi — for free” and “Google in San Francisco: ‘Wireless overlord’?” That’s because in 2007, Google and Earthlink tried to get The City to sign a contract allowing the companies to build and run a free citywide wireless network.

Ethics Commission filings show that Google spent more than $40,000 trying to get the agreement passed, only to be held up by an unholy alliance of privacy activists, petty politicians and people who believe the government is controlling them using invisible brain rays. Whether Google’s Wi-Fi project was good for The City is beside the point: It has seen the beast that is San Francisco politics in all its Technicolor dysfunction.

According to Google’s fiber project Web site, the criteria for choosing the recipient community is simple: “Above all, we’re interested in deploying our network efficiently and quickly.”

Well, by golly, if there’s two things you can say about development in San Francisco, it’s ... well ... the opposite of efficient and quick. And Google knows that all too well.

And that’s why we’ll probably lose out to Google, Kan.


Ex-lifeguard’s dismissal case has little twist

The City Attorney’s Office continues to defend against a case brought by a former lifeguard at Garfield Pool.

The lifeguard claims he was fired because he is Chinese and male. The City claims he was fired after members of the public complained he was acting creepy and allegedly sexually assaulted a patron.

And who was it that fired the lifeguard for alleged sexual harassment in 2005? None other than former head of the Recreation and Park Department Yomi Agunbiade. Agunbiade, you might recall, resigned from the department in 2008 after it was revealed that he had allegedly been sexually harassing department spokeswoman Rose Dennis. It cost The City $91,000 to settle the claims against him.

The lifeguard lost his case at the Superior Court level. No word on whether he will make the “pot vs. kettle” argument at the appeals court. 

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Melissa Griffin

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