The Press Democrat from Santa Rosa, California on December 27, 1990 · 16
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The Press Democrat from Santa Rosa, California · 16

Santa Rosa, California
Issue Date:
Thursday, December 27, 1990
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THI PRESS DEMOCRAT, THURSDAY, DECEMBER 17, 1 MO Fraction of Indian Mood earns contactor millions B4 By JOHN HURST nd RONALD B.TAYLOR Lot Angeles Timet - Joining the Cherokee Nation has been worth millions of dollars in construction work to Jon McGrath. The blue-eyed, falrkinned contractor from Tulsa, Okla., who is 164 American' Indian, has obtained $19 million in minority subcontracts on the rapid transit system In Los Angeles more than any other '"disadvantaged" firm. McGrath's Cherokee ancestry Is the equivalent of having a great-great-great-great-grandparent who was a full-blooded Indian. But it allowed him to gain membership in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and to subsequently obtain certification for McGrath Construction Corp. as a minority .firm. Such certification granted by government agencies across the country made , McGrath's company eligible for lucrative public works subcontracts meant for disadvantaged businesses. The McGrath case, critics say, is an example of how the federal goal of bringing ;minority contractors Into the white-domi nated construction Industry Is being subverted. The case also shows that Los Angeles transit officials sometimes are unaware of important regulations governing the certification of disadvantaged companies. The Times has found that firms with questionable minority status and companies serving as alleged "fronts' for non-ml-1 norlty businesses have won tens of millions of dollars in subcontracts on the rapid transit system under construction in Los Angeles. McGrath's minority status has been repeatedly disputed by a Los Angeles-area labor union, and now the prime contractor who gave McGrath millions of dollars in public works contracts is "uncomfortable" with the fact that McGrath is only l64th American Indian. McGrath says that he Is a bona fide minority entitled to contracts that he has obtained as the owner of a "disadvantaged business enterprise." Jon Michael McGrath's claim of minority standing hinges on an unusual clause in the constitution of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Under the clause, anyone who can trace an ancestor to Cherokee tribal rolls at the turn of the century can Join the tribe. McGrath, the son of a railroad contractor, joined the Cherokee Nation in 1981 at the age of 22 after showing proof that a grandmother who was 116 Indian ancestry had been on the rolls. Asked why he had Joined the tribe at that time, McGrath replied: "That was a turning point in my life... It was time to start being responsible." When McGrath Joined the Cherokee Nation, he was vice president and 25 percent owner of Railroad Contractors Inc., which that year had applied for certification as a minority firm, according to Oklahoma state Department of Transportation records. It is unclear what happened to that application for minority certification. But 3'j years later, in November, 1984, the McGrath Construction Corp. was formed with Jon McGrath as president. The company was subsequently certified as a minority firm by public works agencies across the country. These certifications made McGrath ellgl- "The individual's social disadvantage must be chronic, longstanding and substantial, not fleeting or insignificant...' FEDERAL REGULATION ble to receive minority subcontracts from large non-minority prime contractors that bid on public works Jobs. Federal regulations require that prime contractors seeking public works contracts make "good faith" efforts to hire minority firms as subcontractors. During the last six years, Herzog Contracting Corp. of St. Joseph, Mo., has used McGrath Construction Corp. as a minority . subcontractor on public works Jobs in Los Angeles County, San Diego County, Santa Clara County, Sacramento, Portland, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Texas. Herzog was awarded a total of more than. $180 million, and McGrath was awarded, $28.6 million In minority subcontracts,' public records show. McGrath, whose business headquarters is' a trailer on a weedy lot near downtown Tulsa, said Herzog teamed up with his' company because "they like our work." ; The relationship allowed McGrath's business to rise virtually overnight from small' rail Jobs in Oklahoma worth less than $100,000 each to public works Jobs worth 10 to 1 00 times that amount. In March, 1987, McGrath was awarded his first subcontract on the Los Angeles' transit system a $13 million construction Job on the Blue Line. Herzog, the prime contractor on that Job, received $43.9 million. The companies also worked together on two other Blue Line contracts. r " " I f s . i 4 2" 1 Vik T0tM "-u? r J , VT U ASSOCIATED PRESS Brcffl'MKi'fti TTPJlV v trIP 'X7PtrPT, uan Caracheo, left, and George Mendoza take UlVaJVlll VVtaUlW, advantage of balmy weather Wednesday for a dip in the ocean at Santa Cruz. The mercury hit 59 degrees after a week of record cold. Optimism for Curry Co- sale Talks may yield reduced price By ROYAL CALKINS McClatchy News Service : FRESNO After several days of talks, National Park Service officials are "cautiously optimistic" that they can persuade MCA Inc. to sell its Yosemite Park & Curry Co. subsidiary to a non-profit organization at a reduced price. Parks spokesman George Berkla-cy said Wednesday that negotiations between National Park Service Director James Ridenour and MCA officials are focusing on a sale to the National Park Foundation at below market price. The Washington-based organization serves as a quasi-public, fund-raising arm of the park service. Under an agreement between the park service and MCA, the foundation is to receive Curry's profits until the company is sold. Curry, which operates concessions at Yosemite National Park, is for sale as a result of the takeover of MCA by Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. of Japan, a $6.6 billion deal that is scheduled to be. consummated Saturday. Interior Department spokesman Steve Goldstein said Interior Secretary Manuel Lujan remains hopeful that MCA will simply donate the Curry Co. to the government or the foundation. : Goldstein said the park service fears that a private company buy ing the Curry Co. at full value would face so much debt that it would attempt to increase commercialism in the park rather than reduce it as the government wishes. Ridenour and others have said MCA has ruled out the idea of a straight donation, but Berklacy said government negotiators are proposing a combination of a sale and donation. Berklacy described MCA officials as "accommodating." MCA spokeswoman Christine Hanson said the company is not prepared to comment. Though estimates of Curry's worth range from $50 million to $300 million, there is agreement that the value is dropping because of Lujan's announced goal of reducing the profitability of the Yosemite concessions contract when it comes up for renewal in 1 993. The National Park Foundation took in $3.5 million in contributions, investments and other sources last year. Berklacy said it would need to obtain a bank loan or other financing to buy the Curry Co. MCA and Matsushita officials previously agreed to sell Curry to an American buyer after Ridenour, Lujan and others expressed concern about a foreign company operating concessions in a national park. Ridenour tossed a potential kink into MCA's plans Friday when he said he was not ready to approve a special escrow arrangement being set up for the Curry Co. The company's contract with the park service gives the government approval rights over a new owner. With Matsushita set to take over MCA operations Saturday, MCA had planned to begin managing the Curry Co. through the escrow that day. Ridenour informed MCA officials last week, however, that the government needed additional information and could not approve the escrow provisions this week. "This is really not a squeeze or any kind of last-ditch effort," Berklacy said. "This is information we really need." Hanson of MCA said the information was provided to the government Wednesday. During discussions with the park service in November, MCA officials had talked about giving the Curry Co. to the National Park Foundation. The park service rejected that idea, however. Ridenour later explained that there would have been a conflict of. interest since he sits on the foundation's board of directors. Since then, additional legal research has determined there would not be a conflict if Ridenour facilitates a sale to the foundation, Berklacy said. In the most recent talks with the park service, MCA's representatives have included former United States Sen. Howard Baker, a Republican from Tennessee, who was a chief of staff to former President Ronald Reagan, and former Democratic National Committee Chairman Robert Strauss. Van de Kamp says Lungren action illegal San Francisco Chronicle . ! SACRAMENTO Attorney General John Van de Kamp said Wednesday that it would be unconstitutional for Sacramento Superior Court Judge David Stirling to leave his judicial post to become the second in command to Dan Lungren, Van de Kamp's successor. , However, Van de Kamp also said that his informal legal opinion requested by Lungren "is not entirely free from doubt" because the only court cases on the issue deal with legislators leaving their posts to accept other jobs. ; "(Stirling) plans to become (Lun-gren's). chief deputy," said David Puglia, a spokesman for Lungren. "We're convinced that this appointment is a constitutional one." The state constitution prohibits judges and legislators from holding any other public-sector jobs during their elected terms. Appointed in 1983 by Gov. George Deukmejian as general counsel of the state Agricultural Labor Relations Board, Stirling was named to the Superior Court by Deukmejian in November 1989. After the November election, Lungren said he wanted to appoint Stirling as chief deputy attorney general, effective Jan. 7. Stirling said he would resign his judgeship to take the new job. Lungren's view is that by resigning before his new term begins, Stirling is eligible to take the chief deputy job. In a 24-page letter, Van de Kamp said that even if Stirling resigns before the beginning of the new judicial term he won in June, he is prevented from taking another job until a successor to his judgeship is elected and assumes office. That would be January 1993 at . the earliest Distributed by the New Yorfe( Times News Service Steven Stayner's uncle murdered McClatchy News Service MODESTO A 42-year-old uncle of the late Steven Stayner was found shot to death Wednesday afternoon at his home in Merced, where he had gone on his lunch break from work. Jesse J. Stayner died from a single gunshot wound in the chest fired from a small caliber handgun, said Merced County Sheriff Tom Sawyer. He said Stayner, a brother of Steven Stayner's father, was found dead on the floor of his home at 1321 Brantley St Sawyer said a pickup truck Stayner was driving for a Merced chopping service is missing and apparently was stolen by the killer or killers. Stayner had driven the 1989 Chevrolet Silvarado home for lunch Wednesday. He was employed by Levitt's Chopping Service in Merced. "We have no suspects and no motive at this time," sheriff's Detective Rick Marshall said. He said Stayner apparently was shot and killed inside his home sometime between noon and 1 p.m. The missing pickup was described as being silver over burgundy, with California license number 3S41739. Marshall said a neighbor was passing Stayner's home at 1:20 p.m. and saw an open door to the house. The neighbor went inside to check and found Stayner's body on the floor in the back of the house. Paramedics arrived and transported Stayner to Merced Community Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, deputies said. Marshall said there didn't appear to be anything missing from the house, and there were no signs of a struggle or fight between the victim and his assailant Stayner's nephew, Steven, became famous overnight in 1972 at age 7 when he was kidnapped by two men while walking home from an elementary school in Merced. He was held captive and lived as one of the men's son until he escaped seven years later. IN BRIEF L.A. sheriff has cancer S; ' Block LOS ANGELES Sheriff Sherman Block has disclosed that he has prostate cancer and will undergo surgery next month, but Block said he has no plans to resign. The 66-year-old Block said Wednesday that he will enter the University of Southern California Medical Center on Jan. 4. He will undergo surgery Jan. 7. Block was re-elected to his third four-year term as Los Angeles County sheriff in June. Creche barred SAN JOSE The city of Monterey must remove a life-size Nativity scene from the lawn, of City Hall or expand it to include other secular symbols of Christmas, a federal judge has ruled. ..... U.S. District Judge William Ingram said it appears likely that the scene depicting the birth of Christ is unconstitutional. He issued a temporary restraining order Wednesday against the city and scheduled another hearing on the matter Jan. 30. Ousted judge appointed SAN FRANCISCO Gov. George Deukmejian's Municipal Court appointment of a judge who was ousted by voters from San Francisco Superior Court last June is being criticized by some supporters of the winner of that election. Jerome Benson, whose Superior Court term ends Jan. 7 as his new Municipal Court term begins, is apparently the first judge appointed by Deukmejian after being removed by voters. Lake rescue SAN FRANCISCO A man who walked across the frozen surface of a small lake in Golden Gate Park became stranded on an island Wednesday after noticing the ice was thin around the edges, firefighters said. Rescuers stretched a ladder 15 feet across Mallard Lake to help the unidentified 19-year-old man to shore about 1:30 a.m. Truck on edge of cliff CLEVELAND NATIONAL FOREST Authorities rescued a man trapped in his truck after it ran off a mountain road and became wedged on the edge of a 30-foot cliff, officials said. The rescuers scrambled down a 150-foot embankment to reach Alex Castro, 20, as his truck teetered on the precipice near Silverado Canyon. Gunman kills customer LOS ANGELES A masked gunman killed a customer and wounded two other people during a Christmas night robbery attempt at an Echo Park pizza parlor, police said Wednesday. The dead customer was handing over his money to the gunman when he was shot, investigators said. Border deaths SAN ONOFRE The number of persons killed this year near a Border Patrol station has risen to a record 15 after two people were fatally struck as they tried to circumvent the checkpoint The most recent pedestrian deaths occurred Christmas Eve, the CHP said, when a man and a boy from Michoacan were struck by a sedan. Press Democrat news services Twin fires strike shopping district Associated Press LOS ANGELES Two separate fires destroyed a Pier 1 Imports store and a Strouds linen ware-, house Wednesday in spectacular Ventura Boulevard blazes that disrupted post-Christmas shopping in Studio City. The fires started simultaneously at opposite ends of the block, and witnesses reported seeing a man dressed in black at the rear of the stores prior to the blazes, authorities said. Gasoline containers were1 also found. "It is suspicious, very suspicious. Our arson investigators are on the scene," said city Fire Department spokesman Rinaldo Rojo. The only injury was to a firefighter, who suffered a minor burn that didn't require hospitalization, said Greg Acevedo, another department spokesman. Damage was expected to run into the millions of dollars. Firefighters were seen carrying a gasoline can and a plastic bottle with a liquid away from the building a short time after the fire was reported. "I ran around and the whole comforter aisle was in flames," said Lisa Evans, who was shopping inside Strouds when the fire broke out More than 140 firefighters battled the noon-hour fires near Laurel Canyon and Ventura boulevards, said Greg Acevedo of the 1 f. Firefighters battle blaze at Strouds linen warehouse in Studio City on Wednesday. PRESS city Fire Department No injuries were reported. The fires were reported at 12:07 p.m. and were extinguished at 1:31 p.m. At the height of the blaze, a pillar of smoke could be seen from as far away as the Los Angeles Civic Center, 10 miles southeast of I the fire. The blazes struck in the heart of the Studio City shopping district at the peak of the post-Christmas shopping crunch, creating a colossal traffic jam. Bumper-to-bumper traffic was reported a mile from the fire site.

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