Coastal Post Online

March 2001

Kamena Recall Hot Button Issue

By Louis Nuyens

Paula Kamena would like everyone to please stick to the subject. District Attorney Kamena is quick to remind anyone who will listen that the petition to put her recall election on the ballot had only to do with family law court issues stemming from the Carole Mardeusz case, and nothing to do with her stance on medical use of marijuana or anything else.

As voters prepare for the May 22 election, each will have to decide whether to consider the wide range of other concerns being voiced by recall supporters. In fact, the pro-recall statement on the ballot will be limited to the subject matter of the petition, so that pro-recall chances may depend on whether those who vote are well-versed in the subject before entering the polls.

Recall proponents say that Kamena’s record in office was hemorrhaging with problems—that all the various claims have substance and validity—and that it only took creation of the proper forum to bring them all out.

Some of the pro-recall arguments appear in the February 2000 issue of the Coastal Post (see A couple additional appear below.

County Jail Cover-up

Prisons are one of the fastest growing industries in the United States. Prisons benefit financially by staying as full as possible and operating at a low overhead.

Claims of inadequate medical treatment in prisons are common. Paula Kamena did not single-handedly invent this status quo, but, in Marin County, responsibility for handling those claims ultimately falls to the District Attorney.

Right now, there is at least one case in federal court that names Paula Kamena as having turned a deaf ear to complaints of inadequate medical attention and treatment in the Marin County jail. The case, which includes a number of other allegations related to Marin's judicial system, has passed the "merits test" and is on its way to trial.

Sanford Gossman, who filed the suit, also alleges that Deputy DA Jack Ryder unofficially but forcefully guided Judge William McGivern to a course of action which profoundly and unlawfully restricted Gossman's right to due process by creating a situation in which Gossman was prematurely and wrongfully incarcerated. Gossman believes that Deputy County Counsel John Govi participated with Ryder in orchestrating this event.

Gossman alleges that lack of treatment while incarcerated led to serious deterioration of and risk to his physical and mental health. Gossman says that this lack of care not only violated my civil rights, but is a crime pursuant to California Penal Code 673, thereby constituting a crime that would fall under the District Attorney's jurisdiction to both investigate and to prosecute. He says that neither Kamena, nor anyone else in her office, took any affirmative action on his repeated requests for assistance.

Gossman's claims that medical care in the Marin County jail can be slow in coming and shy on arrival are not rare. Another example is that of John Alioto, Jr. John Alioto Jr. went into Marin County jail with conditions requiring multiple medications, and an intensive care foot injury. In anticipation of this, he sought to make advance arrangements to ensure proper treatment.

Inside, he says he was immediately refused two important medications, developed a staph infection in his foot which led to chronic bone infection, was given neosporin instead of an IV antibiotic, was refused a trip to a hospital even as his foot was turning black, and had it explained to him, by a jail physician, that The judge does not determine what medicines we choose to give you…, echoed by a Sheriff's department officer present, who said, we run the jail, not the judge.

Alioto says he never fully recovered after his release. For approximately 8 months, he was effectively incapacitated by extremely strong antibiotics. He is currently struggling to keep from losing his foot. Alioto says that his ongoing ordeal has kept him from completing his community service requirement and fears that he will therefore be sent back to prison.

Alioto recently asked Kamena whether she could help him address his situation. Her response, he says, was That's not my department. Gossman and Alioto both say that the jail is very clean and attractive on the surface. Both believe that Kamena, along with others, is willfully allowing criminal lack of care for inmates.

Hidden Agendas?

Lynnette Shaw, Director of the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, feels that Kamena misled people prior to Kamena's election. Shaw herself took out a slate ad that included support of Kamena's DA bid, based on Kamena's apparent friendliness toward medical marijuana use while she was an Assistant DA Although Marin voted in favor of Proposition 215 by over 70%, Kamena issued guidelines which Shaw says amounted to a militaristic attack on 215.

Having looked further into Kamena's politics since joining the recall effort, Shaw now believes that Kamena kept many of her personal values "meticulously hidden" in order to win the DA seat.

For example, Shaw says, although the DA race is nonpartisan, Kamena was registered Republican until switching to Democrat about a year before the election, and that Kamena was a resident of Point Richmond until she rented a Marin residence for the purpose of running for DA

Shaw believes that Kamena also consciously concealed an anti-choice stance on abortion in order to win the support of women’s groups. Shaw points to Kamena's positions favoring an initiative criminalizing youthful offenders (Prop. 21, March 2000, voted down by 57% in Marin) and opposed to an initiative allowing treatment programs instead of jail for offenses of drug abuse (Prop. 36, November 2000, favored by 72% of Marin voters), as more evidence that Kamena is out of step with the majority of Marin. People in Marin believed they were getting a progressive DA, but they didn't they got Paula Kamena. Shaw also believes that Kamena deliberately gathered endorsements early, vis-ą-vis the recall, before both sides of the debate could be fully disseminated.

Kamena's Defense

Kamena says she is doing a good job and deserves to retain her office. She terms the recall “the work of a small-minded group of disgruntled litigants who had their day in court and lost.” She says her recall was sparked by the Mardeusz case, but carried by "opportunistic marijuana dealers." At a press conference, Kamena raised suspicions that financial backing for the recall came from "the people who sell drugs to our kids." In an interview with the Chronicle, Kamena calls the aims of recall supporters "thuggish."

"Thuggish?!" objects Shaw. “She must be joking. We're talking about 75 year old grandmothers with glaucoma and diabetes, people with AIDS and cancer, a Korean war vet, a former DEA agent, people like that. Sure, some of them are not having their best day by the time Paula Kamena gets to see them, but thuggish?!" She's off her rocker. And nobody I know is selling drugs to kids.

Kamena says that from 1998 to 2000, 73 people were charged for cases which medicinal use was cited as the defense. She points to this figure as a balance of effectiveness and compassion.

Shaw believes that the vast majority of cases took place in a much narrower timeframe: after Kamena issued her guidelines in September of 1999. Shaw adds that, Kamena's guidelines about marijuana for medical use invent and impose unreasonable limits.

The text of proposition 215 did not limit the number of plants that may be grown for medical purposes, but reads that patients and their primary caregivers who obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes upon the recommendation of a physician are not subject to criminal prosecution or sanction.

According to Shaw, 34-47 of those charges were brought against people who were already properly documented Marin Alliance members. She calls the charged cases, just the tip of the iceberg, saying that over 300 legitimate patients have been harassed and had their medicinal supplies destroyed.

The American Medical Marijuana Association, a medical marijuana advocacy group favoring its nationwide legalization, has said it is contemplating recall efforts in Sonoma, Placer, Shasta and El Dorado counties. Based on this, Kamena says it is also important to defeat the Marin recall "so it doesn't spread throughout the state."

Even with the popular support of medical use of marijuana in Marin, the recall is working so well here because there are a host of other skeletons on Kamena's doorstep, counters Shaw.

Recall Financing

Although Shaw believes that fundraising for petition gathering is not subject to the same reporting requirements as a campaign, she has decided to disclose contribution sources rather than let the point become a distraction from pro-recall issues.

According to Shaw, $1,753 was collected in 6 glass jars placed at various locations for public contributions, petition gatherers donated approximately $7,000 worth of labor, and Shaw herself donated $6,378 from a car insurance settlement instead of using it to repair her car.

What does Shaw hope to gain if recall efforts result in DA guidelines friendlier to medical use of marijuana? “Retirement from patient rescue, says Shaw. Actually, Kamena’s policies make it necessary for more people to get their medicine from my dispensary, since they keep having their own supplies torn out. Appropriate guidelines would allow sick people to grow their own supplies in peace. What I hope to gain, if you want to put it that way, is the well-being of a group of people I care about, a group of people who have been wrongfully criminalized for simply seeking relief from chronic illnesses and pain.

Shaw now calls on Kamena to disclose the amount of money spent investigating and prosecuting people for medicinal use of marijuana, including raids, stings, and situations in which no charges have been filed; and on the Alan Ager and Carol Mardeusz cases.

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