News digest

Publication Date: Wednesday Aug 9, 2000

News digest

City auditor resigns

Bill Vinson, Palo Alto's city auditor for the past eight years, has resigned from his post.

In a brief statement released by the city last week, Vinson said he was leaving to pursue "new opportunities and challenges." He was responsible for monitoring the city's finances and operations to ensure accountability among city officials and employees. "He did a great job," said Mayor Liz Kniss. "He was very thorough."

Kniss said the City Council will consider hiring a temporary auditor to give themselves some breathing room to find a new auditor.

Vinson could not be reached for comment.

--Jennifer Kavanaugh

Fitzhugh trial set

A trial date has been set for Sept. 11 for Kenneth Fitzhugh, a Southgate resident accused of murdering his wife, a school music teacher.

A Santa Clara County Superior Court judge rejected a defense attorney's request to reduce Fitzhugh's $10 million bail during a court hearing on July 31.

After long deliberation, Judge Charles Hayden said he decided to deny the bail reduction to Fitzhugh, who is charged with the murder of his wife, Kristine, because he is a "serious flight risk."

Defense attorney Dan Barton appeared for Fitzhugh instead of his regular attorney, Tom Nolan.

"I think that's an appropriate amount," Hayden said.

Fitzhugh's trial is scheduled to be held in a San Jose courtroom.

Fitzhugh, wearing a red prison jumpsuit and shackles on his wrists, re-entered his plea of not guilty during the hearing. @id:--Natalie Bauer

Completion of Gunn's new track will be delayed

Work on Gunn High School's new all-weather track has gotten off to a slower-than-expected start. School officials originally hoped to finish the new facility by mid-August, but Dan Sarouhan, who oversees building projects at Palo Alto's secondary schools, now expects it to be finished by mid-September. The delay is due, in part, to the project's reliance on volunteer work, Sarouhan said. The grading and civil engineering work was donated by Gunn alumni, which kept down the cost of the $300,000 project. The delay will mean Gunn's football team, which practices on the field surrounded by the track, will have to practice on another field at the school. Varsity football games are held at Foothill College, Saraouhan said, but the junior varsity may have to find a different venue for its games. @id:--Charlie Breitrose

Judge reverses order on Sgt. Cole

A San Mateo County Superior Court judge has reversed herself and ruled that East Palo Alto is not required to rehire former Police Sgt. Robert Cole.

Presiding Judge Rosemary Pfeiffer had initially ruled July 28 that the city would be required to rehire Cole, who was fired last year for allegedly violating department policy. Cole had been ordered rehired by another judge after he sued the city, but that ruling was overturned on appeal.

Cole has another lawsuit pending against the city.

Knight case moves forward

A San Mateo County judge decided last week that prosecutors have provided detailed-enough charges to continue the case against Charlie Mae Knight, the Ravenswood school superintendent accused of violating state conflict-of-interest laws.

Knight's lawyer, William Osterhoudt, had asked that prosecutors provide more information about when they suspected Knight of violating the law. Osterhoudt has said that prosecutors may have missed the deadline for filing most of its 19 charges against Knight.

Superior Court Judge Robert Foiles ruled that prosecutors have provided enough information in its charges against Knight, but said he may look at the timeliness issue at a later date.

Prosecutors charge that Knight may have benefitted from an emergency loan fund, administered through the school district, that was set up for poor employees who needed help paying bills or rent. Several of the employees either owed Knight money or rented homes from her, which prompted accusations of conflict of interest.

Knight is due back in court Aug. 18 to be arraigned. Osterhoudt said she will plead not guilty. @id:--Jennifer Kavanaugh

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