County supervisor candidate Cindy Chavez has confirmed that she raised concerns about prosecuting George Shirakawa Jr. during a luncheon with Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen at P.F. Chang’s in January. Despite the intervention by Chavez and others, Shirakawa was charged five weeks later with five felonies and seven misdemeanors and immediately resigned from office. He subsequently pled guilty to all of the charges.
Chavez described the encounter to the San Jose Mercury News as “very cordial, direct and honest conversation” rather an attempt to apply pressure tactics to convince the county’s head prosecutor to leave Shirakawa in public office for another four years. During the conversation, Chavez asked about Rosen’s plan’s to run for re-election and hinted that his standing with minority voters could be hurt by charging the former supervisor with crimes.
Other than the admission by Chavez, who doesn’t return San Jose Inside’s calls, the item in the Mercury News’ April 28, 2013 “Internal Affairs” column was largely a rewrite of a column by “The Fly” that appeared on San Jose Inside on April 23.
Consistent with the daily’s recent practice, the IA item refashioned, without attribution, much of San Jose Inside’s reporting, including the timing and location of the meeting, the nature of the conversations, the mention of Chavez’s support for Rosen’s 2010 Republican opponent and even The Fly’s descriptions of Chavez’s remarks as “veiled threats” and of Shirakawa as Chavez’s “political ally.”
P.F. Chang’s Chinese Bistro previously figured in another unattributed Mercury News use of original research. Last October, Metro posted a copy of a Feb. 17 receipt to its website showing that Shirakawa had paid for two Stella Artois beers, a Devil’s Canyon Amber draft and a piña colada with his county charge card and then filed a false declaration claiming no alcohol had been served. The receipt obtained by Metro became a key piece of evidence in the District Attorney’s case against the supervisor.
The Mercury News cropped out the Metroactive.com URL on the document, ran a copy of the receipt without disclosing its source and on November 19 published an editorial in which the paper congratulated itself for documenting examples of Shirakawa’s spending abuse “in a Page One story Sunday by Mercury News reporters.”