BOCK'S BIG WIN
Richard Bock's lounging in the proverbial catbird seat these days, in more ways than one. The über-popular Food Network show Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives just aired an episode featuring Bock's 12-seat Italian eatery, Giuseppe's, at 28th Street and Indian School Road.
Hosted by fun-lovin', spiky-haired personality Guy Fieri, the show's been known to have a Midas effect on the small, mom-and-pop operations it spotlights. And Fieri loved Bock's dishes, his Bolognese ragu, which Fieri dubbed "crazy good," and his osso buco three ways: using beef, veal, or pork shank — take your pick. They're all recipes Bock picked up from his time in Florence, Italy, where he was employed for eight years as principal cellist for the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Orchestra.
Bock even entertained Fieri with little a string and bow action. If you missed the program, no worries. You can bet the Food Network will repeat it, which is all the better for Bock, as it acts almost as a rotating commercial that he doesn't have to pay for.
The irony is that last year, when Fieri and his crew came to town to film the episode, Bock was embroiled in a bitter dispute with the Phoenix Symphony, where he'd been principal cellist for 24 years. As I discussed at length in a March item for my blog, Feathered Bastard, Bock was one of several musicians at the symphony who had filed age-discrimination complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Although the EEOC refused to comment on the complaints, they involved allegations that veteran players were being harassed and forced to take demotions or leave the symphony so they could be replaced with younger, more compliant players. The symphony denied the allegations and claimed Bock had broken a state law regarding the confidentiality of the mediation process. Actually, the law the symphony cited had to do only with the admissibility of evidence and carried no criminal penalty.
First, the symphony suspended Bock, then fired him in January. Bock fought back with a lawsuit, alleging discrimination, unlawful termination, and a hostile work environment resulting from the actions of music director Michael Christie, CEO Maryellen Gleason, and other symphony higher-ups. Bock and another musician, veteran principal violist Peter Rosato, went to the National Labor Relations Board, alleging retaliation and interference with their federally protected right to freely associate, organize, and come to each other's protection.
The NLRB brought a formal complaint against the symphony, which fought back with delay tactics and obfuscation. Gleason, in a conversation with me for the blog item, said that Bock "was, in fact, terminated for breaking an Arizona law."
But NLRB regional director Cornele Overstreet pointed out that the law in question, A.R.S. 12-2238, is essentially a rule of evidence.
"It is not a rule of criminality," said Overstreet. "It simply guides how the court looks at evidence."
As the date for an NLRB hearing drew closer, the symphony caved. According to David Kelley, deputy regional attorney for the NLRB, the board approved a settlement agreement whereby Bock and Rosato withdrew their complaints. Settlements were reached between the parties, and the Phoenix Symphony was made to post and adhere to a list of promises not to do anything to interfere with the rights of its employees to engage in "protected activities," such as filing age-discrimination charges with the EEOC or banding together for mutual aid and assistance.
The notice reads like a validation of the charges the NLRB laid at the symphony's doorstep. Specifically, the NLRB's complaint charged symphony muck-a-mucks with threatening employees with reprisals, giving employees the impression they were under surveillance, interrogating them about collective activities (the musicians are represented by the American Federation of Musicians, Local 586), and promulgating an overbroad rule of confidentiality, one in conflict with the National Labor Relations Act.
The actual agreement between the NLRB and the symphony does contain a line about how "the charged party does not admit the commission of any unfair labor practices." But the fact that it must promise not to harass or retaliate against its employees, and then post notices of same, makes clear who got the upper hand in the fight.
After the settlement, Bock sent an e-mail to his colleagues telling them what took place. His attorneys and the NLRB were confident they would win, he said. Negotiations ensued. And he was given two options: return to the symphony with his back pay restored; or drop all claims in exchange for a financial settlement.
"After some thought, I realized it would be impossible to return and play music for people like Christie, Gleason, and [symphony general manager Jay] Good," he wrote in the e-mail. "[They] have stained this orchestra for the first time in history and any pleasure I would have had in playing in it."
Asked about the settlement, Gleason had no comment. (Rosato's lawyer, Guy Knoller, indicated his client has also taken a settlement from the symphony instead of returning.) However, the symphony musicians recently accepted a 17 percent pay cut, supposedly because contributions are down, according to a recent symphony press release. But when Gleason and I talked in March, she argued that the decisions to demote or dismiss veteran players such as Bock were contributing to the symphony's well-being, which she portrayed in relatively rosy terms.
"I don't think I ever said that," Gleason sputtered when I reminded her of this. She acknowledged that she might have said ticket sales were doing well but not donations, which have been down since October, she stated.
Fortunately, I have a record of our conversation.
"We only want to have the best artistic product we can get," Gleason said at the time. "And all of the decisions were made in the spirit of making the orchestra sound better. And we're getting more donations, and we're selling more tickets."
Still, this apparently didn't alleviate the need for a 17 percent pay cut. Gleason won't cop to mistakes in the way the symphony has treated its musicians, but perhaps she should. The symphony's already lost two veteran performers, one to the restaurant biz.
"I'm going to do any playing I can in town," Bock told me. "I'll just keep playing and restauranteur-ing, and see where it goes. But I wouldn't play one more minute for [the Phoenix Symphony]. It's an atmosphere that has nothing to do with music. It's just hideous. No one wants to be there."
About 200 people packed the pews at Encanto Community Church for a memorial service for Marcia Powell, the 48-year-old inmate who died early in the morning of May 20 at Goodyear's Perryville Prison. Her death followed confinement in an outdoor cage a day earlier, when she endured temperatures of more than 107 degrees for at least four hours before collapsing.
The service was presided over by the Reverend Liana Rowe and featured speakers such as criminal defense advocate Jameson Johnson and Middle Ground Prison Reform's Donna Hamm. As this column went to print, Powell's body was still being held by the county Medical Examiner's Office pending an investigation into next of kin by Powell's court-appointed guardian, the Maricopa County Public Fiduciary. So, instead of a casket, there were two photos of Powell next to a tall, lighted candle.
The most notable attendee was Arizona Department of Corrections Interim Director Charles Ryan, whom I questioned outside the church after the service. It's Ryan who made the decision to discontinue Powell's life support after she was transported to West Valley Hospital.
The ADC had just announced that the use of outside enclosures like the one Powell was caged in would be suspended until they were retrofitted with shade and a water supply. Ryan went even further when I asked him about the possibility of doing away with the cages altogether.
"After conferring with the Governor's Office and the governor," said Ryan. "We have decided we are going to discontinue using the holding enclosures, in spite of consideration for retrofitting with shade or water. We will no longer use them."
Ryan stated Powell was being transferred to an observation cell when she was left in the outside cage. In the future, Ryan said such transfers will be taken to a holding area inside a climate-controlled building.
Regarding his decision to pull the plug on Powell while she was at West Valley Hospital, Ryan said he did so on the advice of Powell's doctors, who told him it would be inhumane to do otherwise. He also suggested that, at the time he made the decision, he was unaware Powell had a guardian.
"The search of the records at the department, at the institution file, and the electronic record did not reveal any guardians," said Ryan. "There was no legal guardian known to the department at the time the decision was made.
"The only person who was listed was a friend, and the attempt to find the friend led to a disconnected telephone number and to an address that was not occupied."
But why pull the plug on Powell just hours after she had been admitted, when another day or so and a little more digging might have revealed the fiduciary's guardianship?
"The attending physician in the emergency room," explained Ryan, "in consultation with the department's doctors, clearly indicated that there was no possibility that life could be sustained, that she was terminal. And the doctor reiterated several times it was inhumane to continue to sustain her life on life support."
During the service, Donna Hamm restated her call for an independent investigation into Powell's death, and said she was calling on the U.S. Justice Department to look into it. However, Ryan said he retained confidence in ADC's criminal investigations unit to look into the matter, though that unit ultimately reports to him.
"There has been an autopsy completed," said Ryan. "The results of the toxicology report will not be known, I think, for about six weeks . . . The investigation itself . . . will be completed before then. It is my intention, once that . . . portion of the investigation is completed . . . to have it reviewed for completeness and objectivity by another agency, and very likely that would be or start with the Department of Public Safety."
I also questioned Ryan about why the department switched photos of Powell to the more flattering one on its Web site. He said the reason was to show "another picture of her" while she was incarcerated.
In addition, Ryan conceded that he was the interim director of ADC, not its confirmed director, as he's mentioned being on the ADC Web site. He ascribed the mislabeling as an "oversight."
I have to give Ryan points for attending the service and for allowing me to interview him. However, I still find troubling his statement that there was no record of Powell's guardianship in the ADC's files. I was able to obtain a record of Powell's guardianship simply by consulting the clerk of superior court's records.
If Powell had been kept alive a little longer, it would not have taken much digging to find paperwork related to the guardian's appointment. Indeed, at one point in the court record, the court is officially advised by Powell's guardian that she has a new address; i.e., Perryville Prison. Isn't the ADC supposed to have access to all such court records related to an inmate?
Of course, if no next of kin is located, it may be a moot point. Still, as these and other issues regarding Powell involve decisions made by Ryan, an independent investigation would be ideal. There's no reason for it not to happen. Unless someone at ADC doesn't want the truth to get out.
Would you take financial advice from a homeless man? Lessons in humility from Simon Cowell? Follow Kirstie Alley's diet regimen? Look for WMDs with a map drawn by Dick Cheney? Or take an anger-management class taught by Russell Crowe?
Then why in tarnation would you read a book about "winning" written by one of the current leaders of the state Democratic Party — the biggest bunch of losers in Arizona?
Such is the dilemma, if you can call it that, offered by state Representative Kyrsten Sinema's new book Unite and Conquer: How to Build Coalitions That Win and Last. You may recall Sinema as the unapologetically liberal legislator, from an enviably liberal district, who talks like she's channeling Thurston J. Howell III.
Someone recently sent me a link to the Amazon.com page for Sinema's tome, which you can pre-order for the low, low price of $11.53 ($9.99 for the Kindle version). But recalling the fact that Sinema holds a position as the assistant leader of the House minority, you may want to wait for the free library version to run your digits through its pages, for all the good its advice will do you.
I reckon losing can be as much of a learning experience as winning, but Sinema's book isn't about gaining such critical insight, to judge from the blurb Amazon offers.
"Divide-and-conquer tactics stolen from conservatives do not work," reads the description, "especially in the long term, to further progressive causes. There is no logic or power in trying to use bad strategies to get to a good place. In Unite and Conquer, Sinema attempts to show how the future of the progressive movement is to be found in unity, alignment, and partnership."
This is great advice for the Dems if they want to remain in the minority indefinitely.
Indeed, I'm sure Arizona Republicans would love for them to continue the mistakes of the 2008 election, in which the state party bucked a national trend and left the Legislature firmly in Republican hands.
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Sure, that had something to do with favorite son John McCain's leading the GOP national ticket, but there was more to this Dem defeat than that.
On the county level, Sith Lords Andrew Thomas and Joe Arpaio retained their positions as Maricopa County Attorney and sheriff. And Prop 102, the anti-gay marriage amendment to the state Constitution, made mincemeat of the statewide campaign against it, led by — you guessed it — Kyrsten Sinema.
"I think the country was like, 'Look, you get Obama, call it a day, and go home,'" Sinema told a New York Times reporter of the losses for the pro-gay marriage side. "And, frankly, I'll take it."
Let's face it, Dems like Sinema don't mind losing locally. In the minority, such Ds get to be the kings and queens of the donkey sandbox, while state GOPers rule the adult world. But Dems need to learn a few tricks from the Republicans. Like how to fight, how to engage enemies, and how to leave them in the dust begging for quarter.