Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Gallegos recall effort underway [Arcata Eye]

Gallegos recall effort underway

By Daniel Mintz, Eye Staff

March 24, 2004

A campaign to recall recently-elected District Attorney Paul Gallegos is in its embryonic stages, but is quickly mounting as the county's progressive activists rally just as hard to bolster the D.A.'s legal moves against Pacific Lumber Company.

Gallegos' filing of a fraud lawsuit against Pacific Lumber (PL) has triggered a battle of public opinion for and against the suit and its opposing sides. Rumblings of a recall effort began almost as soon as the lawsuit was filed, and Arcata resident Robin Arkley, former owner of Blue Lake Forest Products and a locally well-known political motivator, has announced that a campaign to remove Gallegos has begun and is quickly attracting masses of determined supporters.

Soon after the suit was filed in late February, Arkley offered $5,000 to anyone interested in starting a recall campaign. “I have advanced the money and the recall is underway," he said. “We have a terrific amount of support and I can't believe how fervent the response has been."

Take it back from the hippies'

Arkley said the effort will be helmed by “a very, very good campaign manager" but didn't want to divulge the name yet. He did say that Tom Herman, a former PL forester now practicing law with the Eureka-based Barnum and Herman firm, will be the campaign's legal advisor. Herman was out of town and not available for comment.

The first tangible signs of the recall were evident last weekend, when volunteers began a voter registration drive at a logging conference at Eureka's Redwood Acres Fairground. And those who work for and favor PL are eager to vote and do anything else they can to oust Gallegos, said Arkley, who is certain that recall petition drives will be successful.

“Paul's probably done us a favor," Arkley continued. “We're going to take the county back, and we're going to take it back from the hippies."

He said the lawsuit is bunk, and that's why it has provoked people. “We're finally saying, shit, we've just had it, we're just not going to put up with it anymore and we do intend to take this county back – and that includes all those whackos at HSU [Humboldt State University]."

Gallegos has said the lawsuit has “taken on a life of its own" and it has inflamed the division of opinion on PL that has fermented here for years. The word “outrage" isn't an overstatement in describing reaction to the PL lawsuit, Arkley said. He's sure that the recall campaign will finally magnetize a political force that has been mute until now.

“There is a great, silent, unregistered majority of men and women who work and educate their children, and they have thought that it's futile to vote, but they now know that it's not," said Arkley. “And that's how we're going to do this. We are going to do it, it's for real."

Arkley added that animosity against PL has been tolerated, but now, people “are just sick and tired of it." He portrayed ongoing direct action forest protests as a particularly odious phenomenon, comparing the persistence of tree-sitters to “dogshit on a waffle- sole shoe."

Arkley said he will hire MTC, Inc., an Arcata-based advertising agency that's promoted many high-profile political campaigns, including those for former Humboldt D.A. Terry Farmer (who Gallegos defeated last March), County Supervisor Bonnie Neely, Eureka Councilman Chris Kerrigan, Eureka Mayor Peter LaVallee and the Southern Humboldt Healthcare District's successful parcel tax measure.

Rick Brazeau, MTC's owner, said his firm hasn't been contracted yet, but “if something evolves, I'm interested in being involved because this is an important issue – I, myself, will support it."

And raising money won't be a hard sell, Arkley asserted. “I can tell you this – we're spending a lot of money, because we've got lots of money."

Plugging for Paul

The other side of what has become a community-wide P.R. battle is also mobilizing. Groups have formed and are raising money to aid the lawsuit and sway public support for it.

Gallegos' key election campaign organizer, Richard Salzman, is the coordinator of the Alliance for Ethical Business, a new group that advocates for fair business practices and whose first project will be to hold forums presenting information on the lawsuit. The first is set for April 9 at the Arcata Community Center, and a Eureka forum will follow later that month.

Salzman said that effort, too, is drawing fast and substantial support, and the Alliance is planning a community outreach campaign that will probably involve print and television advertising.

“We feel that Maxxam [PL's parent company] has a powerful P.R. and media influence here," said Salzman, citing the county's daily newspaper and highest-rating TV station as examples. “We're trying to counter-balance that and make sure that the D.A. gets his voice out there he doesn't have a mechanism to do that, so our work is necessary."

Salzman isn't surprised that a recall effort is blossoming, but he thinks it amounts to an attempt to derail justice. And that, he added, demands a response. “This is not a popularity contest, but nine weeks into [Gallegos'] job, Arkley's already threatened to remove Paul from office just because he's making allegations about one of his friends – and just because a company is liked by many people doesn't mean that they're above the law."

The cost of a recall election to the county is a questionable expense, Salzman continued. He estimated that the county will pay $100,000 to send sample ballots to voters. And he predicted that it will fail to accomplish anything because “Paul will win by an even greater margin than he did last November (when Gallegos captured 52 percent of the vote to Farmer's 48 percent).

Southern Humboldt activist Jared Rossman has opened a fundraising account the Citizens Fund for Equal Justice at the Community Credit Union in Garberville, and he said that over $5,000 in donations has been deposited in it. Rossman is researching whether the funds can be given to the D.A.'s Office directly, but he said if that's not legally viable, the money might be used to hire a private law firm to file a “parallel lawsuit."

If that can't be done or isn't feasible, Rossman continued, the money will be returned to donors. Another option is to use it for “ publicity to counter-balance the onslaught of misinformation PL is putting out."

Rossman thinks the recall drive “is very sad, because [Gallegos] has barely hit the ground and people are so tired of the same old business' of the past D.A. – what do we want, a D.A. who's in the deep pockets of folks with money or a D.A. who is independent? I don't think Humboldt County will be fooled."

The need for public interfacing has motivated Gallegos himself. On March 18, he made a presentation on the suit to the county's Democratic Central Committee, which passed a resolution that praises Gallegos' work and “encourages the Board of Supervisors to support the financial needs of his office."

The legal fight

The embattled lawsuit alleges that PL submitted false information on the effects of logging in unstable areas, and then “suppressed" corrected data to facilitate the approvals that led to the 1999 Headwaters Agreement.

The suit argues that PL's “deception" influenced state environmental officials to approve the cutting of an additional 100,000 trees in unstable areas over a 10-year span (to 2010).

An initial public showdown on the lawsuit erupted at the March 11 Board of Supervisors meeting, where throngs of PL employees, subcontractors and supporters lobbied against Gallegos' attempt to enlist the law firm of famed trial attorney Joseph Cotchett. That move requires approval from supervisors.

Some of them were clearly annoyed by the request, but all five expressed doubts, and the contract request failed. A letter from the state Department of Fish and Game refuting the suit's claims was cited by supervisors as a warning flag.

Legal argumentation will focus on how the environmental documents define unstable areas and whether PL's inaccurate study actually influenced approval of additional cutting in them.

Gallegos has alternately been portrayed as a hero and an idiot for filing the suit. It comes as confrontation between PL and tree-sitting activists in Freshwater reach a boiling point. “There hasn't been a week in office when I haven't had to deal with PL issues," Gallegos said wearily.ÂÂ

Some of the emotional reactions to the suit are influencing misperceptions, he continued. And the D.A. said he doesn't think PL's status as a high-volume employer should steer his office's moves.

“People seem to be saying that we either do, or should, have different rules based on wealth. But we have to stand firm on this, because otherwise, our laws will lack integrity and without integrity, we will have cynicism."

There is plenty of evidence to support his office's case, Gallegos added, and he emphasized that he has no regrets about filing the suit. “One the one hand, people complain that it will cost money, but on the other hand, we have PL asking for substantial assistance from law enforcement to pull tree-sitters out and now we're seeing a recall effort that will further divide this community but this office cannot, and will not, be intimidated."

Tim Stoen was picked by Gallegos for the long-vacant assistant D.A. position and is the suit's engineer and lead prosecutor. He will seek monetary damages ($250 million was initially cited) as well as suspension of logging.

He has said that PL is “scared" of facing the suit in court.

Jim Branham, PL's communications director, responds: “Believe me, we're not scared. We are outraged. We're outraged that Mr. Gallegos would file a suit with no merit, a suit that wastes taxpayers' money and doesn't even demonstrate a basic understanding of [environmental approvals]."

Branham said it's likely that Gallegos has put the county in a position of having to defend itself in a counter-suit. “I think it's important that the Board of Supervisors understands that the D.A. can't run around and sue people without a factual or legal basis for it, the county has a vulnerability here. We will consider all our legal options, and they could well include recovering our costs."

Asked about the recall effort, Branham said his company is “watching it with interest." He also said that that “new faces" are surfacing to support PL. “It's like nothing I've ever seen since working for this company," he continued.

The rules of recall

Election law mandates that petition drives for the D.A. recall can't start until April 7. If 15 percent or roughly 11,000 of the county's 74,000 registered voters sign them within a 160-day window, a recall election will be held.

There are two ballot periods, in June and in November. Recall supporters will have to work hard and efficiently to get a recall election on the November ballot.

The recall voting ballot will cite reasons why Gallegos should be removed from office and will also include his answer to those arguments. Votes will be cast for and against a recall, as well as for a candidate or candidates who would replace Gallegos. Arkley said his team will choose a replacement candidate soon.

Political observers have little doubt that the petition drive will succeed, as PL has almost 1,000 employees and draws strong support from the areas of the county where it has operations. Fortuna is one of them.

That city's City Council recently passed a resolution portraying the lawsuit as a waste of taxpayers' money and in a separate action, voted to research the viability of filing a complaint against the D.A.'s suit with the county's Grand Jury.

Fortuna Mayor Mel Berti is the longtime meat department manager at Hoby's Market in Scotia, a PL-owned town that is the company's center of operations and residential hub. He said that over the last five years, he's seen people in Scotia become increasingly uncertain about their future.

“To see what people go through mentally and physically over things like this is astounding," Berti said of the lawsuit. “All five of us on the [Fortuna] Council are standing strong, and the people of this county will stand strong, too. We've had enough of this, it's time to stand up and say, Whoa, we've had enough and we're going to fight."

Berti added that he's part of the recall campaign and will “work with Mr. Arkley and do everything I can ... we are seeing a sleeping giant wake up."

From the lawsuit's outset, Gallegos said he expected political waves to roll against him. Saying he “loves Democracy," the D.A. accepts the likelihood of a recall election as an aspect of it.

“It will be a test, and it will determine what this community is all about," he continued. “There are good people here, and they deserve the best government, not one that only represents the rich and powerful."

Humboldt D.A. fights to keep job [San Francisco Chronicle]

Humboldt D.A. fights to keep job [San Francisco Chronicle]

Lumber firm funds recall campaign after being sued

by Greg Lucas, Sacramento Bureau Chief

February 28, 2004

Eureka -- On the wall of District Attorney Paul Gallegos' fourth-floor office at the Humboldt County courthouse is a shadow box containing a hatchet, a pair of pliers and a Yankee screwdriver.

The tableau was assembled by the man who hung signs for Gallegos in his upset 2002 win to become the county's top prosecutor.

"I keep it here to remind me that hard work gets the job done,'' said the youthful-looking Gallegos.

There's plenty of hard work ahead for the 41-year-old former defense attorney before Tuesday's election in which Humboldt's 77,000 registered voters will decide whether to throw him out after a little over a year in his first elected office.

Bankrolling the effort to recall Gallegos is Pacific Lumber, whose contributions represent more than 90 percent of the money Gallegos' opponents have spent against him.

The company's nearly $230,000 in contributions -- and Gallegos' efforts to keep pace -- have made the recall the most expensive campaign in Humboldt County history.

The timber company says its only concern is the district attorney's supposed coddling of criminals.

"There's a lot of misinformation out there that's kept going by the Gallegos campaign,'' said Erin Dunn, a Pacific Lumber spokeswoman. "This is a safety issue, a personal safety issue. There's time after time after time his office has botched cases.''

Despite its claim not to be orchestrating the recall, Pacific Lumber helped hire a consultant affiliated with its Sacramento lobbying firm to manage the final weeks of the recall effort the company is largely financing.

Using office space provided by Pacific Lumber, the consultant has mapped out an aggressive campaign featuring crime victims groups, peace officers and television ads to buttress the claim Gallegos is a wimp on crime.

Gallegos insists the company's real motivation is to punish him for suing Pacific Lumber, the county's second-largest private employer, for providing false information to the state about the impact of its logging on creek ecosystems.

"The recall costs less than attorneys' fees,'' Gallegos said. "Either way, they're not going to pull any punches.''

The power struggle reflects the schism within Humboldt County itself as its old natural-resources-based economy -- where fishing and timber were king -- is eclipsed by newer, more service-oriented industries.

Those divisions are mirrored in the three candidates who want Gallegos' job, should he be recalled.

One is an 18-year veteran deputy in Gallegos' office. Another -- who echoes the criticisms of Pacific Lumber -- is a disgruntled former deputy. The third is a local lawyer who champions Gallegos.

A recall so bitter that school officials keep an eye on his 7-year-old daughter was not something Paul Gallegos imagined he would find in Eureka when he and his wife, Joni, left Los Angeles in 1994 to search for "a beautiful place to live where we would want to raise children."

Not knowing a soul, they hung their shingle in Eureka and built a successful practice as defense lawyers. They also built a family that now includes three kids, ages 22 months to 7 years old.

In 2002, Gallegos ran for district attorney. "Justice for All'' was his slogan.

"Government needs to represent and treat everyone equal,'' said Gallegos in an interview. "It's an issue in this community and it has been for a while -- the perception that not everyone here is treated equally.''

His populist promises of change helped him beat a 20-year incumbent by 52 percent to 48 percent.

Trouble started when Gallegos kept his promise.

First, Gallegos was criticized for expanding the county's limit on pot plants grown for medicinal purposes. He says his standards are more restrictive than his predecessor and mirror the rules in neighboring Del Norte and Sonoma counties.

Unions representing police officers and sheriff deputies grew tepid about Gallegos.

Then, just over one year ago, Gallegos lowered the boom on Pacific Lumber.

He accused the timber company of low-balling the amount of creekside landslides its logging caused in a habitat conservation plan governing tree- cutting on its 211,000 acres.

Pacific Lumber's buy off on the conservation plan was required before the state and federal government would spend $480 million to buy the 7,500-acre Headwaters Forest and two other stands of old growth redwoods owned by the timber company.

Environmentalists, who had made similar claims for years, cheered the maverick district attorney.

The suit seeks the return of some of the money spent on Headwaters and penalties of as much as $75 million.

Pacific Lumber blasted the litigation as frivolous and baseless. Loggers protested the suit by surrounding the courthouse.

State agencies, like the Department of Fish and Game and the attorney general's office, declined to help Gallegos.

Even a request to hire Joe Cotchett, the nimble Burlingame personal injury lawyer, on a contingency basis was turned down by county supervisors.

Saying he wanted to take back the county from "environmentalists and hippies,'' a retired timber executive began a drive to recall Gallegos.

Last October, the effort stalled at 12,000 signatures.

Recall supporters then approached Pacific Lumber, and the company's parent, Maxxam Inc. of Houston, Texas, opened its checkbook.

Since then, Maxxam has spent nearly $230,000 -- $74,000 contributed Monday.

Gallegos refutes charges of weak prosecuting by noting he personally tried four cases last year and won all of them, on all counts.

In the first nine months of 2003, Gallegos charged 994 people with felonies -- a 14.8 percent increase over the 866 felony filings during his predecessor's last year in office.

At Gallegos' storefront campaign headquarters a few blocks from the courthouse, volunteers open envelopes containing checks ranging from $5 to $50.

Gallegos estimates his campaign, which has raised 80 cents for each of his opponents' dollars, has logged more than 700 contributions from county residents.

A lanky supporter in a porkpie hat, a braided beard and nose ring wants a couple of yard signs.

An artist's agent by trade, Gallegos' campaign manager, Richard Salzman, encourages the supporter to leave a donation.

Gallegos also makes the rounds of the candidate forum circuit.

At Humboldt State University, sighs, snickers and chuckles greet two of Gallegos' opponents, Gloria Albin-Sheets and Worth Dikeman.

Dikeman worked for 19 years under Gallegos' predecessor. He claims to have no position on the recall but argues that should it succeed, he is the most qualified to run the office.

"I'm bothered the district attorney's office has fallen into such disfavor. I'm the person to bring it back,'' Dikeman told the 200 mostly college-age people at the forum.

The Fortuna, Arcata and Eureka police associations back Dikeman, as does the county sheriffs association.

Albin-Sheets, who lost her prosecutor job because of budget cuts after Gallegos took office, echoes Pacific Lumber's insistence Gallegos is soft on crime.

"Mr. Gallegos is a defense attorney. He will always be a defense attorney, '' she said.

Both opposition candidates at the forum were periodically skewered by Steve Schectman, a local lawyer and gadfly, who denounces the recall and defends Gallegos' 13 months on the job.

"(The recall) has nothing to do with crime. It has to do with a corporation that wants to control this county,'' Schectman said.

After the candidates pummeled one another for an hour, Gallegos defended his record in a one-on-one interview.

Every decision made by his office is criticized by someone, he says. He cautions against singling out the handling of individual cases from out of the thousands his office processes.

In his personal office, next to the door, at eye level, is a photograph of Abraham Lincoln. The 16th president looks haunted but indomitable.

Gallegos compares Lincoln's recognition of the immorality of slavery to the issues Humboldt faces with Pacific Lumber.

The decline of timber breeds the same fear about the end of a way of life Southerners felt about the demise of slavery, Gallegos says.

"I am just the poster boy. I'm the focus of an issue not just this community but all of America is dealing with -- who is our definition of us? Is it some of us? Or is it all of us?"

Wednesday, March 3, 2004

Voters Reject Attempt to Recall North Coast D.A. [L.A. Times]

Voters Reject Attempt to Recall North Coast D.A. [L.A. Times]

A timber company bankrolled the effort to remove the Humboldt County official

By Kenneth R. Weiss, Times Staff Writer

March 3, 2004

Humboldt County voters rallied behind their district attorney Tuesday, rejecting a campaign bankrolled by Pacific Lumber Co. to recall the prosecutor who had accused the powerful timber company of fraud.

With all precincts reporting, voters decided to retain Dist. Atty. Paul Gallegos, 61% to 39%, despite an intensive campaign of radio, television and direct mail advertisements that portrayed Gallegos as soft on crime and a friend of illegal tree-sitters, rapists and pot growers.

"It's a triumph of the people over the influence of money and lies in politics," said a jubilant Gallegos, 41, a former Southern Californian who moved to Eureka a decade ago. "This recall election wasn't about me, it's about a corporation trying to control politics here in Humboldt County."

"This is about a defendant getting rid of the prosecutor," he said. "If this was the will of the people, they [Pacific Lumber] wouldn't have had to spend a quarter of a million dollars to get this on the ballot and convince people I was no good."

The recall election, the most expensive race of any kind in Humboldt County history, generated an unusually high turnout on a day when voters elsewhere in the state largely stayed home.

The race emerged as a test of the century-old political dominance of timber interests in a county of 130,000 people that has seen a sharp drop in logging jobs and a surge in environmentally concerned newcomers who work in the tourism and service industries.

The debate over Gallegos cleaved the county along familiar battle lines in the North Coast timber wars: Whether redwoods should be considered a draw for tourists and a subject of poetry or a source of lucrative lumber and abundant jobs. Passions flared to the bitter end, with allegations of improper electioneering.

Richard Salzman, Gallegos' campaign manager, joined volunteers on a busy intersection to wave "No Recall" signs for the early morning commuters, most of them in pickup trucks.

"We got many more thumbs up than we got middle fingers," he said. "For these guys who gave us the finger, it's not the way Paul [Gallegos] handled a particular case, it's that they fear that their job's at stake."

Last year, Pacific Lumber and its corporate parent, Maxxam Inc., based in Houston, paid $8 a signature to help fill out petitions needed to qualify the recall for the ballot.

Then the timber company and its contractors donated more than 80% of the money, $266,000 disclosed so far, to the campaign to persuade voters that Gallegos should be bounced from the job as the county's top prosecutor.

Pacific Lumber denied that its contributions had anything to do with the civil fraud case that Gallegos and his top assistant, Timothy O. Stoen, filed in March 2003, accusing the company of lying to state regulators during the 1999 Headwaters Forest deal. The deal capped a decade-long battle to save the state's remaining stands of giant redwoods not already protected in parks or preserves.

Prosecutors contend that the fraud has allowed Pacific Lumber to harvest about $40 million worth of trees each year on 211,000 acres that were supposed to be protected under logging restrictions as part of the deal, which cost taxpayers $480 million.

Company spokeswoman Erin Dunn said the firm joined the recall out of a duty to help protect public safety from a prosecutor with a "miserable" record.

Supporters of Gallegos raised $180,000 and put together teams of volunteers to counteract the ad campaign against him. They phoned thousands of supporters in places such as Arcata, a liberal college town, to urge them to the polls.

"We're doing a booming business," said Lindsey McWilliams, Humboldt County's election manager, who predicted a turnout of about 65%. The county issued about 18,000 absentee ballots, about 6,000 more than usual, and he fears it will take weeks to sort through the final 1,500 to 2,000 or so ballots which were smudged, adorned with write-in candidates, or turned in at polling places.

Although these ballots will not change the outcome of the recall election, McWilliams said, "It's going to take us a lot of time to clean this up."

Palco pours another $85K into recall effort [Times-Standard]

Palco pours another $85K into recall effort [Times-Standard]

Arkleys give $12,000 to Gallegos campaign

By James Tressler, The Times-Standard

EUREKA -- Pacific Lumber Co. continues to bankroll the recall effort against District Attorney Paul Gallegos.

According to financial statements filed late Thursday afternoon, the timber company, which is being sued by Gallegos, put nearly $85,000 into the recall effort in February. More than half the money was used to pay Fifty Plus One, an Arizona company that has been conducting polls on behalf of the recall committee. Another $4,000 went to Sacramento-based Flanigan Group, with which new recall spokesman Rob Flanigan is affiliated.

Palco now has contributed more than $150,000 to the recall campaign since it began last spring. Overall, the Safety Yes, Recall Gallegos committee has raised about $100,000 since mid-January. Besides Palco, other major contributors include: Fortuna-based Lewis Logging, $5,000; Palco contractor Columbia Helicopter Inc., $2,350; and Blue Lake-based Rasmussen Wood Products, $1,000.

Efforts to reach Palco for comment were unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, the Friends of Paul Gallegos raised just over $76,000 between mid-January and mid-February from roughly 1,800 individual contributors. The largest single donation came from Rob and Cherie Arkley who this week gave $12,000 to the Friends of Paul Gallegos, according to a financial statement filed Thursday. Two other large donations also came into the Gallegos campaign this week: $2,173.75 from Bayside resident Barbara Carolan and $1,000 from Eureka residents Kay and Charles Fitts. Most of the other donations were far less than $1,000.

The Arkleys, who own Race Investments LLC in Eureka, were strong supporters of Gallegos in 2002, when he defeated then-incumbent District Attorney Terry Farmer. The Arkleys also own Security National Servicing Corps in Eureka, were substantial contributors to the city of Eureka's waterfront boardwalk a few years ago, and most recently they bought the Daly Building Complex downtown.

Ironically, Arkley's father, Robin Arkley Sr., is a staunch Gallegos critic. Last year he offered $5,000 to anyone willing to run against Gallegos. Arkley Sr. is a former operator of Blue Lake Forest Products.

"There are lots of fathers and sons who disagree on political issues," offered Richard Salzman, Gallegos' campaign manager.

Rob Arkley was out of town Thursday and unavailable for comment.

The senior Arkley expressed surprise at the size of his son's latest donation to Gallegos.

"Wow! He's richer than I thought he was," Arkley Sr. proclaimed.

When asked if he and his son are far apart on the Gallegos issue, Arkley Sr. responded:

"We're a long ways apart -- by about $12,000," he joked.

Arkley Sr. said he doesn't plan to spend any more money on the recall campaign, saying he's done his part.

The three recall replacement candidates, Worth Dikeman, Gloria Albin Sheets and Steve Schectman, did not turn in financial statements on Thursday, the deadline to turn in timely reports.

Monday, March 1, 2004

Recall targets California prosecutor who took on lumber in Redwood Country [AP]

Recall targets California prosecutor who took on lumber in Redwood Country [AP]

by Paul Elias, Associated Press Writer

March 1, 2004

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A new district attorney who has accused a huge lumber firm of fraud in California redwood country could see his political career felled by a threatened recall.

The Pacific Lumber Co., through its corporate parent Maxxam Inc. of Houston, has fueled the recall of District Attorney Paul Gallegos with $229,000 in contributions.

The company and Gallegos detractors say the district attorney is too lenient with criminals, too friendly with radical environmental activists and too accommodating to marijuana smokers who say they use the drug for medicinal purposes.

The district attorney's supporters, though, say the Pacific Lumber-backed recall is retaliation for Gallegos's suit against the timber company in February 2003, a month after he took office.

"There is no way the Maxxam corporation in Houston can be this concerned with the rate of plea bargains in Humboldt County," said Gallegos campaign manager Richard Salzman.

An unusually high voter turnout was expected Tuesday in Humboldt County to determine whether Gallegos should be ousted. With a combined $500,000 in contributions expected to be spent, the campaign has turned out to be the most expensive in county history.

The dispute has exposed long-simmering tensions in this community along California's far north coast, where the old mainstays of logging and fishing have faltered and new industries -- and people -- are moving in.

The dispute is also being closely watched by fellow district attorneys, who are concerned that recall success in Humboldt County will spark similar efforts against them.

"The unusual amount of money being raised is also drawing a lot of interest," said David LaBahn, executive director of the California District Attorneys Association.

LaBahn said the association has no position on the recall.

Shortly after taking office, Gallegos filed suit against Pacific Lumber, alleging the company provided false data during a 1999 deal on the possibility that its logging plans could create landslides. His suit seeks to force the company to pay back part of the $300 million it got for the deal.

Pacific Lumber officials deny the allegations and are seeking sanctions against Gallegos for filing suit. Pacific Lumber spokeswoman Erin Dunn didn't return telephone calls Monday.