Mike’s Too Expensive: So is County Administrative Chief Mike Brown going to cost the taxpayers another million, plus or minus, in a court settlement?

Six years ago the county got dinged for $900,000 over former Human Resources Director Ann Goodrich’s suit, which claimed that she was subjected to a hostile work environment and fired in retaliation for complaining about Brown’s remarks during a Buellton dinner speech – during which he referred to the concept of peace-loving Muslims as “bunk.”

On the Beat

The Board of Supervisors’ reaction? Extending Brown’s contract through 2009, and now Brown’s under investigation by the county. Former Santa Barbara County Public Defender James Egar has filed a lawsuit against both the county and Brown, alleging that Brown threatened him, screamed and swore at him, and spit in his face, among other things. The suit lists 13 complaints, including assault, battery, negligent hiring, training, retention, and supervision, as well as multiple violations by Brown of the California Employment and Housing Act. The lawsuit seeks unspecified punitive and compensatory damages.

County Supervisor Brooks Firestone said the county will defend against the suit vigorously. “I have the utmost confidence in the professionalism and competence of our Chief Executive Mike Brown and expect the matter will be settled quickly.”

The Enchanted One: El Encanto Hotel, perched on a Riviera hill overlooking Santa Barbara, is undergoing a major restoration – a project that lies in the hands of the perfectionist Orient-Express people. Sadly, the old main building was too far gone and had to be razed. The cottages, judging from several models I looked at last Friday, appear to be trying to one-up those at Ty Warner’s San Ysidro Ranch. The estimated going rate at this point is around $1,200-plus a night, but a lot depends on the rate structure at the Ranch and Ty’s Four Seasons Biltmore when the time comes. Look for an opening in late 2008 or early 2009. With that trio of trophy resorts luring visitors from far and wide, added to the new Miramar when it opens down the road, and Bacara Spa & Resort, Santa Barbara-Montecito is poised to become a major international destination, luring high-end travelers who are ready and willing to shell out that kind of money.

Fifteen Rounds: In the play Fifteen Rounds With Jackson Pollock, at Victoria Hall Theater, Ed Giron portrays the celebrated painter with vigor and passion. Let’s hope that the supporting cast follows his lead and projects lines out into the audience, which, for the most part, it wasn’t doing the night that I attended. More info is available at 800-494-8497.

Laughs with Carol: Carol Burnett, a Santa Barbaran, takes to the Campbell Hall stage at UCSB on June 20 with what’s billed as a “playful conversation” with the audience about her career. Tickets are $50 for the public and $15 for UCSB students. More info is available at 805-893-3535.

Food for Thought: You can put on the feed bag today and help low-income students get a computer their families couldn’t otherwise afford. My friend Steve Hyslop and his team at Chuck’s Waterfront Grill and The Endless Summer bar-cafe will donate a percentage of the food and beverage revenue from the two waterfront restaurants today. For the nonprofit Computers for Families to get the money you need to tell the restaurant staff that’s why you’re there. CFF serves 30 schools in five districts, from Carpinteria to Solvang. Tell Steve I sent you. And thanks to Ed Galsterer for tipping me off to Steve’s dine-and-donate plan. CFF has raised $2.6 million – with a goal of raising $4 million – and has served 6,500 students and their families in the past decade, Ed said.

Rents Claim an Institution: Alas, Nicky Gekis says high rents are forcing him to close the hair salon his parents opened 51 years ago at Anacapa and Arlington streets.

As of Saturday, June 30, Nicky will close the doors of Nicholas Salon of Beauty. His parents, Basileos “William” Nicholas and Helen Gekis opened it back in the 1950s and Nicky joined the business in 1974.

But that’s not the last snip for Nicky. “I’m in my 33rd year of cutting hair; I’ll be doing it for at least another 20.” He plans to keep the spirit of his parents’ place alive at the Salon Patine on Upper State Street.

“We can always look back and wish and wonder,” he said. “My parents could have bought this entire property in 1958 for $30,000. It sold two years ago for $2.5 million. For that matter, I could have bought the Arlington Theater for $250,000 in the 1960s. My father always said, ‘You want to give God a good laugh, tell Him your plans.’ In other words; we know not.”

Barney Brantingham can be reached at barney@independent.com or 805-962-1156. He is a staff columnist for The Santa Barbara Independent and writes online columns Tuesdays and Fridays and a print column on Thursday.


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