The ethics session started with a joke: What do lawyers and sperm have in common?

Only one in a million does anything productive.

There were a few chuckles and some squirming Thursday as the San Jose City Council -- absent the recently resigned Terry Gregory -- sat through a daylong workshop led by nationally renowned ethicist Michael Josephson of the Josephson Institute of Ethics.

A former Los Angeles lawyer and law professor, Josephson had done a lot of prep work, including holding hourlong telephone interviews with every council member beforehand to get to know them.

His assessment of San Jose governance and management?

``This is essentially a clean city,'' he told the council and Mayor Ron Gonzales, City Manager Del Borgsdorf, City Attorney Rick Doyle, Police Chief Rob Davis, and the 50 or so City Hall employees and citizens gathered.

Still, there were several issues Josephson wanted everyone to mull over, given the past year and its string of unethical or pathetic performances by elected officials, department heads, and city managers. Thus, the ethics training, among other reforms adopted by the council to clean up from the City Hall-Cisco debacle.

``Ultimately, I don't care about your rhetoric,'' Josephson said. ``I want to look at your behavior.''

During a break, Gonzales likened the workshop to a conversation with oneself: an occasional reminder to ``eat good food, and exercise.''

``I'm not expecting an `aha' moment,'' said Gonzales. ``It's like going to church. It's a good thing.''

The city is paying Josephson $20,000 for a series of training sessions, which wrapped up Friday, when he worked with 1,000 managers in the city and then separately, with a smaller group of senior and executive staff members, said San Jose's public outreach officer, Tom Manheim.

Ultimately, all 6,700 city employees will attend an ethics workshop this year.

Joining the District 7 fray

Could there be two Gonzaleses on the San Jose City Council some day?

Beth Gonzales, an Oak Grove High School teacher and a longtime activist with People Acting in Community Together, hopes so.

Last week, she joined the growing list of candidates hoping to fill the vacant District 7 seat created by Councilman Terry Gregory's resignation. She's been endorsed by former Mayor Susan Hammer and District 9 Councilwoman Judy Chirco.

Gonzales told IA she'll ``listen to the community and make their agenda my agenda.''

And, no, she is not related to hizzoner.

Buu Thai, a senior field representative for Assemblywoman Sally Lieber, D-San Jose, also is campaigning for the council seat.

Thai, who grew up in the south central district, said she wants to return honesty, integrity, and leadership to the office. She cited the Silicon Valley Asian Pacific American Democratic Club's encouragement as a key factor in running.

Meanwhile, Dave Hennessy, president of the California Mobilehome Resource and Action Association, is sitting on the fence. Hennessy, who lives in a district that includes several mobile home parks, said his decision ultimately will be based on the quality of the candidates and whether he can agree with their positions.

``It's up in the air until I find out if somebody's got some smarts and knows what's going on,'' Hennessy said.

Nasty, but not illegal

In San Jose politics there's no law against being nasty, or so the elections commission has determined. Putting to bed the last vestige of the bitter District 10 council race, commissioners last week dismissed a complaint filed in October by Rich De La Rosa against Nancy Pyle, who pulled off a stunning upset victory.

De La Rosa complained Pyle had distributed campaign mailers with erroneous facts, including that he was a litigant in the city's eminent domain case with Tropicana Shopping Center landlords and merchants. The mailers also accused him of trying to ``soak'' taxpayers by seeking thousands in reimbursement for attorney's fees, consultant fees and other costs after the city lost the case.

Court records show that De La Rosa was not involved in the city's lawsuit. De La Rosa, however, did act as a spokesman for the merchants.

In the end, the commissioners followed the recommendation of their evaluator who determined local ethics laws only address complaints involving campaign financing as opposed to questionable campaign statements.

``The San Jose Ethics Provisions do not regulate or address allegations of this nature,'' the evaluator's report said.

Early start in mayor's race

It's about 17 months until San Jose voters elect a new mayor, but that didn't deter City Councilman Chuck Reed this month from becoming the first to throw his hat into the ring.

Now Reed, who lacks the people power that the region's powerful labor movement is expected to pour into the campaign for an as-yet-unidentified candidate, already is plunging into building a network of supporters and potential volunteers.

Reed has scheduled four ``coffees,'' hourlong sessions, at the homes of supporters, including in Willow Glen and Almaden.

Among those hosting the events in February are labor types Jose Salcido and Jim Spence. But Salcido, president of the Santa Clara County Deputy Sheriffs Association, and Spence, head of the San Jose Association of Retired Police and Firefighters, are not acting in their official capacities, but only as personal supporters.

``The point is for people to get to know him outside Berryessa,'' political consultant Vic Ajlouny said. ``They've seen his name in the paper, now they'll see his face and get to know him.''

Ajlouny, a longtime friend of Reed's, stressed he is merely volunteering his time at this point because San Jose bans mayoral candidates from raising money (and spending it) until December. But Ajlouny -- who lives part time in Nebraska and part time in San Jose -- said he ultimately will be Reed's paid consultant.

Internal Affairs is compiled by the Mercury News Staff. Mercury News Staff Writers Rodney Foo, Truong Phuoc Khánh and Janice Rombeck contributed to this week's column. Send tips to internalaffairs@, or call (408) 275-0140.