tedster - 1:58 pm on Jun 27, 2012 (gmt 0)
What you describe sounds like second-level navigation. Is it true that Inside each section on the main menu, the "sidebar" links are always the same?
This set-up should not be a problem on its own. In fact, it sounds like what is called "inverted L navigation" - something I still have on several sites that have no Panda/Penguin problems.
what can be a problem is if you keyword stuff those sidebar links. If you include links to other parts of the site just to boost PR instead of to help your visitors find what they need, that can make problems, too.