Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The $10,154 Question Begs for Answers

Cecilia M. Vega, San Francisco Chronicle writes:

Ruby Rippey-Tourk appears to be the only city employee ever granted catastrophic-illness pay for treatment of alcohol addiction, a decision approved by the head of the Public Health Department, the report, issued by City Attorney Dennis Herrera, showed.

City attorney's investigators interviewed at least six officials during a nearly two-month inquiry, including the mayor's current and former chiefs of staff. They did not interview Rippey-Tourk, who refused to waive her confidentiality right so investigators could discuss her treatment for substance abuse in the report, or her husband [Alex Rippey-Tourk], who refused to cooperate. Investigators also did not interview [Gavin] Newsom.

The investigation also found that while Rippey-Tourk worked in Newsom's office, several of her time sheets were signed by her husband, Alex Tourk, then the mayor's deputy chief of staff, who later became his campaign manager. Other time sheets had no approval signature, and some were signed by Rippey-Tourk herself.

No city laws or policies were broken, however, because the mayor's office did not have a policy on time sheets, the report said. But "because Mr. Tourk approved his wife's time sheets, this practice was inappropriate and at least created the appearance of impropriety," it concluded.

The main findings of San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera's report:
  • No city law or policy was violated when Ruby Rippey-Tourk, former appointments secretary for Mayor Gavin Newsom, was granted $10,154 in catastrophic-illness pay to be treated for substance abuse. Rippey-Tourk, however, appears to be the only city employee ever to receive such pay to be treated for substance abuse.

  • She is the only city employee ever to receive such payments after announcing her intention to quit.

  • Some of Rippey-Tourk's time sheets were approved by Rippey-Tourk herself and others by her husband, then Mayor Gavin Newsom's deputy chief of staff, but no law was broken because there was no policy governing who could sign time sheets.

  • Rippey-Tourk's subsequent employment at a magazine did not conflict with her receiving catastrophic-illness pay from the city.

City Supervisor Quotes:

"Anyone concerned about their tax dollars being used as hush money for Newsom's paramour should be outraged."

~ Supervisor Chris Daly

"The report is not as complete as I would have liked. The mayor was not interviewed in the report and neither were the Tourks. It raises as many questions as it answers."

~ Board President Aaron Peskin as reported by KRON 4's Tamar Sarkissian

Blog Quotes:

“Was this preferential treatment for a woman who had a sexual relationship with the Mayor? Or was it hush money to keep the Tourk’s quiet?”

~ GavinWatch

“Good for you, Dennis Herrera. Your independent “investigation” of the City’s retroactive payments to Ruby Tourk found no laws broken by Gavin Newsom. Do you think you locked in any key endorsements for your next office with this prize piece of work?”

~ SF Party Party

“The question here is – what standards did the Health Department employ for who qualifies for a catastrophic illness? If there were none, the City could get sued by disqualified applicants for an abuse of discretion.”

Paul Hogarth, Beyond Chron

No comments: