Dennis Herrera campaign consultant resigns after allegations of impropriety

Alex Tourk abruptly resigned as campaign consultant for City Attorney Dennis Herrera on Tuesday following allegations that he illegally lobbied the mayoral candidate in the midst of a court case alleging backroom deals with the Stow Lake Boathouse contract.

In an email, Tourk said that the “minute distractions” of news reports have created a sideshow that is detrimental to Herrera’s campaign.

“While my firm and I have done nothing wrong that is immaterial to this decision,” Tourk wrote. “Consultants shouldn’t be the story. Unfortunately, for this week at least, I am part of the story and that’s why it is time to resign.”

Tourk contacted Herrera on behalf of at least two clients, the San Francisco Police Officers Association, and National Promotions and Advertising, in the first quarter of 2011, according to lobbying records with the Ethics Commission.

A city law passed in 2004 prevents campaign consultants from lobbying their former and current clients. Tourk also ran Herrera’s unopposed reelection campaign for city attorney. Tourk did not return calls for comment, but said that he would be reviewing “all of my filings to double check that they are correct and appropriate which I believe they are.”

Nevertheless, the City Attorney’s Office has handed over any involvement in a possible investigation to the Oakland city attorney to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, according to the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office.
The resignation comes as a court battle is playing out over the new operators of the Stow Lake Boathouse. Tourk represents Ortega Family Enterprises, a New Mexico-based concessionaire that recently beat out the previous operators of the boathouse in a competitive bidding process.

After the original managers of the Stow Lake Boathouse filed a lawsuit alleging that the deal was corrupt, emails used as evidence showed that Recreation and Park staff advised Ortega to hire Tourk.

Superior Court Judge Loretta Giorgi on Friday is scheduled to decide the legality of that advice, after saying last month that the emails did “not pass the smell test.”

A longtime fixture at City Hall, Tourk served as deputy chief of staff under Mayor Gavin Newsom and would later run his reelection campaign. In 2007, he cut ties with Newsom, who admitted to an affair with Tourk’s then-wife, Ruby Rippey-Tourk.  

Phone calls to Tourk were not immediately returned.

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