After Judge Loretta Giorgi admonished Recreation and Parks Department staffers for suggesting a company they favored to win the contract to operate the historic Stow Lake Boathouse hire a high-profile lobbyist to shepherd their bid though city government, a department commissioner has proposed a department-wide ban on recommending specific lobbyists to potential bidders or lessees.
Commissioner David Lee’s possible prohibition comes after department officials recommended Ortega Family Enterprises hire lobbyist Alex Tourk in what appears to be an attempt to wrest control of the Golden Gate Park landmark from its long-time operator Bruce McLellan. McLellan, who had already hired a lobbyist of his own by the time Ortega acquired Tourk’s services, sued the city claiming corruption in the process that saw him losing control of the boathouse.
”I feel that ethically–I’m not talking legally–staff, as public officials whose salaries are paid for by the taxpayers, should not be involving themselves in recommending lobbyists,” said Lee. ”I want the process to be as transparent as possible.”
While the the court found the process to be above board, emails between Tourk and Ortega made public as part of the trial reflected poorly on both parties–for example, Ortega paid Tourk to
hire enlist “volunteers” to show up at public meetings and vocally support Ortega’s bid for the boathouse. On a positive note, at least local actors are finding work after the cancellation of Trauma.
The increased attention paid to Tourk after the emails’ revelations led to an investigation of the activities of the high-profile lobbyist. He has since been dropped from his position as a consultant to the mayoral campaign of City Attorney Dennis Herrera and the re-election campaign of District Attorney George Gascón.
Even with the Recreation and Parks Department’s recent legal victory, Ortega probably isn’t going to be taking over the boathouse any time soon–McLellan is likely to appeal the judge’s decision.