Herrera report reveals "broad discretion"
used to qualify Rippey-Touk under Catastrophic Illiness Program
An investigative report released Wednesday by City Attorney Dennis
Herrera clears the city of criminal wrongdoing but raises questions
about former Newsom secretary Ruby Rippey-Tourk and her qualification
under the city's Catastrophic Illness Program.
By Tamara Barak, Bay City News Service
April 12, 2007
SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - An investigation
into payments made by the city to Ruby Rippey Tourk last year
found no evidence of impropriety, according a report
released yesterday by the San Francisco city attorney's office.
Rippey-Tourk resigned from her position as Mayor Gavin Newsom's
appointments secretary in the in spring of 2006. On Feb. 1 of
this year, Newsom admitted
to an affair with Rippey-Tourk, the wife of his former campaign
Since the revelation of the affair, which occurred while she
was employed by the city, questions have been raised regarding
alleged preferential treatment enjoyed by Rippey Tourk. Her paid
and unpaid leave and a one-time retroactive payment she received
through the city's Catastrophic Illness Program became cause for
Rippey-Tourk and her husband, Alex Tourk, refused to be interviewed
as part of City Attorney Dennis Herrera's investigation, nor would
they verify information for investigators, according to the report.
Former Newsom Deputy Chief of Staff Alex Tourk
The city attorney's investigation looked into whether Rippey-Tourk,
who reportedly sought treatment for alcohol and substance abuse,
was qualified to participate in the city's Catastrophic
Illness Program by Newsom administration Public Health Director
Mitch Katz used "broad discretion" in qualifying Rippey-Tourk
under the city's Catastophic Illness Program.
The city defines catastrophic illness as "a life-threatening
illness or injury, as determined by the Department of Public Health,"
according to the report. However, investigators found that Rippey-Tourk
complied with the requirements that apply to all city employees
applying for the program by submitting a physician's report verifying
her illness was catastrophic.
The validity of her physician's report remains unclear, however,
"because Ms. Rippey-Tourk would not agree to authorize the
release of medical information, we could not confirm the facts
set forth in her attending physician's certification," the
Typically, workers become eligible for the program if they are
facing illnesses such as AIDS, end-stage organ disease or serious
physical trauma, according to the report. Investigators did not
find any other case in which the Department of Public Health certified
a city worker's eligibility in the program based solely on alcohol
City attorney investigators did not find evidence that Newsom
used his influence to authorize Rippey-Tourk's participation in
the Catastrophic Illness Program. The report noted that the program
grants Public Health Director Mitch Katz broad discretion to decide
what is a life threatening illness.
The CIP program allows other employees to donate their sick time
or vacation hours to the catastrophically ill employee -- in this
case, resulting in a reported payment of thousands of dollars
Investigators probed why she received a CIP payment for a period
that began before the date she submitted her application to the
program. The report, however, revealed that her participation
was based not on her application date but on the date her physician
determined that her symptoms made it impossible to work.
Following her resignation, Rippey-Tourk took up employment with
The report also cleared the city of any wrongdoing in payments
it made to Rippey-Tourk based on timesheets she submitted when
working in the mayor's office.
The city attorney's office refused to comment further on the
report, stating that the findings should stand on their own.
Luke Thomas contributed to this report.
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