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Herrera issues report following investigation
into city payments to Rippey-Tourk, qualification under Catastrophic Illness Program

Former Newsom appointments secretary Ruby Rippey-Tourk
Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

From the Office of City Attorney Dennis Herrera

April 11, 2007, 10:25 a.m.

TO: Mayor Gavin Newsom, President Aaron Peskin, and Members, Board of Supervisors

FROM: Dennis J. Herrera City Attorney

DATE: April 11, 2007

RE: Report on Legal Issues Involving City Payments to Former Mayor Staff Member Ruby Rippey-Tourk

Please find attached the report that my office completed on legal issues involving City payments made to former Mayor's Office staff member Ruby Rippey-Tourk. I have reviewed the report and concur with it, including its conclusions.

Report Highlights

Improper Payroll Practices in Mayor’s Office

• "Under the City's Charter, City employment is a public trust and employees are required to exercise their public duties in a manner consistent with that public trust.. authorization of a spouse's times sheets is not appropriate in light of this public trust." (pg 6).

Public Health Department May Have Bent Rules for Rippey-Tourk’s Use of City Illness Program

• “[T]o qualify for participation in the CIP .. employee must .. be catastrophically ill, meaning that the employee has "a life-threatening illness or injury” (pg 8)

• “About 10% of the CIP applications are denied.” (pg 10)

• “[R]egarding illnesses that may be life-threatening for a relatively short period of time under the CIP, Dr. Katz used the analogy of a stroke victim. He said that he would approve a short-term request for the initial medical treatment to stabilize the patient, but would not be as willing to continue qualification after the applicant was in rehabilitation and not in a life threatening situation. .. Although the person recovering from the stroke may be seriously disabled, he views the CIP as not a benefit for disability but only for life-threatening illness or injury.” (pg 12)

• “We did not find any DPH approvals based solely on alcoholism or substance abuse, including attending a treatment program. A few applications involving alcoholism or substance abuse were denied on the ground that the condition was not life-threatening at the time.” (pg 13)

• “[DPH gave] the following written reasons for denial of particular applications: "Alcoholism may be disabling but not life threatening" (2002); "Receiving treatment for a panic attack and substance use cannot be considered a life threatening illness.” (pg 13)

Mayor’s Office Bent Rules for Rippey-Tourk Leave Time

• “Mrs. Rippey-Tourk’s payment was different .. [T]he Controller had never been presented with a situation where a pay warrant under the CIP was issued to an employee who was leaving City employment.” (pg 15)

• “The unique aspect of this situation is the fact that Ms. Rippey-Tourk had given notice that she intended to leave City employment and was seeking other work at the time her CIP application was approved.” (pg 16)

Special Treatment: Most Rippey-Tourk timesheets unsigned

• “On many of Ms. Rippey-Tourk's time sheets, there are no signatures on one or both of these signature blocks.” (pg 17)

• “The fact that Ms. Rippey-Tourk occasionally did not sign her own time sheets did violate the practice in place at the Mayor's Office during this time. Most of these unsigned time sheets were submitted in 2004 and 2006, during periods in which Ms. Rippey-Tourk was absent from the office on unpaid leave.” (pg 18)

• “Because Mr. Tourk approved his wife's time sheets, this practice was inappropriate and at least created the appearance of impropriety.” (pg 18)

• “[T]here was a great deal of inconsistency in the manner in which Ms. Rippey-Tourk's time sheets were signed and approved.” (pg 18)




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