A consultant to City Attorney Dennis Herrera and District Attorney George Gascón abruptly resigned from their campaigns Tuesday following news reports suggesting he illegally lobbied the mayoral hopeful and also failed to report his lobbying of three city commissioners.
In an email, lobbyist Alex Tourk said the “minute distractions” of news reports had created a sideshow detrimental to Herrera’s mayoral 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.”
A 2004 city law prevents campaign consultants from lobbying current and former clients for five years. Yet Tourk, who also ran Herrera’s 2009 re-election campaign, contacted Herrera this year and last on behalf of at least three clients according to records he filed with the Ethics Commission. Records also show that Tourk lobbied Gascón on behalf of the police union this year, although the contacts apparently occurred before Tourk became his campaign consultant.
Gascón subsequently announced late Tuesday that he had accepted Tourk’s resignation from his campaign for district attorney.
Tourk did not return calls for comment, but said he would review “all of my filings to double check that they are correct and appropriate, which I believe they are.”
The city attorney’s office said it has handed over any possible investigation to the Oakland city attorney to avoid a possible conflict of interest.
“I appreciate that Alex does not want be a distraction,” Herrera said in a statement. “This is an unfortunate situation, but I wish him well in his future endeavors.”
The resignation comes amidst a court case alleging backroom deals involving the Stow Lake Boathouse contract. Tourk represents Ortega Family Enterprises, a New Mexico-based concessionaire that beat out the previous operators of the boathouse in a competitive bidding process.
After the original managers filed a lawsuit alleging that the deal was corrupt, emails used as evidence showed that Tourk had contacted and possibly lobbied several members of the Recreation and Park Commission. Tourk did not report the contacts with the San Francisco Ethics Commission, as he would be legally required to do if he lobbied the officials.
A longtime fixture at City Hall, Tourk served as deputy chief of staff under Mayor Gavin Newsom and later ran his re-election campaign.