City attorney probes Mayor's office payouts 

Questions raised over the amount of money paid out to a former city staffer who had an affair with Mayor Gavin Newsom has prompted an investigation by the city attorney.

The investigation is focusing on the amount of compensation The City doled out in paid leave to Ruby Rippey-Tourk, Newsom’s former appointments secretary, with whom Newsom has admitted to having an affair about a year and a half ago. The affair became public when Rippey-Tourk’s husband, Alex Tourk, resigned last month from his position as Newsom’s re-election campaign manager after his wife told him about the affair.

Among the payments raising questions is a retroactive paycheck in 2006 amounting to $10,154 for nearly 252 paid leave hours. The check was issued to Rippey-Tourk sometime after her last day on the job, which was on Aug. 31, 2006. Under city employee rules, workers can apply for extended leave, during which time they can still be paid.

On Thursday, the City Attorney’s Office issued a statement that said, "With the full cooperation of the city officials involved, the city attorney has already begun the process of reviewing the paid leave to [Ruby] Rippey-Tourk to assure that it was done properly under city laws and procedures."

All told, Rippey-Tourk was paid $21,755 for nearly 544 hours of paid leave between January and August 2006. In that same period, Rippey-Tourk received $44,928 in total compensation, according to the Controller’s Office.

In 2004, Rippey-Tourk made $63,523, her first year working in the Newsom administration, with $7,754 of it being in paid leave. In 2005, her compensation rose to $80,195, with $11,606 in paid leave.

Sam Singer, representing both Alex Tourk and Ruby Rippey-Tourk, said Rippey-Tourk took a leave of absence in May 2006 to enter an alcohol rehabilitation program. "Alex was left as a single parent trying to manage a household with only half theincome," Singer said. Tourk then asked The City if there was any way "to get assistance," Singer said.

That assistance apparently came by way of a city provision that allows city employees to transfer their paid leave credits to other employees.

"Co-workers donated their sick time to Rippey-Tourk in a compassionate gesture to help her and her family," Singer said.

In July 2006, Rippey-Tourk submitted her letter of resignation, which said that "after 10 weeks of introspection, I’ve decided the best thing for me is not to return to the Mayor’s Office, and instead move in another direction."

Newsom’s press office defended the compensation in a statement, saying, "We are confident that this matter was handled appropriately and humanely."

The Controller’s Office, which oversees The City’s payroll, found nothing on the books to suggest an impropriety.

"We calculate the pay based on the person’s rate of pay and their banked leave. We verify their leave before they’re paid their leave. I feel confident what she was paid was authorized through The City’s rules," Deputy City Controller Monique Zmuda said.

"I believe the outcome of any investigation into this issue will show Ruby Tourk followed the letter and spirit of the law in seeking assistance for herself and her family during a time of great personal difficulty," Singer said.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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