Emails don’t justify voiding Stow Lake boathouse deal 

New documents submitted in the lawsuit surrounding the Stow Lake boathouse further expose a cozy relationship between city staffers and lobbyists, but do not appear to show the type of cooperation that a judge recently said might be cause to void the contract.

Last month, Superior Court Judge Loretta Giorgi said she wanted to know whether the Recreation and Park Department had influenced the decision of an independent panel to choose a new operator for the boathouse.

Lawyers for the Stow Lake Corp., which has managed the facility for more than 60 years, allege department officials illegally favored the new concessionaire, Ortega Family Enterprises.

Giorgi said a September email revealing that a department employee advised Ortega to hire lobbyists to woo the Recreation and Park Commission “did not pass the smell test.” But she suggested that the only legal grounds for voiding the contract would be evidence the agency had assisted the new vendor prior to the June 21 decision to select Ortega.

New email exchanges between Ortega, the lobbying firm and the agency’s staff submitted to the court Wednesday do not appear to predate that decision. The earliest exchange thus far revealed occurred June 22, the day after the panel’s decision was finalized.

However, in a brief Stow Lake Corp. attorney Paul Rosenlund suggested the judge should be concerned about any favoritism that occurred prior to the Rec and Park Commission’s Aug. 19 ratification of Ortega’s selection.

And ample evidence shows that department officials coached Ortega on how best to prevail when its contract went before the full commission and later the Board of Supervisors, both of which ratified the independent panel’s selection.

Rosenlund also argued that “the evidence produced appears to be far from complete.”

The case returns to court Tuesday.

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Kamala Kelkar

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