Campaign consultants are a bit like roadies -- they tend to work, indispensably, in the background and ought not overshadow the main act (obesity and dressing all in black are not necessary for consultants, however).
When roadies take the foreground, it tends to be because of a pyrotechnic accident. Well-known city consultant Alex Tourk has had some pyrotechnics of his own. The lobbyist is accused of using backroom dealings to secure a client's bid for a Stow Lake concession. What's more, Tourk's own lobbying records indicate he pitched a spiel to his clients, City Attorney Dennis Herrera and DA George Gascón -- which you're not allowed to do.
Tourk today announced his resignation from Herrera's employ. He still works for Gascón, however -- though perhaps not for long.
"I have no idea yet," answered the DA when asked if Tourk would continue working for him. "We're trying to evaluate all the circumstances behind this." Gascón said things should clear up "in the next few days."
It remains to be seen what will become of Tourk and his successful consulting and lobbying firm, Ground Floor Public Affairs. Herrera recused himself from the investigation of Tourk's doings, farming out the affair to his Oakland counterparts. At first glance, it appears the consultant has worked himself into a tight situation. If his lobbying filings with the Ethics Commission are accurate, he violated Section 2.117 of the city's campaign and governmental conduct code, which forbids him from "communicat[ing] with any officer of the City and County who is a current or former client of the campaign consultant on behalf of another person or entity."
If, as Tourk now claims, the conversations with Herrera and Gascón he reported via a lobbying report weren't lobbying, then he potentially filed an erroneous report -- which could result in a matter of perjury.
The complete text of Tourk's public resignation letter follows:
I am resigning today as campaign consultant to the Dennis Herrera for Mayor campaign.
The City Attorney has my vote, my confidence and my strongest ongoing support. He is clearly San Francisco's best choice for Mayor.
A series of newspaper stories about the recent work of my firm, Ground Floor Public Affairs, have become an unnecessary distraction for the campaign.
Dennis Herrera needs to continue spending his time articulating his inspiring vision for making San Francisco work. Any time spent answering questions about me and my firm take him away from that important task.
My job as a consultant is to help my clients advance their work. The minute distractions such as these stories detract from that effort, I feel it is time to step away.
I need to spend the time it takes to thoroughly review all of my filings to double check that they are correct and appropriate which I believe they are.
While my firm and I have done nothing wrong that is immaterial to this decision. 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.
"Today I accepted Alex Tourk's resignation from my mayoral campaign. I appreciate that Alex does not want be a distraction. I am grateful to Alex for everything he has done to help build this campaign. This is an unfortunate situation but I wish him well in his future endeavors."
"Today I accepted the resignation of Alex Tourk, a consultant to the campaign. Alex told me that he did not want any alleged wrongdoing against him to be a distraction for the campaign. He steadfastly believes he was in compliance with San Francisco's lobbying and ethics laws and believes he will ultimately be cleared of any alleged wrongdoing. This is a difficult situation for Alex and myself and I want to thank him for his dedication and service."