Will the city attorney's office be kicked overboard as the latest casualty in the ongoing Stow Lake controversy? The answer may come as soon as next week.
The lake's concessions have been run by the McClellan family for generations. Bruce McClellan sued the city in March, however, after he lost his bid to continue running the family business to the Ortega family, which runs concessions in a number of parks nationwide. Backed by a trove of e-mails, McClellan claims city officials and the Ortegas sealed the deal well before the bidding process, then orchestrated a propaganda campaign to sell the public on the switcheroo. At the center of this alleged conspiracy was lobbyist Alex Tourk -- who was, until this week, City Attorney Dennis Herrera's consultant in his mayoral campaign.
At a Tuesday hearing regarding a potential injunction being placed on the transfer of the concession away from McClellan, his lawyers say the subject of whether Herrera's office is compromised in this case will all but certainly be broached. "It's disturbing to have so many close connections," says attorney Paul Rosenlund. "I think the city would be better advised if someone else handled" this case.
The City Attorney's office, naturally, sees things differently. This case doesn't present a conflict of interest, states Deputy City Attorney Francesca Gessner, because no one in the office is making a dime one way or the other depending on the outcome.
"Our role is to represent the Recreation and Park Department and the Board of Supervisors who awarded the lease," she says. "The legal issue is whether the city [abided by] all applicable bidding laws. Any allegations pertaining to Alex Tourk's lobbying are irrelevant to the legal issues."