BEHIND THE STORY: Year of rumors before the bombshell

By Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross

For more than a year, the affair between San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and the wife of his good friend and campaign manager, Alex Tourk, was a bomb that those around the mayor knew would one day go off...But no firsthand witnesses ever came forward, and the talk receded as Newsom, who was going through a divorce, was spotted with a succession of other women. The story took on new life last spring when Rippey-Tourk left her job as Newsom's appointments secretary to undergo treatment for alcohol and drug abuse, leaving people to speculate that she had been shipped out before someone started asking questions about her conduct and her relationship with the mayor. Mayoral staffers and political operatives sensed that they still had a problem on their hands. Several of them, none of whom would speak for attribution, knew that at least some of the rumors were true -- and that, at best, they had just stalled the inevitable.