By Paul Hogarth
While many will accept at face value that the $10,000 payments to Ruby Rippey-Tourk were “not illegal,” the City Attorney’s 19-page memo released yesterday raises more questions than answers… The City’s Catastrophic Illness Program allows City employees who are suffering a “life-threatening illness or injury” to take paid time off – after they have exhausted their sick and vacation leave, and do not qualify for disability leave. Because she was suffering from alcohol abuse and undergoing rehabilitation, Rippey-Tourk went on unpaid leave from her job in the Mayor’s Office for about three months – and was later reimbursed over $10,000 for this time period. 1,297 City employees besides Rippey-Tourk have applied for paid leave under this program. But according to the report, the vast majority involved medical conditions like cancer, AIDS, heart attacks or serious accidents. Less than a dozen applications were based on alcohol or substance abuse alone – and all were rejected. A few were granted for illnesses caused by alcoholism (like liver disease), but none besides Rippey-Tourk were ever granted on alcohol abuse alone. Based on the evidence, it’s clear that for whatever reason she was singled out for different treatment… Katz told the City Attorney that he never had a conversation with Newsom about the Catastrophic Illness Program in general, or Rippey-Tourk’s application in particular. But Department Heads are at-will employees who serve at the pleasure of the Mayor, and it was an open secret at City Hall that Rippey-Tourk was having an affair with Katz’s boss. Newsom didn’t have to tell Mitch Katz to approve her application – enough grounds existed to suspect undue influence.