SF Chronicle: Documents expose scheme to win Stow Lake vendor contract

San Francisco Chronicle

S.F. Stow Lake vendor bid e-mails raise questions

Rachel Gordon, Chronicle Staff Writer

Monday, May 2, 2011

The boathouse at Stow Lake with concession stand on left ...

Employees of the San Francisco park department and a well-connected lobbyist worked together to help an out-of-town vendor win the contract to run the Stow Lake food and boat concession, a controversial deal that has critics fuming over potential changes at the historic Golden Gate Park facility.

Private e-mails made public as part of a lawsuit over that concession agreement reveal tactics the lobbyist and staffers used to help woo city officials, stack public meetings with supporters and manipulate media coverage.

The vendor, New Mexico-based Ortega Family Enterprises, hired lobbyist Alex Tourk this past summer after an independent selection panel convened by the Recreation and Park Department recommended the company’s bid to run the boathouse.

Park department employees recommended that Ortega consider hiring a lobbyist and suggested Tourk, a former aide and political adviser to then-Mayor Gavin Newsom, according to a court declaration written by Nick Kinsey, the department’s assistant director of property management. Kinsey said the suggestion was made in light of the brewing opposition.

“Ortega could benefit from hiring a San Francisco-based consulting firm for the remaining public process at the commission and the Board of Supervisors,” he stated.

At that time, the current vendor, Bruce McClellan, who had hired a lobbyist of his own, was campaigning to stay in business and keep Ortega out, and a grassroots group, Save the Stow Lake Boathouse Coalition, was fighting to keep McClellan in place.

McClellan, whose family has run the boat-rental business and snack stand since the 1940s, has sued the city and Ortega Family Enterprises. His attorneys say the e-mails show the contract-awarding process was corrupt. City officials said they selected Ortega based on its proposal to fix up the old boathouse and improve the food offerings and rental boats.

Both sides are due to return to court in two weeks.

Read the full story:  http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/05/02/BA6I1JAQ1E.DTL&tsp=1

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