S.F. Mayor Seeks Alcohol Counseling

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By LISA LEFF
The Associated Press
Tuesday, February 6, 2007; 1:34 AM

SAN FRANCISCO -- Mayor Gavin Newsom said Monday that he plans to seek counseling for alcohol use, following the disclosure that he had an affair with the wife of a veteran aide.

Newsom, 39, said that although "my problems with alcohol are not an excuse for my personal lapses in judgment," he had stopped drinking and wanted professional help staying sober.

"Upon reflection with friends and family this weekend, I have come to the conclusion that I will be a better person without alcohol in my life," Newsom said in a statement.

The revelation came less than a week after Newsom publicly apologized for his affair with Ruby Rippey-Tourk, 34, his former appointments secretary and the wife of his campaign manager.

Alex Tourk, 39, also the mayor's former deputy chief of staff, resigned Wednesday after confronting the mayor about the relationship. Newsom is running for a second term in November.

Newsom said Monday that he would get treatment from Mimi Silbert, the founder and director of the Delancey Street Foundation in San Francisco, and that it would not affect his duties as mayor.

Delancey Street provides a residential program for hard-core addicts, including ex-convicts and prostitutes. Although the mayor plans to work with her on an outpatient basis, the program will not be easy, said Silbert, who met with Newsom over the weekend.

"The good thing, to me, is that he came and asked for help from a place he knows would not be light," Silbert said.

Delancey Street, which she founded in 1971, does not rely on the 12-step philosophy of Alcoholics Anonymous but works to address the underlying reasons for excessive drinking, she said.

Citing privacy reasons, Silbert would not elaborate on how specifically she planned to help Newsom, whom she described as "very serious" about getting help.

One of the mayor's most outspoken critics on the city's Board of Supervisors, Chris Daly, said Newsom's announcement raised several issues, "one of which is, is Gavin Newsom capable right now of attending to the very important business of the city?"

Under city law, if a mayor is incapable of performing duties or delegating a substitute, the office automatically falls to the president of the Board of Supervisors.

Aaron Peskin, the current board president, told KPIX-TV that Newsom seemed "preoccupied" lately but said it was premature to call for a resignation.

"Only time will tell whether or not he is going to come through this and get it together," he said. Peskin did not return a phone call by The Associated Press on Monday night.

Before taking office in 2004, Newsom founded a wine store, a string of highly successful restaurants and the Plump Jack Winery in Napa County.

Rumors of a possible substance abuse problem have dogged Newsom since late December, when the San Francisco Chronicle reported that he appeared intoxicated at a vigil for a wounded police officer. His office would not comment to the newspaper at the time.


© 2007 The Associated Press

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