Tapioca and Water

An aide to Supervisor Ed Jew believes PUC officials released his house's water records, which cast doubt on whether he lives in SF, to get payback

Continuing the city's odd food-inspired political scandals, we now have Tapiocagate, courtesy of San Francisco's supervisor from Burlingame, Ed Jew.

Jew is being investigated for allegedly shaking down owners of Quickly tapioca drink shops for $40,000 to solve permitting problems with the city. There are many curious aspects to this story, but the issue of Jew's residency and how it came to light is among the more intriguing ones.

The Chronicle first got wind of the fact that Jew might not actually live in the Sunset when a neighbor said the house had been vacant for a long time. Shortly thereafter in a May 22 story, the Chron quoted anonymous "city officials familiar with utility service at the 28th Avenue house" saying water service wasn't turned on until 60 days after Jew would have been required to live there to meet residency requirements. The unnamed official went on to say that no water had been used at the home from February through the end of April.

The same day, Jew sent a letter to City Attorney Dennis Herrera demanding an investigation of the, eh, water leak, arguing that the disclosure violated his family's privacy. Herrera's office refused to investigate, saying the records were public.

Herrera's conclusion, however, didn't satisfy everyone. Some folks in Jew's camp believe that someone at the Public Utilities Commission was getting a little payback at the supe's expense. Jew has been a vocal critic of the PUC, most recently questioning the agency's proposed rate increases.

"I think ... it was retaliation," says Barbara Meskunas, Jew's legislative aide.

But PUC spokesman Tony Winnicker says the agency got records requests from the Chron and Examiner on May 21 and supplied the information after checking with the City Attorney's office, which gave the go-ahead. Because of all the media scrutiny of Jew and the FBI investigation, Winnicker says, "We have been extremely careful to do everything by the book in this matter."

Guess we'll see in the coming weeks whether authorities throw the book at Jew.

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