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The San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a $2.5 million war chest to fund the city attorney’s lawsuit against a giant Southern California contractor. The money will pay for the first year of a federal fraud case that could take three years or more to litigate. Funding was approved by the board after a surprise closed-session meeting that lasted more than three hours, where it was expected that City Attorney Dennis Herrera would present the board with evidence against Tutor-Saliba Corp. The city has alleged that the construction contractor defrauded the city’s minority contracting program and submitted fraudulent cost overruns during the renovation of San Francisco International Airport. The vote was 10-0, with Supervisor Gavin Newsom ducking out early for a previous commitment. Already sponsored by two members of the city’s Finance Committee, the resolution picked up at least two more sponsors during Tuesday’s meeting. But airport executives and commission members have questions about the suit, in particular the allegations of fraudulent cost overruns. Those questions have also led Mayor Willie Brown to question the wisdom of pursuing litigation, which seeks $30 million plus punitives but could cost millions to litigate. On Tuesday, the board also approved hiring Farella Braun & Martel as outside counsel in the case. Partners Douglas Young, Alan Harris and Stephanie Skaff will be assigned to the case. The firm agreed to slash its hourly rates in exchange for a share of any recovery.

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