On Monday, the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission will hold a special meeting at which it will vote on whether to approve a negotiated settlement with Councilmember Kshama Sawant over an ethics charge stemming from last year’s “Tax Amazon” ballot proposition campaign. The ethics charge is the basis for one of the three charges in the recall petition against Sawant.
As SCC Insight first reported, early in 2020 Sawant used city resources to support the “Tax Amazon” ballot proposition, which violates two laws: one prohibiting the use of city resources to promote ballot initiatives, and another prohibiting the use of city resources for non-city purposes. Sawant disagreed, arguing that her expenditures occurred before the ballot proposition had been filed and thus it was not in actuality a “ballot proposition” yet under the letter of the law. She made this argument both in front of the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission (SEEC), which charged her with the violation, and also in court as part of her defense against the recall petition. Recognizing that the Washington State Supreme court would likely issue a definitive legal ruling on Sawant’s argument when it issued its decision on the recall petition, the SEEC ethics violation charge was put on hold. Then last month the Court ruled against Sawant, finding that proposed ballot propositions are indeed covered under the law even before they are filed.
With the legal issue settled by the highest court in the state, Sawant had no alternative but to settle the ethics charge, as her attorney told the SEEC earlier this year she would likely do if the Supreme Curt ruled against her.
In the negotiated settlement agreement, which the SEEC must ratify in its meeting on Monday, Sawant admits to violations of both the Elections Code and the Ethics Code. She also agrees to pay the City of Seattle $3,515.74, twice the amount of the city funds that she expended in promoting the Tax Amazon initiative.
The admission of guilt is notable, because it undermines the messaging from her anti-recall campaign that calls the charges “dishonest claims.”
The SEEC will take up the matter Monday at 4pm in a special meeting.
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