Ethics commission votes to approve Sawant settlement agreement

This afternoon, the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission voted to approve the negotiated settlement agreement with Councilmember Sawant over charges that she illegally used city resources for a non-city purpose and to support a ballot proposition last year.

They did so over the objections of the Recall Sawant campaign, who sent a letter through their attorney to the SEEC asking them to postpone today’s hearing and vote. They claimed that the SEEC had not provided adequate notice in order for members of the public to provide comments. They also argued that the settlement, as negotiated, includes a monetary penalty far smaller than the Commission could have imposed, and that the SEEC should look at whether Sawant should repay the city for her legal representation in the recall election since she has now admitted that one of the charges is true.

The commissioners seemed very concerned with the overlap between the ethics charge and the recall effort, and noted that much of the public comment they have received since last Friday has conflated the two. To that end, there was discussion — again raised by the recall campaign — about whether Sawant should be required to revise the text on the Kshama Solidarity campaign web site so that it no longer claims that Sawant did not commit the violation at issue. The consensus view, first suggested by Sawant’s attorney, was that it was beyond the scope of the agreement to limit political speech.

In the end, the Commissioners declined to postpone their debate or decision, and with one abstention voted unanimously to approve the settlement. Sawant will now have 30 days to pay the $3,500 penalty.

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