Category Archives: ethics

Ethics Commission rules that Sawant’s use of city copiers doesn’t violate Ethics Code

Today Wayne Barnett, Executive Director of the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission (SEEC), published a finding that Council member Kshama Sawant did not violate the city’s Ethics Code by directing her staff to use city-owned copying machines to generate materials for a rally she organized to promote the head tax.

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Ethics commission finds new approach for conflict of interest rule change

Earlier this week, the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission (SEEC) held its monthly meeting (video). Top of the agenda: taking up once again the proposed change to the city’s conflict of interest rule for elected officials in light of the change to district-based Council positions.

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Council takes cautious approach to changing conflict of interest rules

I reported last night that the City Council was contemplating changing the city’s ethics code to exempt itself from recusal for financial conflicts of interest. At this morning’s committee meeting, four Council members discussed it, and while they didn’t abandon the idea, they decided to think it over more carefully before moving forward.

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Council again considers whether to exempt itself from recusal for financial conflict

In June 2016 the City Council considered an update to the city’s conflict of interest rules that would allow Council members to continue to participate in a legislative act in which she or he has a conflict of interest if that conflict is publicly disclosed first. After a contentious debate, it was referred back to committee, where it has languished for almost two years. This week it will be revived and get another hearing in committee.

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The City Council paid a lobbyist $50,000 for the income tax ordinance, and other revelations

Last year Jason Mercier, Director of the Center for Government Reform at the conservative Washington Policy Center, submitted an expansive public document request for documents and communications from Seattle officials related to the development  of the city’s income tax ordinance. He’s been kind enough to share and discuss the resulting information-dumps with me, and the results are a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at how the City Council operates.

I should state up-front: Jason and I disagree on the merits of an income tax (I’m for it), but we have a shared interest in government transparency and accountability, independent of government officials’ political leanings. The income tax legislative effort was a big, complex knot of relationships: lobbyists, legislators, attorneys, activists, and city staff — largely hidden from view. I was surprised by the extended efforts to keep communications secret, as well as who did the work and who got paid for it.

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