This afternoon, Seattle Municipal Court Presiding Judge Ed McKenna replied to yesterday’s letter from City Attorney Pete Holmes and King county Director of Public Defense Anita Khandelwal.
In a rare moment of unity today, Anita Khandelwal, the Director of the King County Department of Public Defense, and Pete Holmes, the Seattle City Attorney, sent a joint letter to Seattle Municipal Court Presiding Judge Ed McKenna accusing him of violating the canons of judicial ethics, judicial bias, and undermining public confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary.
UPDATE #2: A spokesperson for the City Attorney confirms that their letter should have said Safe Seattle instead of Speak Out Seattle. “It was a mistake and we regret the error.” I have corrected the name in the story below.
Every April 15th, the eleven elected officials of the city (the Mayor, the City Attorney, and the nine City Council members) are required to file a financial disclosure form, detailing their households’ financial holdings and debts as well as their sources of income. Those reports are public records but the city doesn’t publish them; I request them every year and post them so we can all learn and understand whether any of them have financial interests that might affect the way their do their job.
Following my January article documenting the extent to which the political organization Socialist Alternative directs the actions of Council member Kshama Sawant in her official capacity as a City Council member, two (substantially similar) ethics complaints were filed with the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission: one by an anonymous District 3 voter, and one by District 3 Council candidate Logan Bowers. This afternoon, SEEC Executive Director Wayne Barnett sent a letter to those parties (with copies to journalists, including myself) announcing that he is dismissing those complaints and explaining his reasoning.
This afternoon the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission (SEEC) met. On their agenda: an update on the imminent launch of this year’s Democracy Vouchers program; what counts as a candidate debate; and the rules for lobbyists and campaign consultants.
I urge you to read the full version of this story, because it provides important context to understand why Sawant and Socialist Alternative are doing these things — and to make sense of Socialist Alternative’s jargon-heavy documents. But if you really can’t spare the time to do so, here’s the tl;dr version.
Internal documents from Socialist Alternative, many of which were written over the past two years during a period when its leadership was factionalized and infighting, show the extent to which Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant has turned over decision-making for her City Council duties to the leadership of Socialist Alternative. That includes deciding how Sawant will vote on matters before the Council, as well as staffing decisions for her Council office — and firing people who work for Sawant on the city payroll.
SCC Insight has obtained a collection of internal documents from Socialist Alternative that were written over the past three years. Those documents provide a unique view into the organization’s internal — and sometimes acrimonious — debates on a wide range of topics, including Bernie Sanders, the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), the Democratic Party, Donald Trump, the Black Lives Matter movement, its own organizational structure, and Seattle politics. But they also reveal the extent to which Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant, a leading member of the organization, has handed over her Council responsibilities to Socialist Alternative – including deciding how to vote on items before the Council, and even the hiring and firing of government employees working in her office in City Hall. Beyond the fact that she has never disclosed to her constituents in District 3 that she has ceded these duties to Socialist Alternative, having done so likely violates several provisions of the city’s Ethics Code for government officials.
I strongly encourage you to read the entire article below, to help you understand the context behind the Socialist Alternative documents. But if you really don’t have the time or the patience for that, here’s the tl;dr version of this article. Or, just skip down to the discussion of the most problematic aspects of Councilmember Sawant’s relationship with Socialist Alternative.
Earlier today several local reporters and editors, including myself, sent a letter to the City Auditor requesting that his office investigate the widespread use of private email accounts by city officials. This evening, the City Auditor responded.
Today, several local reporters and editors, including myself, sent a joint letter to the City Auditor requesting an investigation into city officials’ practices of using private email accounts and other private electronic media to conduct city business. Below is the letter we sent, along with the attachments demonstrating the extent of the issue.
The City Auditor reports to the City Council, an arrangement that usually is well-suited to the Council’s oversight responsibilities over the executive branch. In this case, however, the issue implicates several (if not all) City Council members and their staff, as well as the Mayor’s office. Since there is a pending lawsuit that addresses the issue of city officials conducting business through private channels, it is unlikely that the Council or the Mayor will weigh in on the issue or request the Auditor to spend time investigating this. However, the Auditor’s Office is empowered to conduct its own self-directed investigations, so it can decide to do this on its own.
I’m going to make an unusual request here: if you believe this is an important issue, please send an email to City Auditor David Jones, firstname.lastname@example.org, asking him to conduct an investigation.