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Proposed Ethics Code Legislation; In-District Office Hours


Proposed Ethics Code Legislation

On Tuesday, the Governance, Equity, and Technology Committee heard legislation regarding an amendment to “the Seattle Municipal Code to require City Councilmembers to disclose financial interests in legislative matters under consideration by the City Council prior to participating in those matters, and creating a limited exception to the requirement that City Councilmembers disqualify themselves from participating in such matters.”

The Seattle Ethics and Elections website states: The Code seeks to prevent conflicts of interest.” In other words, the objective is not to make conflicts known to the public, but it is instead to try and ensure that they do not occur at all.

Currently, the code states that if a financial interest is not shared with substantial segment of the population, a Councilmember must recuse themselves from the issue being discussed and voted on. This standard has served the City well since 1980.

However, with seven of the Councilmembers elected by districts, there is concern among some that by disqualifying a Councilmember from participating because of a conflict of interest we may disenfranchise residents of their district. Therefore, the Seattle Ethics and Election Commission unanimously recommended the adoption of the proposed legislation. The legislation would allow a Councilmember to participate in and vote on an issue, even if there was a financial interest so long as the Councilmember filed a financial statement and disclosed their financial interest before every committee meeting and Council vote.

I appreciate the desire to ensure that every District has someone representing them in all instances that the Council votes, but I have serious concerns with the proposed approach. The legislation was discussed by the Council in Committee back in June 2016, but after the Committee voted to approve it, rather than voting on it in Full Council, the Council sent back to committee for additional consideration. This was an unusual step and it occurred thanks to a memo that the then Councilmember Burgess sent outlining his concerns and his opposition to the legislation.

The legislation heard on Tuesday, in the Governance, Equity, and Technology Committee, is the same bill from 2016. There were no changes included in it to address the concerns raised in 2016. Consequently, I proposed an amendment to the legislation similar to that suggested by then Councilmember Tim Burgess.

In the Tuesday Governance, Equity, and Technology Committee, Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda expressed her own concerns, pointing out that two at large Councilmembers represent every district and that the focus of the ethics code should be on whether a council member would benefit financially from voting for or against a measure.

I have additional questions about how and whether to define a “substantial segment of the population” and look forward to additional deliberations on this issue with Councilmembers as well as SEEC. I believe that it is important that we maintain a “bright line” rule when it comes to our ethics code and I want to ensure that the legislation eventually passed by the Council meets that high bar.

In-District Office Hours

On March 30, I will be at the Southwest Neighborhood Service Center (2801 SW Thistle St) from 2:00p.m. – 6:45p.m. Please be sure to arrive no later than 6:30 pm, the final meeting of the day will begin at 6:30 p.m.

These hours are walk-in friendly, but if you would like to let me know you’re coming in advance you can email my scheduler Alex Clardy (alex.clardy@seattle.gov).

Additionally, here is a list of my tentatively scheduled office hours. These are subject to change.

Friday, April 27, 2018
South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S

Friday, May 25, 2018
Senior Center of West Seattle, 4217 SW Oregon St

Friday, June 15, 2018
South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S

Friday, July 27, 2018
Southwest Neighborhood Service Center, 2801 SW Thistle St

Friday, August 17, 2018
Senior Center of West Seattle, 4217 SW Oregon St

Friday, September 21, 2018
South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S

Friday, October 26, 2018
Southwest Neighborhood Service Center, 2801 SW Thistle St

Friday, December 14, 2018
South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S 

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