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Maybe it’s legal, but it stinks

Post by David Seago on Feb. 29, 2008 at 6:12 pm with No Comments »
February 29, 2008 6:12 pm

That’s gist of a barb Tacoma City Councilman Mike Lonergan fired at Pierce County Councilmen Calvin Goings and Tim Farrell this afternoon.

Remember that Lonergan is running as an independent for county executive. So is Democrat Goings. A peeved Lonergan asked Susan Long, the County Council staff attorney, about the legality of a county-paid mailer Goings and Farrell sent advertising an ethics forum they held Wednesday in Tacoma.

The pair are pushing a proposed county ethics code that has twice been postponed. The County Council may vote on it Tuesday. Here’s Lonergan’s statement on the reply from Long:

The mailing prominently featured the name and color photos of my opponent for Pierce County Executive on both the front and back. It was printed and mailed at a cost to local taxpayers of $12,123.51. It was not mailed to the district of the County Council member, but rather to 27,200 recent voters within the City limits of Tacoma (MY current jurisdiction).

Ms. Long says that no County rule was broken by the mailing, because it took place before July 31. The mailing took the form of an invitation to a Town Hall meeting on ethics rules which was attended by about 40 people last Wednesday evening.

Regardless of whether a rule was violated, the public may wish to know that over twelve-thousand dollars of tax money was spent on a flyer, prominently featuring a declared candidate and targeted to a specific group of voters, mostly outside his current district

In a letter to the editor published Thursday, former county auditor Cathy Pearsall-Stipek took a similar shot at the council duo over the mailing. She’s allied with current Auditor Pat McCarthy, another Democrat running for county executive.

My own view: Yep, the mailer was on the cheesy side, especially given the way it was targeted. You’d think Goings and Farrell would have targeted Republican Councilman Roger Bush’s Graham-area district, since he’s the one who has raised the most objections to their proposal. And $12,000 could pay for a lot of senior-center hot meals.

We’ll have an editorial writer at the County Council’s Monday study session. At the 9 a.m. meeting in council chambers, Long is scheduled to review all of the potential ethics code amendments and discuss their interpretation.

Perhaps the new code should include some guidelines on what constitutes a legitimate “informational” mailing at taxpayer expense. But Goings and Farrell are right in calling for stronger ethics rules, including registration and reporting requirements for paid lobbyists.

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