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Tacoma names investigator who’ll conduct ethics probe of city coordinator

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on March 4, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
March 4, 2011 4:05 pm

Kirkland-based lawyer Jim Webber has been hired to conduct the ethics probe of Percy Jones, a longtime City of Tacoma coordinator involved in a nonprofit group tied to the recent Seattle schools’ financial scandal.

Webber, an employment attorney who specializes in human resources investigations, recently conducted an independent probe of Pierce County HR Director Betsy Sawyers based on a complaint from embattled Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam‘s chief deputy, Alberto Ugas. Webber roundly cleared Sawyers of alleged wrongdoing.

Webber

Webber began his investigation of Jones today, city spokesman Rob McNair-Huff said.

At issue is whether Jones, coordinator of Tacoma’s Historically Underutilized Businesses Program, violated any city ethics rules due to his involvement with the Regional Small Business Development Program.

The small business contracting program that formerly operated under the Seattle School District, is alleged to have misspent $1.8 million in public funds.

A state audit did not implicate Jones in wrongdoing in connection to the misspent funds. He also recently told The News Tribune he didn’t believe he violated any city ethics rules, saying he didn’t feel he needed the city’s permission to work with the group because he was doing so voluntarily and without pay.

(For more background, check out our previous blog posts and story about the case).

The city will pay Webber $275 per hour, McNair-Huff said, adding he’s unsure if there’s a limit on the investigation’s duration.

“We’re not expecting that this is going to take too much time to complete,” he said.

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