Tacoma’s citizen Board of Ethics will convene later this month to review separate complaints filed against Mayor Marilyn Strickland and Councilman Marty Campbell, the city clerk’s office confirmed today.
The complaints — both filed by local gadfly John Hathaway — essentially contend that Strickland and Campbell separately violated city rules for varying reasons.
The complaint against Campbell — largely based on an email discussion between the councilman and Ahndrea Blue, the operator of a controversial East Side food bank — requests an ethics investigation of Campbell’s actions in setting up a recent public meeting about the food bank.
“Was it ethical for Campbell to tell Ms. Blue’s partners one thing or even contact them in the first place and then willfully blindside, lie to, obfascate(sic) and mislead Ms. Blue when she openly asked for the same information and are his action(sic) a violation of City Ethics Code ,” Hathaway’s emailed complaint asks.
(I’ve yet to reach Campbell via email or phone today, but will update this post with his comments after I talk to him. He has previously told me that he’s done nothing wrong.)
UPDATE 5:55 p.m. Campbell just called and reiterated he’s done nothing wrong.
“Frankly, I think that this really is just an attempt to create more controversy in an issue that doesn’t need anymore controversy,” he said.
Campbell added that the email thread Hathaway used to make his complaint is a selected version of his conversation with Blue that excludes various exchanges (He sent what he says is the complete version here).
“I think most people who even read the edited version would agree that I wasn’t trying to obfuscate or any other word he says I was doing,” Campbell said. “Really, this was about a community conversation and about getting everyone to come down and share their views. I was just inviting her to join it.”
Meanwhile, the complaint against Strickland essentially contends she broke a city ethics rule that bars city officials from giving or receiving gifts of value. The mayor has said she used a Lakewood businessman’s frequent flier miles to cover her airfare costs for a recent trip to Asia to promote Tacoma business opportunities, as we reported here.
Strickland, who returned from the trip on Sunday, told The News Tribune this week her use of international businessman Ron Chow‘s flier miles was simply an effort to avoid having the city pay for her travel expenses. She added she does not view the matter as a breach of city ethics rules.
“I don’t think it is,” she told me Monday. “There’s no financial benefit for me. I’m going over there trying to build relationships and create some opportunities for business in Tacoma.”
The ethics board is set to convene a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. on March 24 to consider each complaint and determine if further investigation is warranted.
Hathaway’s complaint against the mayor involves a terse email sent to City Clerk Doris Sorum today that referenced The News Tribune’s story about the mayor’s trip, first published online on Tuesday.