Political Buzz

Talking WA politics.

NOTICE: Political Buzz has moved.

With the launch of our new website, we've moved Political Buzz.
Visit the new section.

Tacoma: Ethics board finds Mayor Strickland violated rules by accepting airfare gift

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on May 19, 2011 at 5:40 pm with 19 Comments »
May 19, 2011 6:52 pm

Tacoma’s citizen Board of Ethics issued findings today that Mayor Marilyn Strickland violated the city’s ethics code by accepting a “prohibited gift” when she used a Lakewood businessman’s frequent flier miles to pay for a recent business trip to Asia.

“Mayor Marilyn Strickland’s receipt of the frequent flyer miles constitutes receipt of a prohibited gift … and is a violation of the city’s Code of Ethics,” the board found in an 11-page report released today.

As punishment, the board recommended that by majority vote, the city council request the deputy mayor admonish Strickland for accepting a banned gift, and that all such travel-related gift offers meant to offset city costs be first brought before the council in the future.

In a brief telephone call Thursday, Strickland said she accepts the board’s findings and didn’t plan to appeal.

“I’m OK with it,” she said. “We’ve spent enough time on this already, I think.”

In its report, the board noted that Strickland could have avoided the code violation under a state law that allows municipal authorities to accept donations.

“Had the City Council properly accepted by ordinance the frequent flyer miles as a donation from Mr. (Ron) Chow to the City of Tacoma for the purpose of offsetting some of the cost of Mayor Strickland’s city related travel, the frequent flyer miles would not be considered a prohibited gift … and no violation of the City of Tacoma’s Code of Ethics would be found,” the report said.

The report also stated that facts “do not establish” that Strickland misused her official position to violate other rules and laws also examined during the investigation.

Strickland said she previously was unaware the council could have simply accepted the flier miles as a donation, sparing her an ethics ding.

“I didn’t even know that was an option,” she said.

“In one respect, I’m glad this was brought up,” Strickland added. “The good thing that has come out of this is we now understand how this can be done in the right way. In the future, we’ll know how we can use travel gifts to help save the city some money.”

Strickland said Thursday that since the ethics probe was sparked, she has reimbursed Chow $1,000 and has made arrangements to pay him the rest of the airfare’s value after she receives her tax refund.  Strickland didn’t readily know Thursday how much she still owes Chow, she said.

The board launched a formal probe after two citizens filed complaints against Strickland based on a News Tribune report that the mayor’s use of the Chow’s flier miles may have violated ethics rules.

At the time of Strickland’s trip, Tacoma’s ethics code prohibited city officials from giving or receiving gifts valued at $50 or more in connection with official city business.

Strickland has said she took the 10-day trip to Seoul, South Korea, and Shanghai and Fuzhou, China, to cultivate relationships in hopes of drawing business to the Tacoma area.

Before taking her trip, she told a reporter she used the flier miles of Chow – an international businessman with several area corporate clients – to avoid sticking the city with a bill for her travel expenses.  Chow, a personal friend, had set up business meetings for Strickland in China and accompanied her on part of her trip.

As part of its investigation, the board issued written interrogatories to Strickland and Chow and took sworn testimony.  Among its findings, the board found Chow did not attach any conditions or terms on Strickland’s use of the flier miles, nor did he “request or suggest future business” be directed toward him due to his involvement in the trip.

“I want to thank the board for its thoughtful deliberations,” Strickland said Thursday. “At the time, I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong. “

Leave a comment Comments → 19
  1. puyallupmutt says:

    Anyone who cannot see getting air miles as not being a gift is either gullible or lying. In most countries (not the US) air miles are considered as currency. Valued at 2 cents per mile.
    So, assuming 100K miles were received for an asian trip, that equates to a $2K cash gift. Over the threshold for acceptability.

  2. nokoolaide says:

    And that’s it?

  3. the3rdpigshouse says:

    Ignorance is the only reason for accepting gifts while in elected office – congratulation electorate!! Keep electing those socialist democrats to represent your interests??!!!!

  4. KARDNOS says:

    So….by trying to save the city money…..it cost more……

    I get it!

  5. princessnancy says:

    She’s not very bright; how did she get elected as Mayor of Tacoma?

  6. alwaysthinking says:

    go figure Tacoma!

  7. joe debona says:

    Politicians are a minority of people. Minorities get away with a lot.

  8. papasan says:

    The Mayor voiced the problem quite eloquently, “I DIDN”T THINK I was doing anything wrong”. Next time, let’s hope that she DOES.
    And the crack on Minorities…. WRONG in so many ways!

  9. Don’t you wonder what the terminology of being admonished by the deputy mayor means?I think that means the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor go into the Mayors office and the Deputy says,”You have been a bad girl and I am sorry you were found out” and they go into peals of laughter.If anything is learned from this experience,I think it will be how to circumvent the law the next time,should the occasion present itself.

  10. What a bucket load of crap!

  11. taxedenoughintacoma says:

    OK, what’s next? 20 lashes with a wet noddle???

    Would there be a fine if she was not black or female?

  12. lovethemountains says:

    OMG, an admonishment! She will forever be a marked woman. Good thing Chow did not make her sign an agreement as to terms and conditions of the gift. And we all must know that no such verbal exchange took place.

  13. Thank you John Hathaway for raising this issue. The chain newspaper, your competitor, will never give you credit.

  14. It’s odd that one can be so offended by an ethical issue but then be okay in negatively generalizing race and gender.

  15. bigmeatgrinder says:

    Bad Girl! You should also pay for your parking honey!

  16. MadTaxpayer says:

    Another “Big City” Mayor pulling a fast one on the sheeple.
    Look all across the country, every major city has it share of payouts to the Mayors in one form or another.

    She is the same as the rest. You cannot tell me she had no idea. What a foolish liar.
    But then, I could not expect less?

  17. Alison7613 says:

    I think the racist remarks need to stop.

  18. PumainTacoma says:

    Funny how bad corporate America actually has STRICTER Ethics Policies than City Hall in Tacoma! my corporation actually considers this a huge breach of ethics and federal laws governing “anti-kickback” statutes. BUT Tacoma gives a person who is in a position to “know better” a pass an an admonishment?? name one corporation that allows that to occur from someone in a similar position? i know of an official at my corporation that went to jail for breaching laws pertaining to Federal Foreighn Corruption Practices Act, And why consider such a gift as ethical or even legal, I now believe Mayor Stricjkland never was an executive at Starbucks or is the most idiotic mayor with no brain and frankly gives blatant excuses ensuring woman business leaders are idiots at Starbucks!

    and who is this phony ethics board? why dont they consult with what area corporations practice versus their own slad on thw wrist business as usually policies! The whole review was a sham. if this was the real “business world” she would be fired, fined and receive a monetary penalty if she worked on federal contracts!

  19. big willy says:

    I can’t believe how silly the comments about government officials are flashed with such perversion and hatred. It shows the reluctance to use individual thought and logic by our populous. So let’s blame government and give everyone else
    a blank check and see fast the crooks take your money.

We welcome comments. Please keep them civil, short and to the point. ALL CAPS, spam, obscene, profane, abusive and off topic comments will be deleted. Repeat offenders will be blocked. Thanks for taking part and abiding by these simple rules.

Follow the comments on this post with RSS 2.0