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PDC investigates complaints, fines Sound Transit, Port of Seattle

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on May 27, 2011 at 8:46 am |
May 27, 2011 8:46 am

The state Public Disclosure Commission has closed the books on most of the complaints by the Evergreen Freedom Foundation about unreported, publicly funded lobbying, and slapped two agencies with four-figure fines.

While that may not sound like much money out of a big government agency’s budget, the penalties are bigger than the $100-$125 fines the PDC levied earlier this year in some of the other cases.

Cities and government agencies are supposed to report their lobbying of the Legislature, whether it involved hiring a lobbyist or just sending an employee to talk to lawmakers.  The conservative watchdog group, now simply the Freedom Foundation, alleged that didn’t happen in 69 complaints last summer. Just 11 cases remain open; most were dismissed or led to no more than a warning letter to the offending city or agency.

In a settlement the PDC approved Thursday, the Port of Seattle agreed to pay $3,750 for failing to comply with reporting requirements, plus an identical amount waived upon good behavior. In another recent settlement, Sound Transit agreed to pay $7,500 with another $7,500 waived.

Sound Transit failed to disclose lobbying expenses over more than three years worth $682,000, while the Port of Seattle didn’t report $270,000 in expenses over more than four years.

Most of that money was reported by contract lobbyists for the two agencies. But some of it was employee time and travel costs that weren’t reported anywhere else.

In documents from the investigation, Sound Transit called the lapse in reports an “administrative oversight” caused by staff turnover. Staff changes also played a role in what the Port of Seattle called a ”lapse in our procedures.”

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