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Tag: Board of Ethics

May
19th

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

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.

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May
13th

Tacoma: Ethics complaint against city manager dismissed

Tacoma’s citizen Board of Ethics has dismissed a complaint against City Manager Eric Anderson, finding “no facts have been shown” to establish any real or apparent violation of the city’s ethics code.

The complaint against Anderson — filed by local gadfly John Hathaway — alleged a conflict-of-interest  over Anderson’s volunteer ties to a nonprofit retirement corporation and a city committee’s recent decision to contract with the same firm to handle an employee pension plan.

The city’s Deferred Compensation Committee sought to award a single-vendor contract with the International City/County Management Association Retirement Corporation to handle the city workers’

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April
1st

Tacoma: Ethics board to continue “fact-finding” in complaints against Strickland, Anderson

Tacoma’s citizen Board of Ethics announced late Thursday it will push ahead with its fact-finding into Mayor Marilyn Strickland’s recent trip to Asia by issuing formal questions to the mayor and an area businessman who covered her airfare expenses.

“The board has deliberated and our next stop in our formal fact-finding process is we will be … directing the staff to acquire certain documents and records, along with a set of interrogatories to Mayor Strickland and Mr. (Ron) Chow,” board chairman Sean Armentrout said. “And we will reconvene at a later date to review those items.”


Strickland

The board’s review was triggered by two citizens’ complaints based on a News Tribune story last month about Strickland’s trip.

The board also decided Thursday to seek more information about a complaint made by local gadfly John Hathaway against City Manager Eric Anderson that raises conflict-of-interest concerns. The complaint cites Anderson’s ties to a nonprofit retirement corporation and a city committee’s recent decision to contract with the same firm to handle an employee pension plan.

The Deferred Compensation Committee seeks to award a single-vendor contract with the International City/County Management Association Retirement Corporation to handle the city workers’ pension plan. Anderson has voluntarily served on the ICMA-RC’s directors’ board since 2004.


Anderson

“The board has determined that further information is necessary to reach a resolution on this matter,” Armentrout said.

“…The board will be seeking that information in the form of written interrogatories to members of the Deferred Compensation Committee that report to the city manager and to City manager Anderson himself.”
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March
11th

Tacoma mayor says she’ll reimburse businessman; Chow says gesture was allowed

Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland said Thursday she will reimburse a Lakewood businessman who covered her airfare costs for a recent trip to Asia, according to an editorial in today’s News Tribune.

The editorial, written by Cheryl Tucker, notes:

Strickland now says that “in hindsight,” she shouldn’t have accepted Chow’s gift without consulting the city attorney, and that she plans to write him a check for the value of the airfare.

In a brief phone call today, Strickland declined to elaborate, citing an ongoing ethics process.

“Since there has been an ethics complaint filed, I am not going to make any more statements to the press until this is resolved,” she said.

Meanwhile, Ron Chow, the businessman who used his frequent flier miles for Strickland’s travel, said Thursday his gesture is allowed under the city’s code.

“It’s not a gift,” Chow said. “If I give it to her for personal (benefit), that is unethical. But we’re doing it because the city has no money, it is short on cash. And she is doing this (trip) on the official capacity of the city. There’s nothing unethical about it. I sponsor so many trips for any level of politicians.”

“I’m a little bit disappointed in you,” Chow added to a reporter. “As a journalist, you are the one that’s unethical.”

Earlier this week, The News Tribune reported the mayor’s use of Chow’s frequent flier miles to cover her airfare for an official city trip to Asia may have violated ethics rules.
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March
9th

UPDATED Tacoma: City ethics board to review complaints against Strickland, Campbell

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.


Campbell

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.
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March
9th

Tacoma’s ethics board to get subpoena power among code revisions

The Tacoma City Council on Tuesday unanimously adopted a slate of recommended revisions to the city’s ethics code that, among other changes, will grant subpoena power to the citizen Board of Ethics.

Sean Armentrout, the five-member panel’s chairman, has said subpoena power is essential for the board to carry out its mission: Reviewing ethics complaints against Tacoma’s top managers and elected officials.

Since its establishment in 2006, the board has worked without that special legal authority to command subjects or witnesses of an investigation to testify or disclose records.

The lack of subpoena power has yet to become an issue, Armentrout has said. But he and other board members agreed it is needed to ensure future cases that come before the board can be thoroughly investigated.

(Similar municipal ethics panels, such as the City of Seattle’s Elections and Ethics Commission, have held such subpoena powers for years).

The recommendation was one of several proposed revisions to the city’s code of ethics that the board proposed to the City Council. (We wrote about the recommended changes here and here.) Last night, the council largely accepted and approved all recommendations, making just one amendment to a proposed campaign filing requirement. Among the proposed changes adopted:
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Feb.
28th

Tacoma: Council to weigh subpoena powers for board, other ethics recommendations

Members of a city board charged with reviewing ethics complaints against Tacoma’s top managers and elected officials are seeking subpoena power to help them in their cause.

“In order to conduct our duties, we feel that (subpoena power) is something that would be necessary,” Sean Armentrout, chairman of the city’s Board of Ethics, told Tacoma City Council members last week.

The recommendation to empower the five-member ethics panel with special legal authority to command subjects or witnesses of an investigation to testify or disclose records is among a host of proposed revisions to the city’s ethics code.

The City Council is expected to consider the board’s recommendations at its regular meeting Tuesday.

Among its suggestions, the board wants to revise the code’s section on “prohibited conduct” for city officials and employees. It wants to remove “an appearance of impropriety” from the list of barred conduct, because it’s “too vague and subjective,” Armentrout said.

The board also wants to broaden a definition for city officials’ conflicts of interest to include financial relationships beyond just contractual ones now cited in the code, he added.
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