Wednesday Jolt: McGinn's Human Services Director Bolts, DelBene Schools Holder, and Bad News for Sonics Fans
Mayor Mike McGinn's human services department director resigns; US Rep. Suzan DelBene schools the AG; and bad news for Sonics fans.
1. Today's Loser: Sonics Fans
The Sacramento Bee reports that the NBA's 30-member board of governors, affirming an earlier vote by a seven-member subcommittee, will not approve a proposal to move the Sacramento Kings to Seattle in a deal pitched by San Francisco hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen to buy the Sonics.
Details about the vote remain sketchy, but the bottom line is that the Kings will not be the new Sonics. Hansen has four and a half years to come up with another team and get NBA approval for their relocation; or the NBA could decide to give Seattle an expansion team.And here's the Puget Sound Business Journal's report, which came with the tweet
2. No winner or loser, exactly, but definitely a Jolt: The city of Seattle's Human Services Department director, Dannette Smith, announced today that she is resigning, effective June 14, to take a new position as director of human services for the city of Virginia Beach, VA.
In an email, Smith—who was reportedly dissatisfied with the highly process-oriented leadership style expected in Seattle—said she is "very excited about this opportunity because it expands my portfolio to include mental health and substance abuse services, developmental disability services, and juvenile justice. I will also return to my roots and have responsibility for the areas of child welfare, adult and family services, financial assistance, food stamps, Medicaid and refugee re-settlement."
Smith, a McGinn appointee who replaced former HSD head Alan Painter (the first Greg Nickels appointee McGinn axed after becoming mayor), made major—and often unpopular—shakeups in the department, including the elimination of the domestic violence and sexual assault division, the youth development and achievement division, and the early learning and family support division. (Those three divisions were rolled into two new divisions, none of which focus primarily on domestic violence or sexual assault).
In 2011, the head of HSD's aging and disability services division resigned over allegations that the division hadn't taken whistleblower claims seriously enough; a subsequent investigation found potential fraud and misappropriation of as much as $413,000 by an HSD contractor. That investigation concluded that HSD employees had engaged in "indefensible" and "unacceptable" behavior when they failed to look into the whistleblower's complaints.
In 2012, she proposed shutting down a city-sanctioned outdoor meal program in Pioneer Square, arguing that an indoor site would be safer for participants. (Subsequently, Smith relented and approved a dual indoor-outdoor meal program).
The high-level departure will come less than two months before the August primary election.
And this year, Smith's department proposed cutting funds to nine day centers for the homeless and allocating those funds to other programs (that decision was later overturned).
In the interim, Smith will be replaced by deputy HSD director Catherine Lester.
Her departure will come less than two months before the August primary election, when voters will decide which two of eight mayoral candidates will make it through to the general. Even assuming he does make it through, the timing puts McGinn in a tough spot: Who would take a high-profile job for a mayor who could be gone at the beginning of next year?
McGinn's spokesman, Aaron Pickus, said the mayor had no comment beyond what he said in his own press release announcing Smith's departure.
If the mayor is reelected, our money is on community activist, former state representative, and McGinn endorser Kip Tokuda, who served as interim HSD director after McGinn fired Painter in 2009.
3. We do have a winner today, though: Freshman U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene.
In the old days, political gamesmanship starred people like LBJ muscling fellow legislators in private cloakrooms for their support. Today's version is locking someone down on camera for all to see.
So give DelBene political points for jumping Attorney General Eric Holder at congressional hearing today. The hearing, carried on C-Span, was supposed to be all about the AP scandal, and for the most part it was, until DelBene got her turn.
She cornered Holder on a bill she's sponsoring to amend the 1986 Electronic Privacy Act to make law enforcement get a warrant to obtain old emails. As it stands now, while law enforcement does need a warrant to get recent emails, they only need a subpoena—which doesn't require a judge's approval—to make service providers such as Gmail and Facebook turn over messages that are six months old or older.
DelBene, citing FBI documents that the ACLU obtained showing that the feds think it's okay to look at old emails without a warrant, asked Holder point blank if he agrees with that type of easy access.
Holder, talking nonsense at first until his team could pass him some notes, told DelBene, who slyly maneuvered Holder into a corner, that the DOJ supports her bill for a warrant standard. "It is something I think the department will support."
Watch it all here. Jolt's favorite part: When DelBene breaks it down. "Today, this piece of paper," she said, holding up a sheet of paper, "if I had a letter here, [it]would require a warrant for someone to have access, but if it were digital, an email, it would not require that same warrant. And so we're looking for an equal playing field. The Electronic Privacy Act was written in 1986, before much of the technology people use today was in place. So do you believe it's important to update that law?"