This afternoon (Saturday), PubliCola spoke with one of the three Seattle city council members who's an attorney, former King County prosecutor, Sally Bagshaw. (The other council members who are attorneys are Bruce Harrell and Tom Rasmussen.)

It's not that we don't appreciate council member Tim Burgess (we spoke with him earlier today), who gave us his opinion on the debate between Mayor Mike McGinn and council president Richard Conlin over whether Conlin has the authority to commit the city to moving forward on the tunnel by signing an agreement with the state. But hey, Burgess, who supports Conlin's move, is no lawyer like McGinn. McGinn says Conlin violated the city charter.

First, Bagshaw told us she supports what Conlin did. "Yes I do," she says. "It's the right thing to do to keep this process going forward. This is not new. For nine years we've been partners with WSDOT and the federal highway administration, [and] the notion of dissolving that partnership makes no sense to me."

Bagshaw says the city needed to meet the deadline of the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) publication date. "It's not like it was a surprise. And the idea of taking one more week was silly. The info has been available all summer. I absolutely support Conlin. It's a process that's been going on all summer long."

Okay, that's her political opinion. But what about her legal one? Did Conlin have the authority to do this? Again, McGinn tells us it takes mayoral action to authorize the agreement.

Bagshaw says, "As a former prosecuting attorney, I know what council's authority is." (Asked if she'd spoken with City Attorney Pete Holmes, she said only: "I've personally spoken to the city attorney's office.")

Then, very  lawerly, she pointed me to "paragraph nine section 14 of the legislative branch article of the city charter (Article 4)," which she says, gives the council authority over transportation infrastructure.

The cite she pointed me to says:
To construct and keep in repair bridges, viaducts and tunnels, and to regulate the use thereof.

"That could not be clearer," Bagshaw says. "If there is a problem that cannot be resolved,  the city council can intervene, and this [McGinn not signing] is the problem we were worried about. And we we will ratify Conlin's signature on Monday."

Asked if there were nine votes, Bagshaw said "I believe so, or at least eight..." referring to McGinn ally Mike O'Brien.

"Intergovernmental conflict is the worst thing we can do right now," Bagshaw said, describing the council's squabble with the mayor over the tunnel. "The people don't want us to fight. They want us to lead."

Bagshaw added that she didn't just start looking at the charter during this recent flap, saying she went over the legislative branch section when she decided to run for council last year. "I remember where the council's authority is," she says.

"We will ratify Conlin's signature by ordinance, and then it's a done deal."

O'Brien tells PubliCola he was not even aware there would be a vote on Monday.

"Nobody's talked to me," he says. "I told everybody I totally supported Richard trying to make a decision on Thursday. I didn't agree with the decision, but short on info and in a time crunch, he had to make a call."

However, he adds: "I really think everyone needs to stop and take a breath. We need to hear form the attorneys."

And he concluded: "I think we're starting to mess around with things that are kind of important here—as far as who runs the government, and how we make decisions."

Asked for a response to Bagshaw, McGinn spokesman Aaron Pickus simply repeated Mayor McGinn’s statement from Friday: “His [Conlin's] act of signing the SDEIS was a violation of the charter.”

Pickus did not give us any comment Bagshaw's statement that the full council would “ratify” Conlin’s signature on Monday. The mayor, Pickus said, was busy this weekend writing his budget speech for Monday.

For all our eralier coverage of the great McGinn v. Conlin standoff (the Fleece Vests Come Off!) go here.