"I hope so," Seattle City light director Jorge Carrasco said at a hastily-called press conference this afternoon, a few hours before the July 4 holiday began, after being asked by a reporter if he'd still be in Seattle at the end of the year.
A besieged Carrasco called the sudden press conference today to address a run of embarrassing stories—from City Light's contract with the PR consulting firm Brand.com to protect Carrasco's image online; to Mayor Ed Murray's decision not to give the already high-paid Carrasco a raise; to false statements about whether or not he requested a raise (he did, but originally said he didn't.)
Carrasco said today that he he takes "full responsibility" for "mistakes" related to copper theft and the Brand.com contract and will make sure neither embarrassing incident happens again.
Here's what he had to say to the pressing questions.
Regarding his initial proposed pay raise, and allegations that he lied by claiming that he didn't ask for a pay hike: "I handled the issue poorly, and my answer was wrong. ... I did ask the mayor to raise my salary. ... I was not trying to hide anything. ... My response was to make it clear that I was not trying to pressure" the council and mayor for pay raise.
When pressed by Seattle Times' reporter Jim Brunner about an apparent competing job offer, Carrasco acknowledged "the opportunity," but simply told reporters, "My preference was to stay in Seattle," adding, "I will tell you, over the last ten-and-a-half years, I have had multiple opportunities to leave Seattle."
Exhorting the media and the public to judge his overall record, not just these scandals, Carrasco said, "We're in a very different place today" at City Light than when he was hired a decade ago, in terms of rates, greenhouse gas emissions, and customer service. "These incidents do not reflect the values that I believe in."
Finally, asked whether Brand.com "snookered" him, Carrasco replied: "Yes," adding that "There's a lot of things that require educating the public." He said the press alone isn't adequate to do that job.
Here is the email that Carrasco sent to Seattle City Light employees this afternoon:
From: Carrasco, Jorge
Sent: Thursday, July 03, 2014 1:43 PM
Subject: Recent Events
Good Afternoon -
Many of you may have seen recent media coverage of the Seattle City Light, and of me specifically.
I take full responsibility for the mistakes that led to some con artists stealing copper wire from the utility and for the Brand.com contract. I want you to know that I am committed to making sure these types of things never happen again. I'm terribly sorry that all of our accomplishments have been overshadowed by these mistakes and the issue of my salary.
I want you to know that I respect the mayor’s decision regarding my pay raise.
I handled the question about this issue poorly and my answer was wrong. The fact is, I did expect my compensation to be adjusted as a result of the City Council action increasing the pay band and I did ask the Mayor to raise my salary. I had also been approached about another opportunity. I shared this with the Mayor privately. I did not want him to learn of it from a third party or think I did not want to be part of his administration. I made it clear that my preference is to stay in Seattle and continue to build on the utility’s success.
For all of these issues, I want to apologize to the people of Seattle, the City Council, Mayor Murray, and to each of you.
The utility has gone from tough financial times to one of the highest rated in the country, from a 58% rate increase over two years to the lowest rates of any of the 25 largest cities. We became the first carbon-neutral utility in the country and have been recognized from coast to coast as an environmental leader. I am proud of our accomplishments and the great team of people I work with to serve the people of Seattle and all of our customers.
I regret that the recent issues in the news have overshadowed the years of progress we have made since I came to Seattle in 2004. These incidents do not reflect the values I hold dear and I only ask that I be judged on the entirety of my time at City Light.
My commitment moving forward is to work hard every day to earn your trust, and the trust of the people we serve.
Best wishes for a safe and happy July 4th weekend.