Prior to his appointment to his current $110,000-a-year city job, Chris Bushnell, a special advisor to Mayor Mike McGinn, (and a pollster for McGinn when he was a mayoral candidate), misrepresented his educational background on business cards and during presentations made as a King County employee.
Bushnell falsely claimed to have a PhD on his personal business cards, which said he had a doctoral degree; at King County, where as chief economist he referred to himself in official county documents as "Christopher Bushnell, PhD" (see, for example, this 2007 presentation on the county's emergency medical services system); and in his work as a pollster for Constituent Dynamics, where he was referred to as "Dr. Chris Bushnell."
This afternoon, McGinn's office confirmed to PubliCola that Bushnell does not have a Ph.D. They also told PubliCola that Bushnell did not claim to have a Ph.D when discussing his appointment with McGinn, and that Bushnell did not provide a resume as part of his hiring process.
Bushnell did study economics at the University of Washington, where he served as national director of the Associated Students of the UW until being ousted in 1999 after a 1994 felony conviction for bank fraud came to light. (Bushnell's last name at the time was Haugen; he took his wife Megan's last name after they married in 2006.)
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Mark Matassa, McGinn's chief spokesman, said Bushnell's appointment was not "based on his academic record" but on his "track record of working with the mayor." During McGinn's campaign for mayor, Bushnell was a close advisor and helped perform numerous polls through the firm he worked for, Constituent Dynamics. Matassa added: "I don't think the mayor is concerned with Chris' background. He knows him, likes him, trusts him, and enjoys working with him."
Matassa says Bushnell told him he had been working on his doctoral studies, but had never completed them. "[Bushnell] said that it’s possible that there's a business card out there that has 'Ph.D' on it, because he was in the process of finishing" his doctorate, Matassa says.
Obviously, plenty of people in professional jobs don't have doctoral or even bachelor's degrees. The best person for a given job isn't necessarily the one with the most formal education. The issue isn't whether Bushnell got a Ph.D—it's that he misrepresented himself to colleagues and clients in a professional capacity as recently as 2007, as a pollster for political campaigns and as chief economist for King County.
Matassa says the mayor isn't concerned about whether Bushnell inaccurately claimed to have a Ph.D in the past. "The important point from here is that he does not have a Ph.D and [that], even so, the mayor stands behind Chris," Matassa says. "I don't think Chris misrepresented himself to the mayor."
Bushnell did not return calls and emails for comment.