City Hall

Extra Fizz: Former McGinn Top Aide Bushnell Charged With Ethics Violation

By Erica C. Barnett April 30, 2010

Chris Bushnell, the former campaign advisor and top aide to Mayor Mike McGinn who resigned after revelations that he had falsely claimed to have a PhD in economics, faces charges from the city's Ethics and Elections Commission for failing to disclose that his wife, marine biologist Megan Bushnell, worked for an environmental consulting firm that belonged to one of the four teams seeking a contract to help the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) design the seawall replacement. The contract was worth between $15 and $18 million. McGinn gave Bushnell, then a volunteer on his transition team, the responsibility of choosing one member of a panel to evaluate the four bidding teams. 

Bushnell, the charging documents say, was aware that his wife's employer was one of the teams seeking the contract as far back as early December 2009, but did not tell the mayor's office or the city department of transportation (SDOT) about the conflict. SDOT finally learned about the conflict when Bushnell made a comment "about a potential appearance of a conflict of interest" involving his wife. At that point, "SDOT personnel researched Bushnell's wife and learned that her employer was a member of one of the bid teams." The mayor's office reopened the bidding process on January 29.Ethics and elections director Wayne Barnett says the violation carries a penalty of up to $5,000. The commission will consider the charge on Wednesday, May 5. 

The charging documents also reveal that Bushnell was given an official city of Seattle email address just two weeks after McGinn was elected, on November 17, 2009—confirming again the fact that, as we reported earlier this year, he played a major, undisclosed role in city business for months before he officially became a city employee in February.
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