City Hall

Extra Fizz: Ethics Commission Says It Isn't Singling Out Anti-Tunnel Group

By Erica C. Barnett August 26, 2010

The original version of this post identified Ann Rogers as a member of the Washington Coalition for Open Government, which is how Rogers signed her letter to ethics director Wayne Barnett. However, WCOG president Toby Nixon says that as far as he knows, no officer or member of the group has written the ethics commission. We've updated the post to identify Rogers as a "self-identified open government activist," and are waiting to hear back from Nixon for clarification.

Self-identified open-government activist Ann Rogers wrote a letter to the city's ethics director, Wayne Barnett, yesterday, complaining that the ethics department had singled out Seattle Citizens Against the Tunnel by demanding that they file disclosure reports with the city. SCAT had argued that it didn't have to file reports until its anti-tunnel initiative was on the ballot; Barnett responded that they were required to file as soon as they anticipated raising or spending money to get an initiative on the ballot. SCAT finally filed campaign documents with the city Monday.

Rogers doesn't dispute that SCAT had to file. But she claims other potential campaigns aren't being held to the same standard: For example, the Sierra Club and other groups have said they may file a referendum on the tunnel if the city doesn't demand that the state remove language in state law saying Seattle-area property owners must pay for any cost overruns.

"Since the earliest days of June, then through July and August, 2010, 18 separate groups ... have represented publicly and privately that either jointly or severally they first were filing a referendum, that its filing was imminent,"  Rogers wrote to Barnett in an email. "Where are the disclosure reports related to first the referendum issue that they pursued and then the initiative effort that is underway?

"This is the first I’ve heard the allegation that the groups you name in your correspondence are soliciting funds to promote or oppose an initiative, or making expenditures to promote or oppose an initiative," Barnett responded.  If you have evidence of such activity, I invite you to share that with me."

In his response to the complaint late yesterday afternoon, however, Barnett noted that none of the groups Rogers cited have actively sought money, whereas SCAT founder Elizabeth Campbell "was telling people that the campaign had collected more than $10,000 to promote their initiative" and included an explicit request for funds on the group's web site. Barnett wrote:
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