City Hall

Updated Fizz: Tomorrow's Ethics Commission Hearing

By Erica C. Barnett August 31, 2010

The city's Ethics and Elections Commission will hear two noteworthy cases at its monthly meeting tomorrow afternoon; one will be of interest to policy wonks and another is gossipy.

The first involves a petition by city municipal court judge candidate Ed McKenna. He  claims that ethics director Wayne Barnett acted wrongly when he refused to let McKenna mention his opponent, sitting judge Edsonya Charles, in his voters pamphlet statement. McKenna argued that because his statement didn't mention Charles by name—instead referring to "a judge who was rated the very lowest in a recent King County Bar Association judicial evaluation survey"—he wasn't violating a city rule that says candidates can't mention their opponents in their voters guide statement.

However, Barnett rejected McKenna's complaint, saying that it would be obvious to any reader whom McKenna was talking about.

In his letter rejecting McKenna's request to include the reference in his voters' guide statement, Barnett tacitly accused McKenna of pursuing the case to drum up publicity about Charles' low rating. "I do not doubt that the campaign views this dispute as a 'heads I win, tails my opponent loses' proposition," Barnett wrote. "The grounds on which I would expect to prevail at a hearing can only draw attention to the survey at issue, and a hearing would likely generate far more attention than any sentence in the voters' pamphlet ever could."

The second case involves a woman who works for the city's utility assistance program, which helps low-income people in the city pay their electric bills. The ethics commission alleges that the woman improperly authorized more than $1,000 in utility assistance to two men—her ex-husband and a King County employee with whom she was romantically involved. The complaint also says the woman falsified her boyfriend's income (he made more than $65,000 last year) to make him appear to be eligible for assistance.

The commission is fining the woman $600.
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