The Seattle Times' Keith Ervin reports today on last night's Bellevue City Council meeting, at which council members agreed on a compromise in the investigation into conflict-of-interest charges against council member Kevin Wallace.

Wallace, a real-estate developer, failed to disclose to his fellow council members the fact that his company, Wallace Properties, signed an agreement to give the short-line rail company GNP Railway exclusive use of an abandoned rail right-of-way along the same route where Wallace has advocated running Sound Transit’s East Link light rail---a deal that could have benefited Wallace financially because his company  owns numerous properties along the route and because Sound Transit could have been forced to pay GNP for improvements to and use of its right-of-way.

A proposed investigation into Wallace's financial dealings with GNP (which has since declared bankruptcy) stalled last week, when Wallace and his supporters on the council suggested widening the investigation to include council members Claudia Balducci and Grant Degginger. Balducci sits on the Sound Transit Board, which Wallace and Mayor Don Davidson said could lead to a conflict if Bellevue sues Sound Transit in the future. And Degginger's law firm did some contract work for Sound Transit between 2002 and 2004, when Degginger was on the council. Ultimately, the council tabled the action on the grounds that three council members would be voting on whether to investigate themselves.

Under the compromise adopted last night, Ervin reports, an outside investigator will interview council members, review documents, and decide which council members to investigate.
Several members said they would vote for the contract even though it gave the investigator more authority than they preferred. Councilman John Chelminiak, who wanted the probe to focus strictly on Wallace, called it "so very broad it is bothersome."

Councilwoman Jennifer Robertson, who favored a probe of Wallace, Balducci and Degginger, said she would vote reluctantly for the contract. "I don't know that I've ever seen a scope of work that is so broad and that gives so much power to the consultants" to set direction, she said.

The council passed the contract with attorney John Coopersmith, which is limited to $49,500, unanimously.