Morning Fizz

Mayor's Lead Pot Policy Staffer Pressures Pot Industry to Attend Murray Reelection Fundraiser

Email raises ethical questions.

By Josh Feit October 3, 2016

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 1. Mayor Ed Murray’s point person on marijuana legalization, David Mendoza from Murray’s office of policy and innovation, sent an ethically questionable email to people in the city’s emerging pot industry.

City ethics code prohibits city officials and employees from campaigning from city hall and/or using their city position to campaign. For example, a city council member or staffer can’t use city hall resources like city hall’s email servers to invite people to a campaign fundraiser.

Mendoza sent an email titled “Mayor’s Campaign Kickoff – Cannabis Industry Table”— to 20-plus pot industry people ([email protected] and [email protected], for example); the email invites all of them to attend Murray’s upcoming October 18 luncheon reelection kickoff fundraiser at the Westin. Mendoza is hosting a “silver” table where tickets are going for $125 a piece.

To be clear, Mendoza sent the email from his personal account, and he signed it simply “David.” But that doesn’t necessarily make the campaign overture kosher.

There’s a case to be made that Mendoza is using his position to fundraise for his boss. For starters, Mendoza has a working relationship with all these people from his job at the mayor’s office (it’s also probably where he got all the email addresses too.) Mendoza, who holds an influential position in the industry, worked directly with pot shop owners, store hopefuls, and non-licensed shops over the last two years to transition the industry under I-502 to phase out medical shops, shut down unlicensed shops, and set up the current Seattle market of 48 legal recreational shops, where about 20 include medical counters. These winners are included on Mendoza’s email invite blast.

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Mendoza’s email begins: “It has been a true pleasure working with all of you these past two years as the Mayor and I have moved the City away from the ‘bad old ways’ of drug prohibition and heavy handed criminal law enforcement and towards this new era of legalization.”

And then (what reads like) arm twisting:   

“Now, that the legal system is largely in place, the Mayor would like to spend the next four years in finding creative ways in which to shrink the illicit market, improving the statewide system and working with all of you in the cannabis industry to support your nascent industry and insure [sic] it continues to grow and thrive. However, we can only do that if the Mayor is re-elected.”

Mendoza’s email includes a link to Murray’s fundraiser sign up page and lets everyone know that he’ll “be following up this email with personal phone calls later this week.”  

I have a call in to Murray’s spokesman Benton Strong.

2. Remember the monumental hearing examiner case I live tweeted and wrote about in early September? (The Queen Anne Community Council is challenging the city's decision to forgo further environmental review of city council member Mike O'Brien's proposed legislation to make it easier to build backyard cottages.)

After three full days of hearings (there was a third day of testimony and procedural stuff on Friday), the hearing examiner has decided to continue the case on November 1. Initially, the examiner was supposed to reach a decision in mid-October.

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