MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Proposal puts Seattle City Council at ethical crossroads

Jun 9, 2016, 5:35 AM | Updated: 5:37 am

Seattle City Council member Tim Burgess argues that proposed changes to the city's ethics code woul...

Seattle City Council member Tim Burgess argues that proposed changes to the city's ethics code would weaken accountability at the city level. (Seattle Channel)

(Seattle Channel)

The Seattle City Council is at an ethical crossroads and council member Tim Burgess is holding a big stop sign in front of his colleagues.

The council is considering a bill that would change the city’s ethics rules. Under the proposal, council members could vote on legislative issues even if they have a potential conflict of interest, so long as the conflict is disclosed ahead of time.

“The ordinance before the council changes this ethics standard from disqualification to disclosure and then allows a council member to participate in the legislative matter pending before the council, including voting on a final resolution of the matter,” Burgess wrote in a memo to the council.

Related: Councilmember Kshama Sawant says Seattle housing crisis ‘not a question of ideology’ but of ‘reality’

The council was expected to discuss the bill, CB 118701, on June 6. That bill was put on hold this week after Burgess raised opposition via his memo. The council will take up the issue again in about two weeks.

Seattle’s present ethics code is similar to many other cities in that they generally prevent council members from voting on matters where they can potentially benefit from the vote — especially financially. The same principle holds true if their family members could financially benefit. Council members are therefore disqualified from voting to their own benefit.

The argument for the change is that residents of newly formed districts will be unrepresented if a council member is not able to vote on matters because of the conflict of interest.

Burgess disagrees.

“It’s been suggested that this change in Seattle’s standard is necessary because of the voters’ decision to establish city council districts, but I don’t believe the voters ever intended their actions to be interpreted as a desire to lower city government’s ethical standards,” Burgess wrote, noting that an alternative move would be to address the district representation issue specifically in the code.

Burgess also argues that the city’s current ethics code, and its disqualification rule, is considered a “bright line,” meaning it is mandatory and considered best practice.

MyNorthwest News

mill creek crash...

Frank Sumrall

Mill Creek man arrested after crashing into taxi carrying four elderly people, killing one

A 74-year-old woman died in a car crash in downtown Seattle last week, and now the Mill Creek driver who caused the accident has been arrested.

20 minutes ago

Photo: A new rule is starting Saturday for Washington insurance while the OIS is reviewing proposal...

Julia Dallas

Washington insurance: Health plan prices may rise; new rule set to begin

A new rule is starting Saturday for Washington insurance while the OIS is reviewing increase proposals for individual health insurance.

4 hours ago

Photo: An airbag recall from 14 years ago could haunt you. KIRO Newsradio spoke with CarFax about w...

Micki Gamez

Your car’s airbag might be a recall from over 10 years ago

An airbag recall from 14 years ago could haunt you. KIRO Newsradio spoke with CarFax about what to do if your car is on the list.

15 hours ago

Image: The current Seattle branch of the National Archives will be replaced by a new facility at a ...

Feliks Banel

Exclusive: New Seattle National Archives to be a ‘very large project’

KIRO Newsradio spoke to two officials involved for a preview of what's to come in developing the new Seattle National Archives facility.

17 hours ago

Photo: Crews cleared a South Lake Union homeless encampment on May 29, 2023....

James Lynch

‘I feel bad for these people:’ South Lake Union homeless encampment cleared away

The deadline, for those living in a South Lake Union homeless encampment, to pack up and move on was 9 a.m. Wednesday.

18 hours ago

Images: Adrian Diaz, left, stands at the Wednesday, May 29, 2024 news conference after Seattle Mayo...

Matt Markovich

Diaz to depart as SPD chief; Interim Sue Rahr to focus on cultural change

Former King County Sheriff Sue Rahr will replace Adrian Diaz and serve as interim Seattle Police chief, Mayor Bruce Harrell said.

19 hours ago

Proposal puts Seattle City Council at ethical crossroads