Gee & Ursula: Is Bruce Harrell appointing his niece as deputy mayor nepotism?

Dec 14, 2021, 11:52 AM
Bruce Harrell...
Bruce Harrell, center, now the Seattle mayor-elect, shakes hands with shoppers as he campaigns on Election Day at a grocery store in South Seattle. (AP File Photo/Ted S. Warren)
(AP File Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Seattle is getting its first look at the new administration of Mayor-elect Bruce Harrell, and one of his key cabinet positions will be filled by his niece.

Seattle mayor-elect announces new administration, including niece

Bruce Harrell’s cabinet includes three deputy mayors, including a newly created position dedicated to housing and homelessness, as well as a senior deputy mayor and a deputy mayor of external relations.

The mayor-elect, as KIRO Radio reporter Hanna Scott explains, named his niece and campaign manager Monisha Harrell as his senior deputy mayor.

“We are going to be able to have a diversity of people sitting at the table to be able to solve some of our biggest challenges,” Monisha Harrell told Hanna Scott on election night.

Monisha Harrell is chair of Equal Rights Washington and has been a big player in police reform efforts in Washington state, including serving on the governor’s task force. Until last month, she also served as co-monitor for the Justice Department consent decree with the Seattle Police Department.

Given that, is this a blatant case of nepotism, or does it make sense?

“It makes sense,” KIRO Radio host Gee Scott said. “Is she qualified? Yes — according to what they say, yep. If she’s qualified, then she’s got action in being able to do it. This happens in the private sector. This happens all over the country. As long as the person is qualified, then I am OK.”

“Oh, is this being kept a secret? Is everybody being transparent? Is everybody above board with this conversation?” he added. “Yep, I’m good.”

Host Ursula Reutin shared that under the city’s ethics code, apparently a niece is not considered immediate family.

“But Bruce Harrell did file a disclosure of appearance of conflict or impaired judgment, and he said he has no financial dealings with her. She is his niece; she’s not financially dependent on him or his wife. She will be evaluated independently regarding performance and compensation,” Ursula detailed.

“She also resigned from her job as the court appointed deputy monitor of Justice Department mandated reforms to the Seattle Police Department,” she added. “And her job as this deputy mayor is going to be to lead the effort to reform SPD, to continue the efforts that already started before everything happened last year. So she sounds more than qualified.”

“But I also understand that you’ve got to look at it because it does look like nepotism,” Ursula noted. “So I think she’s going to be under even more scrutiny.”

“I have a sneaking suspicion that even if she was niece, nephew, or anything, she’d be under scrutiny anyways,” Gee said.

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Gee & Ursula: Is Bruce Harrell appointing his niece as deputy mayor nepotism?