Bellevue City Council In Chaos

While there were no official items regarding East Link on the Bellevue City Council’s study session, an astounding quarrel broke out Monday night when political accusations began flying one after another.  It started when one citizen, a member of the pro-B7 Build a Better Bellevue, gave public testimony accusing councilmember Grant Degginger of a conflict of interest with respect to East Link.  The accusation mainly rested on Degginger’s employment by Lane Powell, a law firm which has represented ST in the past.

In response, councilmember Degginger replied that he had actually already consulted the city attorney on the matter, who informed him that there was no such conflict of interest since Lane Powell has not had anything to do with Sound Transit on the matter of East Link.  Bellevue’s Code of Ethics states that conflicts of interests arise when participants use their capacity as city employees to gain a “private pecuniary interest.”  Degginger’s case would only fit the bill if his salary with Lane Powell were to increase if there were to be a case between Sound Transit and Bellevue specifically regarding East Link.  More below the jump.

Degginger went on to stress transparency in the process and suggested that Better Bellevue follow suit by making their donors public. While the organization is not officially incorporated and therefore not obligated to reveal such information, the rumor is that many donors have been staunch ST opponents, even Kevin Wallace himself.  The citizen called Degginger’s response a “personal attack;” Wallace interrupted and suggested that Claudia Balducci had made a similar attack earlier on another Bellevue citizen.

A shouting match quickly broke out between Balducci and Wallace, both eventually accusing each other of conflicts of interest.  Some have accused Balducci that a conflict exists with her employment by King County, to which she replied, “I’m not making a single dime more depending on where that alignment goes.”  Balducci then responded in kind, asking about Wallace’s company properties conveniently situated where his proposed ‘Vision Line’ would go.

Mayor Davidson tentatively intervened and quickly called for a recess, after which Wallace apologized for his outburst, but not directly to Balducci.  Oral communications resumed with yet another citizen testifying about Balducci’s purported conflict of interest.

While Bellevue citizens have every right to scrutinize the councilmembers as they see fit, the fact that B7 supporters have resorted to accusing two pro-B2 councilmembers of conflicts of interest indicates a flair of desperation in the fight to push light rail away from South Bellevue.  If there was a true concern of conflict of interest, there would have been testimony asking councilmember Wallace to recuse himself as well.

Nonetheless, Monday night’s show was a bad spectacle all around for Bellevue residents.  With silly quarrels and the council pursuing extra taxpayer money for B7 study over mitigation, the City’s credibility with Sound Transit is quickly dwindling.  Ultimately, with the agency’s massive budget shortfall, it could spell trouble for the downtown tunnel, which some believe is the only remaining decision on which the City can have impact with.

For readers new to East Link discussion, this rundown post gives background on the matter.




Comments

  1. Jessica Clark says

    Rhetorical Question: Why am I still a Bellevue resident?

    Serious: I feel extremely embarrassed by this council

    • says

      You’re embarrassed by what? You’d prefer difficult questions be suppressed? I think this kind of debate is healthy in a government.

      • Kyle S. says

        Here’s a difficult question for you: what motivates a rookie councilman to level an unprecedented personal attack against a senior councilwoman on grounds of conflict of interest, when he himself has some serious conflict of interest questions to resolve?

        Who is funding the pro-B7 camp? Is there money changing hands between the BIAW, Kemper Freeman, Kevin Wallace, and Jim Johnson? Or just promises of future profits and favors?

    • Lack Thereof says

      Go to a meeting and speak up. Tell them to quit wasting their time and throwing good money after bad on B7.

      All they ever hear from is the BaBB crew.

      • says

        “Why do you continue to spend study after study on trying to further B7? Do you really think you can convince Sound Transit to reverse course at this point, when even your own studies have exposed the alignment’s flaws? Do you think another study will magically show B7 to be workable after all? Where is the money being spent on trying to make B2M less unacceptable, you know, less of something that makes you consider B7 in the first place? Or is this even about B7′s virtues? If you truly care about making sure East Link is the best line it can be for Bellevue, as opposed to nonexistent, then explain to Bellevue taxpayers why that justifies spending millions of dollars on studies of an alignment every study has shown to be deficient and none of trying to make the alignment Sound Transit is likely to select anyway no matter how many B7 studies you fund more palatable, you know, something that actually has a snowball’s chance in hell of changing anything, especially given rumors that your obstinancy on B7 could threaten your preferred alignment through downtown Bellevue.”

        Do some edits on that, and there’s your testimony.

  2. Max says

    Councilmember John Chelminiak found out the hard way just how deceitful and manipulated the “Kemper Freeman Caucus” can be. I hope he was not watching the Kevin Wallace flailing on Bellevue TV while recovering in his hospital bed.

    Bellevue is becoming a big city, but the majority of its council practices small-minded small town politics.

    • says

      Might that be because its council is somehow set up in a small-town way that’s bigger than the members that might be in it at any one time? Might a revision of the city charter be in order?

      • Chris Stefan says

        I think the time may have come for Bellevue to make its Council full-time and to directly elect a full-time mayor.

      • Bernie says

        I think you’re right Chris. As it sits right now it costs more to run a campaign than you make in salary. To do an effective job you have to have an employer that lets you work half time at your day job for a full time salary or be in a financial position where you don’t need a full time job. The other issue is that when your “staff” makes more than the “leaders”, controls more employees and provides the decision making inputs you wonder who is really running the show.

    • chrisr says

      Next we’ll see accusations against Chelminiak of a conflict of interest because bears, of course, hate light rail.

      • Anna says

        What advantage? The BBB malcontents just did the city a favor by showing their true colors on tape. They can’t win with intellectual debate so they will try to bully the council into doing what they want.

  3. Donolectic says

    This was sad and unprofessional. Councilman Wallace, when are you going to put the interests of the citizens of Bellevue ahead of a narrow band of neighborhood residents and Kemper Freeman?

  4. Zach Shaner says

    “the City’s credibility with Sound Transit is quickly dwindling…”

    Privately, of course, their credibility has probably been shot for a while. Publicly, ST will have to continue to play nice for PR reasons while unapologetically advancing the alignments that all studies show are superior.

      • Nathanael says

        ST clearly does have credibility. They actually got both Tacoma Link and Central Link open and running and people seem relatively happy with them….

        What great public works has the Bellevue government built recently?

      • Bernie says

        Bellevue Botanical Garden is pretty sweet. In general the parks system is pretty good. Sports facilities are OK; albeit lacking any aquatics which is pretty lame since even Lakewood which wasn’t even incorporated when I grew up there managed to have several pools where HS and community swim and diving teams could work out and the public swim. Of course their forte is roads and unfortunately they’re still bent on building a 1970′s model :-(

      • says

        “Bellevue Botanical Garden is pretty sweet”

        Good to find more that we agree on, Bernie. :)

        If you all want to see the best of Bellevue, hop a bus to BTC (550, 271, ???) and transfer to a 253 or 230 headed to Crossroads. Get off at 124th and walk .7 miles on sidewalks to Bellevue Botanical Gardens and walk the many paths. Even if you’re not into gardening, it’s a really nice walk through many different types of landscaping.

        (Another hillier option is to transfer to a 246 or continue on the 271 to Main St & 116th and walk up the staircase to upper Main St – right by the monstrous Lexus dealership.

        Later on you can head back to NE 8th and catch the 253 or 230 up to Crossroads to eat at the food court or check out the more interesting shops at Crossroads mall. I know what you’re thinking, but the food choices there are much more interesting than your average mall food court with no chain restaurants.

        Best of all – No Kemper properties are involved.

  5. justin says

    How dare you sir! It was like a low budget tv show there for awhile, great stuff.

    It has been mentioned many times but Wallace and his ridiculous vision line is the only conflict I have seen…

  6. Brett says

    After seeing these shenanigans I don’t see how anyone could respect Councilman Wallace or take his suggestions or positions seriously any longer. BaBB’s accusation was pathetic and makes it seem as though they know they don’t have a leg to stand on. Now that the CoI can has been opened I hope all potential conflicts are brought into the open, including Wallace’s and the mayor’s.

  7. Olivia says

    “In response, councilmember Degginger replied that he had actually already consulted the city attorney on the matter, who informed him that there was no such conflict of interest since Lane Powell has not had anything to do with Sound Transit on the matter of East Link”.

    Did the city attorney assurance of conflict of interest to degginger is in words or in writing?.

    • Adam B. Parast says

      That is just being nitpicky but if you want to go there, has councilmember Wallace asked the city attorney to review if he has a conflict of interest? After all Wallace’s family owns land that some of the alignments run through/next to.

      • lazarus says

        Can a private citizen file a CoI complaint against a council member? If so, it might be worth having a concerned Bellevue citizen file such a protest against Wallace. (I’m not a Bellevue citizen)

        At the very least such a protest would bring Wallace’s situation under public scrutiny, and it could lead to him being forced to recuse himself from the B7 debate (an even council!).

        The best scenario would be that such a legalistic approach might lead to the unraveling of the relationship between Kemper, Wallace, and the BaBB group. If so, forcing the BaBB funding/support org into the open would be great.

      • Olivia says

        I am not trying to make a point here. Just trying to get the right information.
        ok then as you said kevin have conflict of interest and as someothers say degginger andd balducci have conflict of interest. Then let the council discuss the east light without these council members.

        GET THE RIGHT ALIGNMENT FOR BELLEVUE as it stays forever.

      • John Jensen says

        Wallace would explicitly financially benefit from a certain East Link routing choice. No other council member faces that explicit conflict of interest.

      • John Jensen says

        And Olivia, we’re all adult enough to know when someone is trying to prove a point with questions. That technique isn’t novel. :) It’s a bit implausible to say you’re just asking questions and then assert that some councilmembers step aside completely because some people have simply claimed something.

      • Sherwin Lee says

        Olivia, things don’t work out like that. If we want councilmembers to recuse themselves, it should be done in a justified manner. Just because a few citizens think there are conflicts doesn’t mean they actually exist. Claudia works for King County, but in no matter regarding East Link. She doesn’t make a “pecuniary interest” if B2 were built. Grant works for Lane Powell, but in no matter regarding East Link. The likelihood of him making any kind of “pecuniary interest” if B2 were built is minuscule and would be contingent on litigation from the City. There are rumors, however, that Kevin is actively seeking an upzone around the C14E corridor, where his company owns a number of properties. There is quite a bit of interest to be made there. Even if there wasn’t, the conflict is direct enough that he should be obligated to recuse himself.

    • Olivia says

      Sherwin Lee, i do not know why you are going back to C14E always.The preferred alignment of city of Bellevue is B7-C9T.
      My approach is to know
      How east link moves forward without COB and ST on the same page?(COB want B7-C9T and ST want B2M-C9T)

    • Anna says

      News Flash – Entire City of Bellevue City Council accused of conflict of interest and requested to accuse itself from ST process. Council members Degginger, Wallace and Balducci having stepped aside we have learned in a late breaking story this evening that Bellevue Mayor Davidson was once seen riding a train thereby proving his CoI as he is obviously biased towards trains. This brought up the question of Deputy Mayor Lee’s impartiality in this issue as he was witnessed to say that he loved choo choo trains as a kid. High level sources have confirmed that City Staffers will fill the now empty council chambers for the duration of this debate thereby proving that the meek do inherit the Earth.

  8. Claudia Balducci says

    I’m writing here because this blog and many of the readers have been such strong supporters of the East Link project. Like many of you, I’m committed to getting East Link built as approved by the voters. It will be a tremendous asset for Bellevue, the East subarea of King County and the entire region.

    This was obviously a poor showing by several people, myself included. I don’t regret anything I said, but I do regret the way I said it. Frankly, I was taken completely by surprise by the accusations coming from a fellow council member and reacted more quickly and strongly than I intended.

    That said, I think we’ve finally put some important issues on the table. I agree with the commenter who suggested that we should just lay all the alleged conflicts on the table and have an open discussion about them so the public can understand the facts and make up their own minds.

    Thank you for all the support for our efforts to move East Link forward.

    • Sherwin Lee says

      Claudia, your reaction was very human and shouldn’t be to blame given the circumstances. I don’t know how the issue of conflicts came up upon the subject of personal attacks, but you had the right to defend yourself.

      • Kinder says

        “attended our meetups in the past”
        Can i know, what are meetups?
        How often do you have them?
        Can i have a schedule of your meetups?
        I would like to participate too

      • Adam B. Parast says

        @Kinder. We don’t have any formal schedule, we just announce them on the blog. We should be having one in the next two weeks.

    • Kyle S. says

      Would it be possible to confirm that this post was made by Ms. Balducci? We’ve had enough impersonation of our own regular posters that I have learned to maintain a skeptical eye.

      • Sherwin Lee says

        Claudia has attended our meetups in the past, does read the blog, and I talk to her from time to time. I assure you this is her.

      • Kyle S. says

        But how do I know it’s actually you, “Sherwin?” What if you’re an impostor too?

        In all seriousness, I like the new feature where the admins/contributors’ comments are outlined in a darker border. It would be even more helpful in these situations.

        In the meantime, I think it’s time to hang up my tinfoil hat and go to bed.

      • Bernie says

        In the meantime, I think it’s time to hang up my tinfoil hat and go to bed.

        Bed yes, but I’d keep the hat on. STB has interviewed Councilman Wallace and I’m sure that invitation would extend to Councilwoman Balducci. No need to enter into the comment fray. Our state legislators, Hunter and Eddy have been very open and if you questioned a comment on say STB you could go to their own sites and engage. I have to give props to Ross Hunter for actually walking the district lately. I don’t know if I’ll vote for him but I certainly respect that he’s willing to go out and spend his own time (rather than special interest money) doing what’s essentially cold calls through a neighborhood. Then again, I was outside and it was an easy conversation; having people “come to the door” when you’re trying to eat dinner isn’t so good… as in, your name?… thank you.. you’ll never have my vote.

    • Mike Skehan says

      Your response was quite appropriate for the nature of the personal attack leveled at you, ‘ambush style’.
      One suggestion. Get a seat on the same side of the table as the Mayor. It really makes a difference in these kind of situations.

  9. Craig says

    ST seems to me to be the one with the conflict of interest. The employees all stayed employed building projects, no matter how ineffective and inefficient they are. What is the cost per passenger mile or track mile? Everyone here is arguing about theatrics and politics, but no one is talking about how expensive light rail is, how long it will disrupt life and business for a VERY long time.

    Nathaneal stated:
    ” ST clearly does have credibility. They actually got both Tacoma Link and Central Link open and running and people seem relatively happy with them….

    What great public works has the Bellevue government built recently?”

    With EXPENSIVE and non effective(what ST program has EVER come in close to budget and served anywhere near the number of passengers it claimed it would serve?), I am glad that Bellevue has never built one.

    • Zed says

      “ST seems to me to be the one with the conflict of interest. The employees all stayed employed building projects, no matter how ineffective and inefficient they are”

      So then according to that logic Sound Transit shouldn’t care what alignment is chosen. Since B7 and Wallace’s “Vision Line” are both more costly and less effective how come Sound Transit hasn’t made that their preferred alignment?

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