It’s always extremely affirming when an editorial board that you don’t often agree with forcefully makes the exact point you want to.
City Councilman Kevin Wallace should keep a promise to cooperate with a fact-finding probe into his business deal with a freight railroad.
Wallace is trying to deflect attention away from his failure to disclose a proposed $30 million private investment deal with GNP Railway, which was looking to use part of the same rail corridor he was urging Sound Transit to use for its Eastlink Light Rail line.
Wallace accuses council members Grant Degginger and Claudia Balducci of conflicts; Degginger because he works for a law firm that has represented Sound Transit and Balducci because she is on Sound Transit’s board.
More after the jump.
Degginger informed Bellevue officials long ago of his law firm’s connections. He last worked on Sound Transit legal matters in 2003.
Balducci’s seat on the transit board is appropriate and the kind of municipal representation envisioned when the regional entity was created in 1996. The 18-member board includes city and county officials from around Puget Sound.
Wallace should also stop trying to influence the scope of the investigation into his private business dealings. His lawyer, former U.S. Attorney Mike McKay, argues that the City Council, not City Attorney Lori Riordan, should determine the probe’s scope. No, Wallace shouldn’t get to shape his own ethics probe.
Let’s not get sidetracked. The issue is Wallace’s lack of full disclosure. Bellevue residents had the right to know about his business deal as they weighed his push for Sound Transit to run light-rail trains along a segment of the Eastside Rail Corridor despite opposition from three council members and Sound Transit.
The information would have helped the public form a view of Wallace’s deciding vote on a controversial $670,000 study on freight and light-rail options as well as his directing city staff to research titles, legal rights and property encumbrances along the rail corridor.
It isn’t uncommon for part-time council members to face conflicts between their professional lives and their public service. In these instances, full disclosure is key. This is new territory for Wallace; in the past the councilman has sought advice from the city attorney on potential conflicts. He should have this time as well.
The public deserves a full accounting.
We haven’t reported on it yet, but essentially what happened is pro B7 Councilmembers want to dictate the scope of work for the independent ethics investigation the Council previously asked the city attorney to conduct. B7 Councilmembers would like to add Councilmember Balducci and Degginger to the investigation even though they have been completely transparent and have been cleared by the city attorney of any conflict of interest.