Just when the Sound Transit bureaucrats thought an apology would excuse them for violating public disclosure rules by giving personal email addresses to the campaign pushing their $54 billion dollar tax grab, the agency was hit with its second Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) complaint of the year. And apologies might not matter much if the PDC does an appropriate investigation.
As Shift reported earlier this week, the region’s light-rail agency was forced to publicly admit that it gave about 173,000 email addresses of its regular users to its favorite campaign, the one trying to fund its bloated 25-year plan known as ST3.
Now the Seattle Times is reporting that their original story [http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/sound-transit-improperly-gave-173000-orca-cardholders-info-to-ballot-measure-promoters/] has generated a formal complaint to the PDC by a Tacoma activist who was unimpressed by Sound Transit’s apology.
As the Times’ Lewis Kamb writes “In his complaint, (Conner) Edwards noted Sound Transit’s explanation that the release was a mistake is “simply not conceivable” because public agencies routinely respond to records requests and devote staff and attorneys to review them. ‘It is far more likely that they intentionally did not apply the exemption so as to benefit the ‘Mass Transit Now’ campaign,’ Edwards wrote.”
This matters, because as Kamb points out, “Washington elections law prohibits governments from spending public funds or using other public resources to promote political campaigns.”
It is also the second time this year that Sound Transit officials have been caught with the hand in the taxpayer-money cookie jar, according to the election watchdogs:
“The PDC review of Edwards’ complaint is the agency’s second active investigation of allegations that Sound Transit broke election law by taking actions that benefit the pro-ST3 campaign, PDC spokeswoman Lori Anderson said Thursday.
“The agency is also separately reviewing a complaint filed this year by ex-lawmaker-turned-political gadfly Will Knedlik, who, among other issues, has questioned a public-outreach survey distributed by Sound Transit this year that sought feedback gauging why people would be willing to vote for the ballot measure.”
The lack of oversight by an elected board of directors is very apparent in this latest Sound Transit scandal. As Kamb depressingly, and perhaps predictably, reported “Earlier this week, a spokesman for King County Executive Dow Constantine, who chairs the Sound Transit directors’ board, said agency CEO Peter Rogoff has assured Constantine that the disclosure of ORCA email information was a mistake that won’t happen again. Constantine didn’t plan to investigate the matter further, spokesman Alex Fryer added.”
After all, why would Constantine actually investigate Sound Transit wrongdoing that happened under his watch, when the bureaucrats were trying to help a campaign which he supports to succeed?
It remains to be seen whether either one of the PDC investigations will result in a ruling before the election on whether Sound Transit’s tendency to try and help out its campaign supporters with public money is appropriate. It would certainly add just another reason for suspicious voters to say “no” to the $54 billion dollar plan.