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.