The City Council on Monday agreed on the need to hire an independent investigator to study whether a conflict of interest exists for one, and possibly other council members. The exact scope of the review and who will conduct it has yet to be determined.
"I have a great deal of concern that we go beyond just an investigation of all these allegations. That we can come out of it either healing or making things worse," said Mayor Don Davidson. "We have a path and we're going to move forward. The outcome of this, in my mind, is going to be healing."
City Manager Steve Sarkozy and City Attorney Lori Riordan indicated last week that an independent, outside investigator is needed to assure that the process is absolutely fair and impartial. It's anticipated that person will be named in the next few weeks and that a report of the investigator's findings will be made public when it's completed. Riordan will oversee the review and will provide periodic updates on its progress.
The decisions were triggered by recent news stories about whether a private business agreement by Councilmember Kevin Wallace constituted a possible conflict of interest with his public advocacy for a particular light rail alignment in Bellevue. Wallace is president of Wallace Properties Inc., a commercial real estate brokerage and development company.
Wallace said he supports the decision for an independent review and will cooperate with it. When concluded, he believes it will show there was no conflict of interest or inappropriate behavior on his part.
Two other councilmembers, Claudia Balducci and Grant Degginger, previously had been scrutinized for possible conflicts of interest by Riordan, who determined that no conflicts existed.
Balducci is director of the King County jail; she is also a Sound Transit board member. Degginger works for a law firm that represents Sound Transit on projects outside of Bellevue; he represented Sound Transit in 2003 on a case in Tacoma.
Some council members also indicated support for development of a city ethics ordinance that applies to elected officials. Currently, Bellevue City Code includes a code of ethics for employees. For city council members, commission and board members, however, the code of ethics is governed by state law rather than by local ordinance.
Video of Monday's council meeting, as well as other council meetings, is available on Bellevue TV, under the City Council Meetings section.
Feedback: Lori Riordan, City Attorney, 425-452-7220 or email@example.com
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