Wallace must stop distracting from ethics probe
Bellevue City Councilman Kevin Wallace should stop pointing fingers and own up to his mistakes. Wallace should have publicly disclosed a potential $30 million private investment deal with GNP Railway as he pushed Bellevue to consider the same rail corridor for a Sound Transit line.
BELLEVUE 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.
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 1993. 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.
Information in this article, originally published April 13, 2011, was corrected April 14, 2011. A previous version of this story had an incorrect date for the creation of Sound Transit. The regional transportation agency was created in 1993.