I filed an ethics complaint because the city council is constantly considering matters that involve the Chamber (parking taxes, developer guidelines, water rates, utility rates), and Pageler, chair of the Water Committee, was mum about courting the Chamber for three months between December and February. Pageler, in fact, made it to the final interview round (92 people applied, and Pageler was one of five finalists). But still, Pageler didn't feel compelled to bother informing colleagues like Council President Peter "Parking Tax" Steinbrueck or Council Members Richard Conlin, Nick Licata, or Judy Nicastro until The Stranger got hold of the news and broke the story in late February. On that afternoon, Pageler placed frantic damage-control calls to her oblivious co-workers: "Um... so I applied for, like, this other job...."
As for the public--which surely doesn't expect elected officials to be applying for jobs at the city's biggest business lobby while simultaneously voting on things like tax breaks for local steel companies--it learned of Pageler's intentions in The Stranger. ["Margaret Pageler Tried to Leave City Council," Josh Feit, Feb 28.] Whoops.
On March 14, I filed my complaint against Pageler with Carol Van Noy, executive director of the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission. On April 4, Van Noy issued a four-page report dismissing my complaint. The crux of Van Noy's finding is that Pageler didn't get the Chamber job. Van Noy writes, "Pageler... did not have a financial or private interest in the Chamber since... she was never offered the position. Had she been offered the position, from that date until she was told that she was not hired, she would have had a private interest in the Chamber. Merely applying for the position, however, without any indication that she would be hired and without receiving an offer of hire, does not constitute... [a] conflict."
Are you kidding? Pageler's interest was exactly $142,535--that's the difference between Pageler's council salary and the Chamber CEO salary that she was hot after. As for conflict, how about that December 10 vote facilitating a low-interest loan to Birmingham Steel?
I have the option to appeal Van Noy's decision. And I'd love to: Maybe it would nudge our city toward a more comprehensive ethics code--like ethics codes in real cities. "A public servant cannot seek a position with any company they are dealing with in their city job," says Mark Davies, executive director of the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board.
However, I'm not going to appeal, for two reasons. First reason: Pageler is an irrelevant council member. It's common knowledge that she's not even running again. Indeed, the former council president has already been muscled out by a younger, more progressive 5-4 council majority (if they'd only realize it) and a real mayor.
Second reason: Ethics director Van Noy is retiring and moving to Florida. Despite my dissatisfaction with Van Noy's thinking on the Pageler issue, she happens to be my favorite employee at city hall--with a history dating back to 1991 of holding politicians accountable and steering reporters right. So rather than bogging down Van Noy's final days with an irrelevant politician like Margaret Pageler, I'll drop the whole thing as a going-away present.
Evidently, former City Council President Margaret Pageler doesn't get it. "It" being the pesky little detail about her former council president status.
I bring this up because last week, former Council President Pageler felt compelled to scold her badly behaved colleagues--sending out an all-council voice mail reprimanding her coworkers for jeopardizing the Teen Dance Ordinance. (People like Nick Licata and Judy Nicastro had been questioning a council decision to keep the TDO in place.)
Pageler is in no position to be firing off accusatory, disciplinary, and bossy all-council voice mails. She's not the boss anymore.
Pageler should be told that her noisy all-council reprimands come across like the death throes of a has-been. Have a little dignity, Margaret.--Josh Feit