While this one isn't technically as egregious as his previous offense (two weeks ago, you'll remember, the Seattle Ethics & Elections Commission found the mayor guilty of using city resources to assist his reelection campaign), Nickels certainly deserves a talking to from Miss Manners. Check out the latest tacky campaign stunt that's come to our attention.

Nickels's customized campaign fliers (four different fliers tailored to different sections of the city) feature photos of the mayor making stops all over the city: at the Green Lake cleanup, for example, or at the Volunteer Park dedication, having dinner at Fire Station 9, kicking off the University Way revitalization project, or at the Greenwood Library reopening.

All these pictures were taken at the behest of Mayor Nickels's office by one of the city's two staff photographers: Erik Stuhaug or Ian Edelstein. It's not unethical for a campaign to use photos produced by the city for election-season literature (the Nickels campaign bought a CD of the photos fair and square from the city clerk for the nominal $10 fee), but thanks to the Nickels administration the photographers who shot all the pics, Stuhaug and Edelstein, eventually lost their jobs with the city.

Individual city departments, like the mayor's office, are supposed to pay for any photo work they request. But the mayor's office wouldn't go along with the "charge back" formula, and so the photography program became financially untenable. Indeed, Nickels's office refused to pay an estimated $33,000 for all the ribbon-cutting photo ops, charging the work to the city's Fleets and Facilities budget. (The city's photo shop, manned by Stuhaug and Edelman, was housed in the Fleets and Facilities department).

The mayor's refusal to participate in that "charge back" program—after running up the photography department's costs with all those ribbon-cutting photo ops—helped sink the program. Stuhaug lost his job in December 2003, then Edelstein got the sack in 2004.

Nickels's spokesman Marty McComber says the city was facing a $120 million deficit at the time and the mayor was focused on saving direct services rather than the city's photo program.

The photo program lives on though, promoting Nickels in his reelection campaign literature.

josh@thestranger.com