Seattle City Council president Richard Conlin was within his legal right to sign off on a draft impact study on the deep-bore tunnel last week, according to a statement issued this afternoon by City Attorney Pete Holmes, because Conlin wasn't certifying the data met any legal standard. But Holmes doesn't actually cite any law in his legal analysis.

Signaturegate raised hackles last week and prompted City Hall to contort into theatrics of territorial pettiness call for a legal analysis from Holmes. But instead, Holmes, whose office gave the advice to Conlin, issued a statement about his political priorities, expressing support for the tunnel project to proceed, instead of addressing the core questions: Did Conlin violate the city charter, rules on impact studies, or a state law authorizing the city's department of transportation as the point-of-contact on the tunnel?

Here's the statement:

I’d like to try to ease the tension that followed City Council President Richard Conlin’s Sept. 23 signature on the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) for the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Project.

Conlin’s signature demonstrates his intent for the City to remain as a co-lead agency during the state’s EIS process. His signature does not certify that the SDEIS meets the legal standards for a EIS. As nominal lead agency, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has the primary responsibility for determining whether the SDEIS is adequate.

Because Conlin’s signature does not purport to certify the adequacy of the SDEIS, it is not an affront to the executive authority of Mayor Mike McGinn. The signature neither binds the City nor impedes the mayor’s powers.

Conlin’s signature will have the effect that WSDOT and the City Council want it to have consistent with other laws. I understand that today the City Council is introducing an ordinance that would ratify and confirm the City's intent to remain as co-lead agency.

This is more helpful than last week's non-statement, but Holmes still doesn't cite a statute from which Conlin derives power nor name a law to refute claims that Conlin did violate the city charter. He also doesn't explain what his attorneys told Conlin or their reasoning at the time. Which is odd, considering this is the city attorney's statement about a legal dispute.

The kernel of Holmes's statement, lest it go unsaid, is political. It's about Conlin's intent to play nice with the state. Whether or not the city would lose its status as co-lead on the project by waiting for one week—which Holmes says is the real issue behind his legal conclusion—was a threat fabricated by the state and adopted as nonnegotiable by tunnel defenders at City Hall. In fact, the impact study could wait a week without bumping the city from co-lead on the project, just as the state negotiated a one-year delay with bidders and the council negotiated a six-month delay on contracts.

And if this really is about the co-lead status, as Holmes says, what gives the one council member—working alone—to determine the city's relationship with the state? Holmes doesn't explain. The co-lead is essentially the city's transportation department, which answers to the mayor and not the council. So is the council acting without ordinance to partner with the state legal? Admittedly, this entire hubbub is largely inconsequential (even ridiculous). But it raises legitimate legal questions about executive and legislative authority—questions we want Holmes to answer. But Holmes seems to be raising more questions than delivering answers.