The contract between the city of Seattle and arena consultant Carl Hirsh of New Jersey still has not been filed with the Clerk's Office in an apparent attempt to keep discussion about a possible arena under wraps.
City law calls for contracts to be filed with the City Clerk’s office after they are signed so the public knows with whom the city is doing business. But the contract with arena consultant Carl Hirsh, of New Jersey, has not been filed and was disclosed by Mayor Mike McGinn’s office only after The Seattle Times requested a copy under the state Public Records Act.
Aaron Pickus, a McGinn spokesman, said city rules don’t specify when a contract must be filed. Hirsh’s contract was signed in July.
“There’s no deadline for filing with the clerk’s office,” Pickus said.
City contracting guidelines also encourage, but don’t require, departments to advertise contracting opportunities and seek bids from three to five firms, including women- and minority-owned businesses.
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The city also has a consultant roster of firms and individuals who have been prequalified to do work with the city.
In contracting with Hirsh, the mayor used an exemption that allows department heads to hire a consultant with specialized expertise if the department determines that an emergency exists or that not hiring the consultant would adversely affect the city.
The mayor’s office referred additional questions about the contract to the city Finance and Administrative Services Department, which manages city contracting. A spokeswoman, Katherine Schubert-Knapp, said department heads are given a great deal of flexibility in selecting consultants.
Asked if the mayor’s office had asked the contracting division to not file the Hirsh contract with the clerk’s office, Schubert-Knapp wrote in an email, “The contracts will be filed with the City Clerk.”
The mayor’s office also did not file with the clerk’s office a contract with a local bond attorney to investigate financing options for the arena development. That contract was labeled “Special Sports Project.”
The documents obtained by The Times show the mayor’s staff and the consultant going to some lengths to protect the investment groups’ identity and the details of the proposal.
In one of the first emails sent by Hirsh to McGinn’s policy director, Ethan Raup, the consultant asks if Raup has a “personal email that I could send this draft to,” presumably to avoid public disclosure.
The consultant suggests a Dec. 13 meeting be held in a private law office.
The mayor’s office also withheld a number of documents requested by The Times, citing state law that allows internal deliberations about a pending issue to be exempted from disclosure.
Lynn Thompson: 206-464-8305 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @lthompsontimes.