After weeks of bad publicity, Seattle City Light CEO Jorge Carrasco apologized Thursday for controversies that caused him to lose a $60,000 raise.
During a hastily called news conference at City Light’s downtown headquarters, Carrasco said he takes “full responsibility” for falling for a copper-theft scam last year and for approving an ill-advised contract with the online-reputation management firm Brand.com.
“I am committed to making sure these things do not happen again, and we’ve put controls in place to make sure that that’s the case,” Carrasco said.
Carrasco’s mea culpa came a day after Mayor Ed Murray cited judgment issues in declining to award the City Light chief the raise.
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Carrasco said he respected the mayor’s decision and still wanted to remain as head of City Light.
“The thing that I’m most regretful of is that it’s taken attention away from all the work that our people are doing every day to serve our customers, and that’s a big disappointment on my part,” he said.
Carrasco also admitted he was not truthful in a radio interview last week when he claimed not to have sought a pay raise.
“I will be the first to admit that I handled the issue poorly and my answer was wrong,” Carrasco said.
He acknowledged that he had asked Murray for a salary increase and that he had told the mayor he’d been approached about “another opportunity.”
Carrasco also said he and the utility had erred in entering into a contract with Brand.com to polish online-search results about himself and his leadership of City Light.
Asked whether he was obsessed with his own online-search results, Carrasco said, “I don’t make a habit of Googling myself.”
But he said a negative 2008 Seattle Weekly story that kept popping up in search results “was dated” and “portrayed the utility at a very different time than today.” Carrasco said he had believed “there was value in providing more recent information” through the Brand.com contract.
Carrasco said he now realizes that was a mistake. “I wouldn’t do it today,” he said.
City Light has asked for a refund of the $17,500 in public money spent on the Brand.com work.
Also, Carrasco has faced renewed scrutiny over a scam in which two con men dressed as Cherokee Nation members made off with 20 tons of City Light copper wire and scrap metal last year. The metal later was recovered and two suspects arrested.
A majority of the Seattle City Council recently authorized a pay raise of up to $119,000 for Carrasco, saying the utility was performing well and that he was underpaid compared with executives at other public utilities. Murray’s office had said he’d approve a $60,000 raise, but canceled that plan this week.
Carrasco continues to be paid $245,000 a year. He was the city’s highest paid employee until the hiring of new police Chief Kathleen O’Toole last month, at a salary of $250,000.
Carrasco asked the public and media to judge him on his overall record as City Light chief, citing progress in restoring financial stability, improving customer service and environmental responsibility.
In an email sent Thursday to City Light employees, he vowed “to work hard every day to earn your trust, and the trust of the people we serve.”
Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @Jim_Brunner