The event might have breached two clauses in the transit agency’s code of ethics.
A political fundraiser scheduled at the home of Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff to benefit incumbent King County Executive Dow Constantine has been moved elsewhere.
The event might have breached two clauses in the giant transit agency’s own code of ethics, though it wouldn’t violate any state fundraising laws.
Constantine holds the most powerful position on the 18-member transit board and led the $54 billion Sound Transit 3 ballot measure to a win last fall. He also nominated Rogoff for his $298,000-a-year post in late 2015.
The party was initially planned March 23 at Rogoff’s Queen Anne home.
It’s been moved to another private home in Pioneer Square, said Christian Sinderman, campaign consultant for Constantine’s re-election campaign. To learn the address, supporters must first RSVP online. Rogoff will serve as one of the hosts, Sinderman said.
Constantine has already raised $1 million for this fall’s race, adding to his advantage as a Democratic incumbent. He won the executive’s seat over GOP contender Susan Hutchison in 2009, and was re-elected in 2013 with token opposition.
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Next week’s party was moved not for ethical concerns, but out of respect for the privacy of Rogoff’s neighbors in a residential area, Sinderman said. Some taxpayers have suggested via conservative radio station KTTH that they might show up outside with their car-tab bills.
Also, because it celebrates transportation events and leaders, the event is expected to draw well above the usual 35-40 attendees, so it was wise to find a larger venue, Sinderman said.
Many people are feeling sticker shock as ST3 tax increases kick in, for some people costing hundreds of dollars per year. Lawmakers have written bills to reduce the inflated car-depreciation schedule Sound Transit uses to calculate car-tab taxes.
A Seattle Times story on March 6 questioned whether a Rogoff house party violated two Sound Transit ethics rules:
• “Protecting the integrity of the decision-making process by recognizing and avoiding conflicts between public duties and private interests and activities.”
Sound Transit pays King County Metro to operate transit vehicles. Both agencies will be affected by Constantine’s proposed $161 million sale of a major bus station to expand the Washington State Convention Center — which would kick buses out of the downtown tunnel as early as October 2018, more than a year before Sound Transit had planned. Loads would increase on Sound Transit trains, before the next shipment of railcars arrives.
• “Board members shall not accept more than $250 in campaign contributions from a Sound Transit officer or employee.” The value of congregating in Rogoff’s home is open to debate.
The agency didn’t receive any complaints about the party.
“Being a public employee or an elected official doesn’t mean that you must forfeit your rights as a citizen nor does it prohibit you from making contributions to campaigns,” board vice-chair Marilyn Strickland, mayor of Tacoma, said Wednesday by email. “We are not allowed to use public resources or public facilities for such activities.
“This is more likely an issue of appearances than an actual violation of any policies,” she said.
Rogoff already made two $250 donations to Constantine last year. Craig Davison, director of communications and external affairs, gave $750, among a total nine staffers who donated $2,679, Public Disclosure Commission filings say.
The campaign is reviewing those and will refund any excess donations, Sinderman said.