Peter McGraw said the goal of the $185,000 contract is for Ceis Bayne & East LLC to serve as an adviser on a number of issues that impact industrial lands and not solely to support the KeyArena project.
A Port of Seattle spokesman said Wednesday that supporting the KeyArena project is only part a consulting contract of up to $185,000 it awarded a Seattle firm last November.
Peter McGraw said the contract with Ceis Bayne & East LLC, also known as CBE Strategic, and consultant Emelie East had been planned for months before the city announced in October it intended to take KeyArena renovation proposals. McGraw said the goal is for CBE to serve as an adviser on a number of issues that impact industrial lands.
“This is largely about our industrial lands project that we have with the city and other stakeholders,” McGraw said. “Trying to narrow this into KeyArena (is not accurate), when in fact we’ve got this whole host of issues in which this firm is going to provide some strategic advice over the next several years.”
The contract paid CBE $10,000 for the first month and $5,000 per month for the next 11 months. There is a two-year renewal option at $5,000 per month once the first year is up.
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The deal does not require East, listed as the deal’s project manager for CBE, to register as a lobbyist even though her scope of work entails “the development of relationships with key elected officials, department directors, agency staff and others.”
McGraw said the nature and relatively low volume of the work East is doing does not by law require lobbyist registration.
“We really just don’t do the same amount of volume that the city and the county do at general purpose government,’’ he said. “They’re spending a lot of money on a lot of different issues. Whereas we as a special purpose government have a few issues comparatively that we get involved in.’’
A Puget Sound Business Journal story reported that the Port had given East a list of essential strategies for supporting KeyArena redevelopment while opposing the Sodo project. Six weeks later, she returned with a draft agenda for a meeting with the Port on KeyArena, developing a “coalition approach” to generating support for its redevelopment.
McGraw said Port commission president Tom Albro was not involved in negotiating or approving the contract. That was handled by the Port’s local Seattle lobbyist, Lindsay Wolpa, and a group of staffers.
Last week, Albro said he had recused himself in January from all KeyArena discussions because his company has a 10-year city contract to manage the Seattle Monorail. One company expected to submit a proposal to renovate KeyArena, the Oak View Group of Los Angeles, has said the Monorail factors into its transportation and parking mitigation plan.
A second company that has said it will submit a KeyArena proposal — Anschutz Entertainment Group, also of L.A. — is expected to incorporate the Monorail into its plans.
Albro has announced he won’t seek re-election this fall.
He has not been accused of ethics violations, and the city has no plans to alter his contract or the KeyArena proposal process. City officials had known for years of Albro’s Monorail ties, and an Oak View Group spokesperson said last week the company was told ahead of time of his potential conflict.
Proposals to renovate KeyArena are due April 12.
The Port has long opposed a rival project pitched in Sodo District by entrepreneur Chris Hansen and has actively campaigned against it for years using paid lobbyists, executives and other staffers.
Hansen also employs two of Seattle’s best-connected lobbyists — Rollin Fatland and Lynn Claudon — who also have met privately with city officials the past few years. On Jan. 6 Fatland made a public-records request asking the Port to release all documents pertaining to its CBE contract.
Those documents subsequently were released to Fatland and published on the Port’s website. They were then picked up on by some local broadcast media.
As for spending public money on a CBE contract that supports private KeyArena ventures over Hansen’s efforts in Sodo, McGraw said the Port views it as protecting the public’s interest. McGraw said the Port believes it is protecting working-class jobs by opposing industrial lands being redeveloped for a Sodo arena.
McGraw added the CBE contract money is relatively low in the overall scheme of consulting deals done by the Port annually. He could not give exact details when asked about how the CBE contract compares with other deals, nor say how much of it involves direct KeyArena promotion compared with other industrial-lands work.